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THE SEIGE OF ABERDDU - The Night of The Pit Gate

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An odd silence hung over the docklands. The massed clerics surrounded the edge of the circle, gazing to the heavens hopelessly as dark clouds drifted across the sharp white moon. In spite of all efforts, the bubble covering the site remained impenetrable. Echoes of a distance fight filtered through the quiet night, calling the priests back to the real world. Rumour was spreading fast through the city that the pit gate would open at midnight, and slowly reinforcements were trickling in.

The message ‘Pit Gate Opening, AAG Come Home’ flashed orange and crimson above the upper south side. Panting and flustered, runners were returning from all areas of the city leading straggling groups of wizards and warriors. A shrill bugle signalled the arrival of the Albion guard, marching 5 a breast over the bridge; a sight more impressive when their livery was at its best. The ranks split away and surrounded the circle entirely, forming an armed wall between the clerics and the civilian bystanders, all attempts to force their way to the very edge of the ring having proved futile. As midnight approached the number of troops rallied at the docks swelled steadily. No longer silent, the air was a cacophony of barked orders, raucous laughter and rousing rhetoric. Each temple had gathered together for to muster arms and pray. The ranks of Amrothian paladins knelt before their swords, heads bowed as the High Cleric blessed them with a lengthy benediction. Beside them the Law and Life Temples were engaged in similar activities. Across the circle, the Dark Alliance were engaged in less elegant and sedate rituals, the massed army of Kesoth howled and bayed, sticky red liquid running down their foreheads and cheeks.

Jonah Lysterian, cleric of Law, clambered on to an upturned barrel and addressed his fellows from the Temple of Law. His eyes were wild, and his cheek already bloodied. ALl attention was on him, as he said "Now isn't the time for speeches, let the bards say I said something awesome later. Now let's kick some arse." This was met by an uproarious cheer, inspiring other clerics from other temples to do the same.

Arkhan took position on a small bank to the side of the Amrothian troops and addressed his fellow clerics.

"Gather round my brothers and heed the call to arms,” he began attracting a crowd of armed Amrothians to his feet. “For now we are called to battle the greatest of our enemies. The faithful have gathered in the holy name of Amroth and it is time to show the demons of the unholy pit that we are a force to be reckoned with,” at this point, shouts of agreement rose up from his gathered crowd, and inspired he continued his words, “for the blessed now stand as brothers in arms, and we shall wield the holy power given to us by Amroth to bring about their destruction!” Arkhan paused momentarily for effect, and the silence was filled with more cheering as the crowd was beginning to grow and from the back a small man in a copper breastplate yelled “Get on with it!”

Throwing him a scornful looking Arhkan continued “I have been told what lies waiting beyond that gateway, and though we now face demons whose numbers are legion we shall prevail! We will stand together, as one in the holy name of Amroth, and I promise to you my brothers that on this day for every drop of our blood that is shed they will pay a thousandfold. Stand firm and proud and never look back, for Vallheim waits for us, and what better way to die than to die fighting a glorious battle in the name of Amroth!
Are you with me my brothers!?” The clustered fighter went wild, banging their swords on their shields, hollering and wooping in a frenzy of excitement and chivalry. Having raised morale sufficiently, Arkhan drew his speech to a close, “Then Let us form ranks, and present our enemies with a wall of shields that is as a cliff of steel that greets the inexorable tempest! Let them see the faith in your hearts, the fury in your eyes, and above all let them hear your battle cry! We fight as one FOR AMROTH!!!!"

Then, having attended Temple gatherings, the religious of the guild dark and light alliance alike flooded back to the Adventurers own base. Younger adventurers gazed about in awe at the numbers present. It seemed that the flare sent out by the gypsy Lise had reached many many former adventurers who had come with aid. Amongst the ranks stood legendary Evoker, Misty Ailvason, a fierce scowl on her dwarven face. Surrounding her were numerous young mages all looking to her for instruction. A crazed man in a purple robe, muttering under his breath stalked over from the Chaos gathering and stood a little to the side. On approaching, he grumbled that his name was ‘Terrin Fletcherson’, flared his nostrils and glared with maniacal suspicion at any inquirers. King Spike Archer joined the rank, a sack clanking ominously at his side, looking about him for familiar faces and was rewards with sight of Cyrus Demontfort Smythe gazing blankly back at him. At last, the ranks were all assembled and there was nothing left but to wait.

