The Impossible Wood FountainBy Dentin, who remembers far too many old stories. (C) 2010
"You've got to be kidding me." The black haired caster stood well back from the gaping pit and seemed to be counting the seconds between the passing of the rock as it fell past, over and over.
They had been travelling for three days, with nary a hint from their compatriot Darklord. All he would say is "trust me" and "you're not going to believe it". Three days of hard travel, mostly at night because of Tarrant's special needs, through one of the most rugged sections of the Ash Mountains. It did not help that Gisco, a powerful necromancer, was ill suited for this kind of journey, but the three party members had been together for a long time and knew how to make the best of things.
Had it not been for the trust between them, they never would have gotten this far. Now, having reached their goal, they did not, in fact, believe it.
They stood in a large cubic cavern deep within one of the countless unnamed peaks of the mighty Ash range. One end of the cavern held the small tunnel that marked the exit. The other end of the cavern was open to what appeared to be a tall vertical shaft with no top or bottom. A significant wind seemed to swirl in the cavern, blowing in at the floor and flowing out from the top. Small pieces of stone, bone, metal and wood lay scattered on the floor near the edge of the pit.
And in that shaft, they had been watching a single rock fall past the opening, over and over again, for the past five minutes. Eventually, the rock grazed the far wall of the shaft, and after a few more passes shattered with a loud *pop* as it impacted on the floor of the cavern. A small spark and a cloud of dust rose up from the floor, eerily lit by the cold blue ball of light that hovered near Darklord.
"So you're telling me that anything we throw in there will fall forever, in an infinite loop? There's no top or bottom?" This time it was Gisco, who seemed more curious and less irritated than Tarrant.
"Well, at least until it hits the walls and gets knocked around enough that it lands in here, yeah," replied Darklord. "The druids that told me about it said that it was created by Dentin when the world was young and was left as a reminder of his power. They consider it a holy place to be seen once in a lifetime, and occasionally make group trips out here to see it."
"It looks to me like Dentin was playing around and forgot to clean up when he was done," said Tarrant, still with an irritated look on his face.
Gisco went into a flurry of action. "Is it safe to cast in here?" he asked almost absentmindedly, as he checked various charms and passive magic devices for abnormal behavior.
"I believe so. The druids had no special rituals and mentioned casting infravision to see it in its true colors," replied Darklord. At this, Tarrant made a sharp series of gestures, looked around through his fingers, and nodded.
"Well, let's see what else is in here then, shall we?" With another quick gesture, a small swarm of dancing lights formed in the air, and Gisco sent them over the lip of the cavern to fall into the pit. They fell slowly out of sight. After some time, much longer than it took for the rock to fall, they drifted past again, falling from the ceiling.
Ever cautious, Gisco then cast a minor levitation spell, and made his way on his stomach to the edge of the pit. "Yep, you can see multiple copies of the lights, like you're standing between two mirrors." He flipped to look upward just as the lights fell through him on their third pass, and scrambled back from the edge.
"I want to try something," said Tarrant. Reaching into a small bag, he produced an unusually large ball of string. Walking to the edge of the pit without hesitation, he grabbed the end of the string and nonchalantly tossed the ball into the pit. It fell past them twice before unwinding completely.
Still holding on to one end of the string, Tarrant wordlessly lifted off the ground and walked confidently into the void, placing each step as though he were walking on something other than thin air. The source of the constant wind in the cavern suddenly became clear, as his clothing rustled in the column of forever falling air in the shaft.
(Tarrant's hair was completely unaffected, perfectly styled as always. Behind him, an irritated necromancer muttered under his breath, "where -does- he get those spells?")
Having reached the other two strands of string hanging in the shaft, he grabbed one, pulled it taught against the one in his hand, and tied the two ends together. He then cut the surplus, let go of the knot, and walked back to the cavern.
The two strands of string, one giant loop run twice through the shaft, began to fall. It fell faster and faster until it passed the falling wind and slowed due to wind resistance.
"We could hook up a pulley to that and generate an infinite amount of power," said Gisco.
Darklord replied, "I have a better idea."
The three met again several months later, at a predetermined time and location. Together in the moonlight, a significantly different plan than the one originally proposed by Darklord had been finalized. Gisco was laughing hysterically, and Darklord was frowning.
