As Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons and Dragons, died yesterday, I thought it appropriate to have this D&D story for my weekly pizza message.
The Icy Door
"Okay, behind the door is a forty by forty room, empty but for a huge stone arch with mystical symbols on it." Tom drew the room onto the map on the table. "What do you do?"
"Can you describe the symbols?" Phil asked.
Tom rolled a dice behind his screen. "You've seen these before. They're on the parchment you found in the crystal room."
Jack found the piece of paper with the symbols on it. "There's a string of symbols here. Maybe we can input them into arch. I try touching the symbol on the arch that corresponds to the one at the top of the page."
"It lights up," said Tom. "The arch begins to hum with magical energy. You can hear the Lich arch-mage coming up the hall with his drow henchmen."
"Okay," said Jack, "I touch all the symbols in the sequence they appear on the parchment."
"The hum rises to a high pitched whine, and the gate activates with a flash. Beyond the arch you see a strange scene..."
Frank raised his hand. "No time--I'm taking my chances and going through!"
"Me too," said Jack. They all went through the gate. "What do we see?"
Tom smiled coyly. "You're on a strange, smooth grey road, with a lot of strange square buildings on it. There is another similar road that crosses it in a T about one hundred feet east. Behind you and the gate is a park; in front is a brick house and to the right of it is a square brick building three stories tall. Strange metallic carts line the side of the street."
Bill grinned. "Is there a strange, red, metal chariot sitting in front of the square building, by any chance?"
"Why yes," said Tom, "now that you mention it."
"Okay, we're running into that building and into apartment four!" Everyone laughed and agreed.
"Good!" said Tom, rubbing his hands. He made a dice check. "You run into the building, but as Enariel is the last in, she looks over her shoulder and sees the Lich come through the gate. He sees you. But you run up the stairs..."
At that moment, they heard the front door of the building open and several people run up the stairs, speaking loudly in a strange language. The door to the apartment swung open and in crowded a bizarre cast of characters. First was a hulking barbarian covered with battle scars and wielding a huge axe. Second was man in chain mail carrying a mace, with fringe cut hair greying at the temples. On his heels (heals?) was a man only three feet tall, with bare feet and furtive demeanor, carrying a dagger in each hand. Last came two women, find boned and diminutive, one carrying a bow and wearing leather armor and green leggings, and the other in a long robe; both had ears that rose to points.
The intruders and the players regarded each other with consternation for a moment. The barbarian barked something incomprehensible, but the players were too stunned to venture a guess as to what he was saying. The woman in the robe traced a symbol in the air, and then spoke in clear English: "Is there another door out of this place?"
Tom raised his hand feebly and pointed down the hall. The woman nodded and spoke to her companions, and all ran down the hallway and out the back door.
A long moment passed. "Weirdness," said Phil. "Exactly what I thought they'd look like," said Jack. And then he swallowed hard and asked, "Tom, did you say the Lich was right behind us... er, them?"
They heard the door to the building open again, and a rasping voice spoke in the stairwell. Light footsteps ran up and down the stairs, and then all returned, and seemed to focus on the area outside their door. There was a clicking sound upon the doorknob. As they watched, frost formed upon the knob, and vapour began to pour from it. The room grew noticeably colder as the knob began to turn.
Tom slammed his book shut. "I think," he said, in a strangled voice, "that we should call it here."
They stared at the door with baited breath. The knob snapped back to rest. At length, they exhaled, and began to pack their books and dice. They rose in silence, and stood in a tight knot, away from the door. "I need a change of underwear," said Bill.
"Ummm... I think I'll leave by the back," said Phil. The others nodded, and followed him down the hall.
Tom stood for a minute or so, then crept up to the door and flipped the deadbolt locked. The cold stung his fingers. Then he heard a harsh muttering, and the deadbolt snapped back, unlocked.
And then he was running down the hall, yelling "Phil, can I crash at your place tonight...?"