In the minutes before midnight the clamour began to die down, and attention turned to the circle they were all surrounding. As they watched, eight hundred people fell silent as hair lines of red light began to appear across the previously shadowy ground. At first glance it appeared that the lines were tiny red cracks forming in the surface of the ground, but on closer inspection many could see that the cracks were in fact sigils. Thousands and thousands of intricate alien symbols covered the ground, each one now glowing scarlet. Then, out of the thin air, figures began to form. Twenty shapes in a wide crescent grew more and more substantial until it was clear for everyone to see that they wore the red Frisian robes and black sashes.

The twenty figures, hoods covering their faces muttered low and menacing incantations in a harsh unworldly tongue. The ground began to tremble and the intonation grew louder and louder. As midnight turned and the magic rushed in, a deafening crack rang out across the city, echoing as far as the edge of the city state and a crack appeared in the middle of the circle, separating the incantors neatly through the apex of the crescent so that ten stood on each side of the crack. From the shadows, another figure began to form, apparently floating in the air over the newly formed crack which widened fractionally with every passing second. This new figure, his face contorted with ecstasy, was slightly obscured by his long dark hair. He wore the same robes as his twenty fellows, but no hood. Around his neck hung a fine silver change holding a swirling black and red hour glass. As he appeared, the twenty incantors turned to face him and the chanting became louder.

Spell bound by the spectacle, and deeply frustrated by the impenetrable bubble they were forced up against, the massed forces pushed closer together. All they could do was witness as the crack began to widen dramatically and even before it was a foot across, things were beginning to crawl their way out. Demons of every form imaginable were forcing their way through the gap. Winged, fiery insects that appeared like flaming dragonflies swarmed out of the split and flocked towards top of the dome. Vicious red claws sunk into the top soil as pure black wild cats clawed and hissed their way on to the material plane, followed by gleaming monkeys covered in vicious spines. Armies of tiny imps, with rows and rows of needle like teeth and seven or eight glistening black eyes filled the spare around the incantors. As though this was not fearsome enough, more human creatures began to appear in the form of young human children, dressed neatly in black and red suits and pinafores, smiling sweetly and calling softly for their mummy. Only their cold dead eyes betrayed what they truly were. The watchers could feel their hearts pounding, blood rushing around their ears as they watched this unholy army spill forth from the under world. It would be a matter of seconds before the warding was dropped and these demons began to pour over them like a foul tainted wave.

All eyes were on the levitating incantor as he rose higher and higher above the ground, his body vibrating with the rush of power through him. His face bent in exquisite agony as he began to turn in the air, faster and faster until his was spinning in a blur. Suddenly, instantly, he became still and at that moment the warding dropped and the two forces seethed together and the world became chaos and panic.

The adventurer’s guild raced into the heart of the battle, two task forces deployed with different missions. The bulk of the guild was to fight demons and protect any innocent or wounded that they found. The smaller group of adventurers had been selected carefully and given a specific brief to gather and disseminate useful battle field information. They split away from the main group and slipped into the crowds each with their own special agenda. Some would capture and torture wounded Frisians, others would collect useful objects and stores, such as uniforms and weapons, others still would be searching out weaknesses and vantage points.