"I agree that he is definitely a common enemy that we should deal with, but this seems unnecessarily complicated. Given that incident in Trinsic, we should just kill him instead. I do not like this plan."
Through bursts of laughter, Gisco managed to exclaim that there was no chance he was going to pass this up. At length Darklord agreed, though under protest.
"I still think this is a bad idea," he muttered one last time, as they stood again in the cavern with the never-ending wind.
"I've been very careful about the wards, the only escape is through this cavern, which means through us, and we can more than handle him." Icy words from the icy mage with the dead looking skin.
"I've almost got the basic summoning circle set up," yelled Gisco from the edge of the pit. "Tarrant, come help me do the second level bindings and rune the edges, you know how fickle these cross-class spells are."
"Ok, just to be sure we've got everything," started Gisco. "The circle is set up, I'm going to have to call in some pretty ugly favors to bridge the distance and give us word when his protective spells are down, but I'm completely confident we can do it."
"When we get word that his spells are down, Tarrant will shield the entrance and dump the chaff into the pit. Then he joins me at the summoning circle. When the target arrives, you blast him out into the pit, Darklord." Darklord nodded grimly.
Gisco then turned to Tarrant and grinned. "Then we get to take pot shots at him."
A small, impish looking demon appeared in the middle of the summoning circle. "It is as you requested, master. His summoning barrier is gone and he is unlikely to notice it for several hours." Gisco, suddenly wakened into action, tossed a small blue gem to the demon and nodded. The demon bowed deeply. "Thank you, master." With a puff of smoke, it disappeared.
Silently, Tarrant pulled a tiny sack from his belt and untied the cord holding it closed. With a sudden motion, he grabbed the edges and pulled them wide, while aiming the mouth of the sack toward the never ending shaft. An impossible stream of wood poured forth, branches, limbs, cut parts of tree trunks, and pieces of logs. The first piece had fallen past three times before the sack was empty. Tarrant then quickly cast a one-way shield spell on the opening, to prevent wood pieces from falling back into the cavern.
Gisco had already begun casting, this time to summon a much larger and substantially nastier looking demon than the previous imp. It stood now in the center of the circle, considerable disdain directed at its imprisoner.
"We have already negotiated, there will be no further discussion." It was the steel-hard voice of Gisco in response to the silent challenge. He was now fully into his own; this was his domain, his area of expertise, and no silly minor pit fiend was going to hold his plans for ransom. "Bind the inner circle now and be gone, lest I take this up with someone larger than you."
The fiend scowled, and on one knee ran a yellowed nail around the inside of the circle, leaving a trail of fine yellow dust. It was careful not to get too near the circle, for Gisco's wards were well known in his realm. After long moments, the nail grating on the floor with a sound like nails on a chalkboard, the demon stood again on cloven hooves.
"Try it again, only this time, do it right. Our time is not unlimited."
The demon scowled and roared, then bent down and filled in a small gap that had been intentionally left in the trail of yellow dust. Once again it stood.
"I will not call upon your services again, you rude and inconvenient beast. Your kind knows me well; I do not summon by force, and I pay exceedingly well. If you did not wish to be here you should not have answered and forged our agreement in the first place. You may go." With a quick flick of the wrist, Gisco tossed several small white gems at the creature. Once inside the circle, they stopped and hovered in the air as though held in space.
There were several moments of silence. "This was not a request. You will leave now." The demon growled, then vanished with his soul gems. After several more seconds, Gisco nodded silently to Tarrant, who then took his place at the opposite side of the casting circle.
Typical summon spells only worked across short distances, usually with the aid of the summoned party or special talismans to assist in the transfer. The ancient 'MagePoints' used special spells and glyphs set up in special locations to make summoning between them easier. Waypoints used a similar type of magic, though the power the drove them came in the form of an exception from the gods.
This spell, to summon an unwilling party across a huge distance, through half a mile of solid stone no less, should have been impossible. This party was used to the impossible.
Who would believe that two of the top spellcasters in the land, a dark necromancer and an undead mage no less, would join forces to cast an impossible summon spell? Who further would believe that those disparate types of magic would even work together? Surely it would be insane to cast a mage summon spell, powered largely by necromancer mana glyphs and range boosted by demonclaw?