Battle reigned for nearly an hour without notable incident, until the sound of battle was broken by a cheer, as an Albion War ship glided gracefully into port, its cannon ready to fire. A hastily barked commanded moved an Albion battalion aside and cannon fire rang out across the city. Heavy cast iron balls flew through the air, decimating swaths of demons in their path. Cautiously, the foot soldiers continued to fight the remaining stragglers and for a few minutes it seemed as though the tide was turning. The galleon had fired its third round when the shrill buzzing began to build and the sky above gate swarmed with flaming dragonflies. Then, without warning, as one, the swarm fell upon the ship. Stomach churning shrieks and screams filled the air as the ship was consumed by fire in a matter of minutes and disappeared into the sea. The sight of an Albion warship downed by such means seemed to send a wave of despondency through the Albion troops. The Frisian army pressed home the advantage, beating the Albion and the allied temples back from the gate. Out of nowhere, hundreds of Frisian Army foot soldiers seemed to have appeared defending the circle and the twenty one incantors who were still standing in the midst of the pandemonium chanting.

Worn thin by the renewed vigour of the Frisian assault, the Guild was forced to regroup. Casualties it seemed were mercifully few, the hospital unit working harder. In the heat of the battle, a number of people remained unaccounted for, although no bodies had been returned and orders were to see this as a hopeful sign. The Temples and Warriors’ Guild had not been so lucky, a line of the fallen already appearing to the south of the circle. New orders were issued, attempt to enter the inner circle and take down the twenty incantors in the crescent. The pit gate, having disgorged demons continually for two hours, seemed to be running dry. The centre of the circle, which not long ago had seemed a heaving mass of red, black and flames was now beginning to empty. Taking out the summoning incantors was the only way to close the gate and ensure no more would follow. With renewed energy, able to see that the end was in reach, the adventurers raced off into the darkness.

The hissing sound seemed to surround the whole battle field, as though it was taking place just behind each individual’s ears. Warriors and mages stopped in their tracks as the gargantuan serpent appeared from the still widening pit gate. The head of cobra, flaming orange and gold, rose from the depths and looked around. Its eyes were flawless black drops reflecting the flames and flashes around it. More than 10 feet in length, the head opened its massive jaw revealing four ferocious fangs. The fire of the snake became so intense that those standing close enough could hear it burn and crackle. For a minute maybe a little more, the snake turned its head slowly this way and that, taking in the situation and then without warning it lunged. As it lunged the fire burst out of it, in a disk, flashing across a radius of about fifty feet, blinding those watching it. As their sight returned, they could se that where the blast had been lay the bodies of nearly a hundred of their comrades, Albion, Aberddu and Frisian alike. Cries of anguish added to the cacophony as eyes turned on to scene and clerics and healers raced to find their fallen.

Dragging the bodies away from the blast site, it was clear to see that most of the bodies were still breathing, although they were strangely quiet, because it seemed they were unable to scream. Each and every one of them was crusted with thick red scabs and boils where there skin had been horrifically burned. Healers and clerics poured magic and potions into them, and they returned to consciousness, and claimed they were fully healed, but the burn marks would not disappear. Arkhan was examining the back of his hand, covered in pucks and craters when a commotion broke out around him. Looking to the side he could see exactly what had caused the fuss.

Crone was hovering a few feet from the floor, a faint aura of gold light surrounding his small green form. His eyes had rolled back in his head, and he was trembling. As he rose further from the ground the light became strong, filling the air around him and pushing down in a column to the ground. Squeals and roars from all over the battle field drew his attention. About 50 yards away, he could see the black and green tabard of Jonah Lysterian, cleric of Law. Like Crone, Jonah had ascended nearly 30 feet above the ground, his body was glowing with green–white light, and his arms spread wide. In the light column of light below him, bodies were being healed, sword blades glowed with enchantment and clerics wept with faith.

In the presence of the deific intervention, battle subsided, as the beleaguered Aberddu-Albion alliances fell back from the momentarily calm pit gate. Falling back again, to the regroup that had been unceremoniously ended by the fire snake, the adventurers took stock again of what had happened. Although still walking many were smattered with the unholy burns from the snake, but some how as they sat on the damp floor of the dock lands stealing moments in the lull to mend armour, eat and speak to friends, it did not seem so hopeless. Iona and Derek reported back that their group had made several findings and that the most productive thing they could do was kill the High Incantor. Without him, the twenty remaining would be all but powerless against the onslaught. Orders were given: if you can take down an incantor. If at all possible take on the High Incantor, although general consensus was that he probably untouchable as he had yet to return to the ground.

Bathed in the holy light, there was now time for hope, healing and reflection. Two other clerics had been chosen along with Crone and Jonah and the four iconic pillars of light continued to shine, blessing those beneath. After half an hours respite, it was clear that although the pit gate had remained idle for some time it was in no way about to close. The adventurers looked around for any sign of the Mages Guild, who had taken on the responsibility of closing the gate but not one of them could be found. It was too much to hope that the gate would remain idle for long, so it seemed that the battle was to continue for now at least.

Just as the troops were becoming restive and thought had turned to withdrawal and departure, the four clerics began to shake wildly. From the intense heavenly light that they cast, stepped dozens and dozens of servitors. The calm and orderly law servitors, blades flashing marched solemnly forward, and were joined by the imposing red and gold servitors of Amroth, ghostly effigies of fallen warriors and heroes weapons drawn. Behind them, in three long lines were the angels of Life, translucent white and breathtakingly beautiful, their purity was astounding. They carried no weapon that could be see, they merely floated silent in ranks turning the ground beneath them to lush green meadowland. The sight of the holy armour before them lifted the mortal troops, and called them back to arms. Rank upon rank of Light Alliance clerics fell in behind the servitors and behind them massed Warriors, Adventurers and Albion Guard, the sight of the servitors causing adrenalin and expectation to rush each of them. Electricity powered them, drawing in even those of opposing faith, who recognising the power of the presence dare not stay apart. All eyes turned to the sleeping pit gate and the ranks of Frisian army beyond.

Even though it was the early hours of the morning, the night had been bright, lit by the flaming monsters, the flash of magic and the glow of the faithful, until now. Now, out of the gate spilled a dense other worldly darkness, crawling like spirit ink across the ground around the sigil covered circle, consuming the incantors, and pushing silence on to the waiting armies. Trepidation pushed away the excitement of moments before, confusion as to how to react began to take over and then out of the darkness ten monstrous apparitions began to form. The figures were insubstantial, like long shadows cast at sunset, limbs morphing in and out of the body at will. In the un-urddly silence, they began to drift outwards towards the ranks. Then they stopped, fully formed at 20 feet high and the silence was broken. Battle cries ripped the air and the servitors charged forward into the shadows.

The shade apparitions glided through the ranks, draining the life out of all they touched. The air filled with screams and panic as people fled in every direction, pushing and unintentionally shoving each other into the path of the dark shapes.

Unflustered by the approaching monsters, Susan and Carlo grabbed the other kids and darted forwards into circle. If it was the last thing they did they were going to stick it to that scrawny bastard on the end of the row of incantors. Barely older than her own 14 years, the evil looking kid fired a hatred in Susan that her young heart could hardly contain. A clean line had opened up directly to the target, with all her strength she raced forward dragging Carlo by the arm, her dagger raised. She could see his white face, his veiny eye lids closed in ecstasy as he continued to chant. She lunged forward and collided with something solid. Ed De Briee had appeared from nowhere, and the night had blackened. From her crumpled hep on the floor she could see the adventurer she only vaguely knew as an ally of Dane, blocking her path and shielding her from the full force of one of the apparitions. Next to her Carlo, lay in the gutter, spluttering. This was their chance; with Mr De Briee taking the apparition’s attention their path would be clear. She struggled to her feet, still dragging the worn out Carlo and dived forward. Then there was cold stinging feeling as she plummeted back towards the ground. Through the haze she could see Ed’s unconscious body on the floor beside her, and then she heard Carlo scream. Then, slowly the world became dark.