Between the two of them, the necromancer and the mage, a sleeping figure abruptly popped into existence. Even before the figure could stir, the roar of a directed force spell from Darklord had picked it up and thrown it through the shield and into the infinitely falling column of wood. As the body flew by, Tarrant uttered a quick dispel, dropping any remaining charms on their target.
At first, the trio thought they had lost him. The column of wood was so thick that they could hardly see anything; eventually Darklord spotted their target and cast faerie fire; now lit by a happy pink glow, he was much easier to see.
Gamlin. Head of Clan Attero, and several other clans over the years, only the most recent of which still existed in any recognizable form. Incredibly charismatic, yet at his core incompetent and uncaring. Some time ago, he had knowingly interfered with the dark trio, and somehow lived to laugh about it. It had been decided to spare his life, simply because being Gamlin was a worse punishment than any of them could think of.
But that didn't mean they couldn't have fun with him.
As he fell, over and over, Gisco took pot shots at him with relatively harmless magic missile spells, tossing the flailing clan leader about and knocking him into nearby logs and walls. Tarrant silently recorded the spectacle using a small enchanted mirror.
Only once did Gamlin manage to cast a 'fly' spell; the spell, immediately taking hold, slowed his fall, but did not slow the fall of the wood, which rained down on him like giant wooden hailstones. The incompetent fool could not undo the spell while trying to dodge wood, and Tarrant reluctantly dispelled it rather than have him die a premature death in a fountain of logs.
Slowly, a smile began to creep across Darklord's face as a steady stream of increasingly ridiculous threats began to be heard, in between unanswered prayers to the gods for assistance and attempts to cast spells. "I'll hunt you all down and kill you!" "Let me out of here!" "Oh magnificent Talos please grant me recall from this place!" "Why isn't my teleport spell working!" Gisco had long since fallen down laughing.
Unexpectedly, Gamlin threw a crude fireball at the cave entrance. It splashed harmlessly off the shields and wards that Tarrant had put in place, but not before lighting several pieces of wood on fire. Another fireball, and another. Before anyone realized what was happening, the entire column of wood was begining to flame, fanned by the continuous wind of falling.
Gamlin was now yelling in fear and anger, patting out flames on his clothes and avoiding burning lumber. Tarrant, a smile for the first time creeping across his face, threw a rather impressive fireball into the mass for good measure. "We should leave soon, before the air and smoke become too thick for you to breathe," he said.
Gisco slowly picked himself up and asked of Tarrant, "We should dispel the wards now. Can you teleport him from here? Dump him in the Ralnoth city fountain perhaps?"
The mage shook his head. "I can't put him anywhere specific. Though I suppose anywhere else is probably better. I'll use the stored power in the wards to see how far away I can push him, with any luck he'll be gone for months." With that, Tarrant walked to either side of the cavern entrance, and uttered a few words. He then returned to the center of the cavern and stood in the center of the summoning circle, and began casting.
There was a tremendous boom, followed by a quick popping sound and a white flash of light from where Gamlin used to be. Abruptly flaming pieces of wood began falling into the cavern, exploding as they hit the floor and throwing shards of wood everywhere. Darklord shouted over the racket, "Get out, the shield is down!"
Within days, Truthsayer Mirrors had begun appearing at random in all the major cities around the land. They showed clear images of Gamlin, who had mysteriously gone missing from his clan's protected castle, endlessly falling and being pelted by a fountain of wood, while shouting inane threats and attempting to cast spells. Noone who saw it could maintain their composure when Gamlin's 'fly' spell took hold. And while some said that the mirrors had somehow been faked, everyone knew that they hadn't.
Within a week, the cult of personality that had held together Clan Attero fractured, and the clan disbanded. It took a month for the rumors and gossip to die down.
A lone figure rode into a small town on a stolen horse. Paying for a drink with stolen gold he robbed from a merchant in the neighboring town, he asked the innkeep about the TruthSayer mirror hanging on the wall. "You mean you haven't seen that yet? Wait a minute, you look kinda familiar..."
With sudden realization, the innkeep tried to stifle a laugh, but failed utterly.