Ed had no idea how much time had passed between the creature’s final strike on him and the point where he woke up in a vile heap and found the cold bodies next to him. Now, he was forcing his way back through the crowded battle, Susan’s body flung over his shoulder. She was surprisingly light against his weary bones, he felt strange as though he wasn’t quite there. Behind him, an anonymous cleric from the Life temple who head had screamed at until he complied was following carrying Carlo. As he approached the adventurers’ base he was in time to see an awe inspiring sight.

Crone, the orc cleric of Amroth, was spinning
wildly in the sky. His little body had been possessed and channelling the direct power of Amroth himself, it was now glowing incandescently and had become shaking as well as spinning. Then in a explosive flash of light, crone fell to the ground and a massive Greater Avatar of Amroth appeared in the midst of the forces. The avatar was a 16 feet high, overwhelming vision bathed in a red –golden light, that radiated an atmosphere of chivalry and courage, calling them to re –arm and re enter the fight with renewed spirit. Looking around at the troops below it, the avatar seemed to looked gratified and then ploughed forwards through the combat. Its massive hands grabbed at every demon it could reach and crushed them into vapour. Behind it, the avatar left a wake in the mayhem, leading directly to the incantors crescent.

Seizing the opportunity for the strike, about a score of fighters steeled themselves and sprinted into the centre of the circle. The twenty incantors on the ground succumbed with relative ease as Guardsmen, adventurers and warriors fell on them. The head incantor however was still out of reach. As the incantors were cut down one by one, the gate began to rip open shaking the whole docklands. It was then that the brave souls closest to the gate saw the most soul destroying visage of the whole night. Inside the gate, way beyond the reach of anyone on this plane were another twenty incantors, their black robes and red sashes the inverse of their material counterparts. They stood unharmed, red energy flowing from their hands, eyes closed in the same exquisite joy as the twenty incantors that had been above them. It was then that many of the fighters had a cold sinking realisation. The twenty incantors on the surface had not been keeping the gate open, they had been keeping it closed – they were the control mechanism that stopped the pit ripping its way up and out spilling demons uncontrollably over the city. Even the Frisians were not mad enough to let the pit loose like that.

As another incantor fell, the ground erupted with the force of a volcanic explosion and a manically squirming lava stream spilled forth from the pit gate. Swarming towards the battle, it was easier to see that the lava was not a fluid at all but thousands and thousands of molten rodents scurrying over people indiscriminate of their allegiance. The high shrieks that followed in the wake of this flow told the tale of the burns left behind. Clambering on to debris strune around in order to avoid the molten infestation, the adventurers could on look on as the final blow was struck against their plucky but some how feeble efforts. Towering above the sea of rats, it’s jaw wide as it let out a devastating guttural roar, the pit lord was silhouetted for a moment in the dirty grey of the dying night.

The pit lord, angry at its presence on the mortal plane, continues its fearsome snarl displaying row upon row of razor sharp black teeth in its fleshy red mouth. Its matt black skin was covered in its entirety by lethal black spins, its dark form poorly defined in the half-light. Every head on the battle field turned and watched as it slowly raised a gargantuan arm, causing its skin to crack and reveal the intense crimson glow beneath the crust. With it’s foot long claws, each glinting in was remained of the moon light, it snatched at the form of the spinning head incantor, still in his strange levitated reverie, and bowled him on to the ground. This action queue the battled to restart again, as a dozen angry figures fell on his prone form and the greater avatar of Amroth turned to face the demon.

As the sun rose of Aberddu, the fight that had begun at midnight was still raging. Although all twenty one incantors on the mortal plane had been felled, demons were still swarming over the docklands and the allied troops were struggling to contain them as the pit gate spewed forth more and more. The massive Amrothian Avatar, its huge form still glowing red-gold wrestled the pit lord, its giant claws raked across black jowls leaving a scar glowing on the black cheek. It was not a time for mortal intervention, the fighters had fallen away to concentrate on the battles they could win. Casualties were lower than expected, as three of the four icons of faith continued to shine, healing those in their light. However, it was becoming clear that unless the pit gate could be closed the fight would not be won, as the material realm can not outlast the power and cruelty of the underworld indefinitely.

Derek looked around distracted as the Avatar and Pit Lord continued to pound each other. Two things were wrong. First of all, he had no idea where Iona was. She had raced into the circle in the wake of the avatar an hour ago and he had lost her. The second thing was that the head of the mages guild had assured him over three hours ago that they were going to close the pit gate at dawn, and it was dawn now and he still saw no sign of them. It was then that he heard it. In fact, the noise must have hit a lot of people at once as there was a sudden hush. Almost imperceptible, but nevertheless real, a low chant was being muttered all around them.

Casting about in the dim dawn glow, Derek eventually made out the figures of four or five wizards clustered on the roof of a derelict warehouse across the circle. They were surrounded by gems and crystals of every size, each semi-precious stone pulses and trembling with energy. The chanting seemed to encircle them. Small groups of mages were clustered in a wide arc around the pit gate. Each group surrounded by stones, sigils and instruments. The chant was growing louder, and stronger. The pit gate faltered and flickered; the mages on the real plane now in direct competition with the incantors inside the pit gate. Inch by inch, the pit gate seemed to shrink as the Mages Guild powered every ounce of strength into overpowering the incantors. As light filled the docklands, the fighters fell back horrified by the devastation that they could now see, too weary to face the few remaining imps and demons. It seemed that they could only watch and guard as the mages struggled to close the gate.

Blinking in the light many of them were too shell shocked to comprehend what happened next. The sun had been risen scarcely 5 minutes before a small black disc appeared at its edge. The daylight was to be short lived as with the moon began to cross in front of the sun. The strength of the mages chanting was reaching its resonant peak as the docklands was plunged back into darkness, an unnatural night shading the eyes of those who were being forced to witness it all. The pit gate had shrunk to a small gape in the docklands floor, large enough for a man to crawl through. The Pit Lord, seemingly equally matched on this plane to the powers of the avatar howled and snarled as his connection to his own world began to sever. The avatar pressed home its advantage. Victory was in sight, and the allied fighters began to relax, although the chanting was beginning to subside in spite of the fact the gate was not yet closed. The mages, who had been channelling magic for nearly half an hour now, were beginning to loose power. Many of them were already pale, a number bleeding from the eyes and ears. One by one they were beginning to keel forward completely drained. Their power was not going to be enough, the underworld incantors began to push back, regaining a few inches of gate. Hope was all but gone from the allied troops, many of whom began to weep.

At that moment, when it seemed nothing could be done to bring about victory, the sea began to clamour and stir. Waves beat harshly on the harbour walls, swelling bigger and bigger until they were washing over the barriers on to the dock land. A storm was rising, to add to the disarray. There was a moment of calm, as though the sea were taking a deep breath and then a giant wave, thirty feet high hit the harbour wall at full speed, the force of the water causing it to cover the whole of the battle ground. Sea water, white with foam washed into the open pit gate throwing the incantors off balance. With a last push the mages summoned enough power to close the gate. Another wave swept up on to the dock, and the gate was gone.

Looking out over the sodden battlefield, the devastation was becoming more apparent. The charred bodies of troops, allied and Frisian alike were every way as were the material remains of the demons they had died fighting. It seemed that very little had been ultimately claimed by the see. The adventurers began to take stock of actual loses. The icons of faith, now lying exhausted on the damp ground, had kept the casualties to a minimum. It seemed that the guild had lost no one. Looking around, Derek still could not see any trace of Iona. In itself not worrying he had to admit, although he had a sneaking suspicion she had not climbed into a sewer hatch and vanished. As they were gathering up ready to leave, a large green figure with a blue Mohican strode into the midst. Jup, the former guild master, was walking slowly, weighted down by a large, heavy looking bundle. With a grunt of explanation, he dropped his burden on to the floor at Dexter’s feet. It was Iona’s battered body, still breathing but only barely.