Elynastair raced down the ancient corridor, his mage robes swirling around his ankles as his slippered feet skidded around the corner. This is bad. He gritted his teeth and ran for all he was worth. It was an exercise he hadn’t undertaken in many years. This is very bad!

Torches fluttered in his passing as other initiates glanced out their doors and then took up the chase, following after him with perplexed looks on their faces. Humans, Elves, and gnomes followed in his wake. There were a few dwarves as well, but most of them were military men, and had nothing to do with magic. Those he didn’t spend much time talking with as Elves and Dwarves still hated one another with a passion. Such was the legacy of those ancient wars fought so long ago. Still, it didn’t stop them from adding their own contingent to the guard that watched over the slumbering Old Ones.

Even asleep the Old Ones’ malignant presence was pervading. The most powerful shield spells and psionic defenses seemed inadequate to keep them out entirely. The dream that had awaken him, however, was something entirely different. The vision that had awaken him had been a horrific scene with the world awash with blood and fire. Bodies floated in oceans of blood that swirled around mountains glowing bright with the hellish flames of annihilation.

In the midst of this horror stood the truest nightmare – Old Ones – their thousands of tentacles stretched out all over the world and into the distant Megaverse as their malevolent glee resonated around. He had seen angels, their wings torn from their bodies, and the broken figures of the gods scattered around the feet of the Old Ones as they reveled in the destruction they had unleashed.

They can’t be awake! He thought frantically. The image wouldn’t go away. He felt his chest burning with the exertion … and something else. The air was hot as he reached the antechamber to the Old Ones’ prison. He gritted his teeth, bringing spells to mind. It can’t be awake!

As they burst through the central doors standing open wide, Elynastair felt his blood run cold despite the heat. Jaraela Starsong stood at the edge of the great chasm that held the Old One. Her green eyes were alight with an eerie light as she gazed back at them, grinning madly. Her long black hair fluttered in the breeze generated by the heat of the lava glowing at the bottom of the Old One’s prison. Elynastair stared at her in shocked horror. Jaraela was one of the most powerful summoners within the enclave. Her job was to summon the angelic host should the Old One ever wake up. The broken, bloody corpses of angels laying around her in a circle told him all he needed to know. She wasn’t Jaraela anymore.

Elynastair snarled, crying out in Dragonese the words that sent a fireball leaping from his fingertips. The ball struck short, slamming into an invisible wall between Jaraela and Elynastair. Her smile broadened, reminding him of an evil joker more than the beautiful elf maiden he had secretly pinned after. Jaraela turned, her hands weaving a complex pattern of a spell Elynastair didn’t recognize. He began frantically weaving a counter spell, chanting as crossbow bolts whistled by, but he had started too late. Jaraela finished her’s first.

The world trembled and a snarl of air pressurizing screamed in his ears. A moment later a glowing blue rift stood between him and Jaraela. Demons of every size and shape poured from the rift, fiery eyes searching and finding the beautiful Summoner. She met their questioning looks with one of authority. For the first time in his life he heard the abyssal language spoken from her lips. She pointed and the demons stared at her a moment longer then charged.

Elynastair turned his spell on the nearest Balrog, knowing full well it would do no good against it. The creature snarled and lashed back at him with its flaming whip. The circles and protective wards set up to hold the Old One in its enchanted slumber sparked and hissed as an eerie blue light glowed from them. Each one in turn shattered, sending burning debris in all directions and showering the defenders. Spells long set in place by beings far more powerful than Elynastair could even imagine ignited. Jaraela cackled insanely and leapt from the edge of the pit. He found himself screaming to her not to do it, but it was too late.

There was a flash of light and the room convulsed. The floor bucked up under his feet and sent him flying up into the air. Others were screaming in their fight for survival. A portal opened and angels poured in from another dimension. Elynastair landed hard on his back, his breath being driven from him. He gasped and laid there motionless as the battle raged. The Old One can’t be awake! He forced himself to sit up. In the process he saw the Balrog lunging toward an angel, it’s fiery breath igniting as it growled. A wave of flame rushed toward him and Elynastair rolled out of the way.

He stumbled back to his feet and hurried toward the pit’s edge. Flaming blades and snarling banshees lashed out at him. The tiny Lasae demons raced across the stone floor, jumping onto mages and warriors alike, stabbing them with their tiny spine covered arms and legs, biting and tearing at their flailing attempts.

Elynastair reached the edge of the pit and looked down.

“NO!!!” He cried.

The pit was empty. How? His mind reeled with the terrifying reality of what was happening. It couldn’t be happening. It was impossible. All the magical seals and spells in this very room had been set in place by the very gods, how could they have broken and been circumvented. A hollow pit swallowed his stomach and threatened to swallow him as well as the truth dawned on him. Jaraela had been under the sway of that monster for a while. It was the only possible answer. A vaguely remembered memory came back to him. He had seen Jaraela wandering around in places she had no business to be. He had never given it much thought. The fact that she had been keeping to herself over the last several weeks hadn’t dawned on him either. She had been a very outgoing young maiden whom even the Dwarves found it difficult to have a problem with.

Now, as he stared into the empty pit, he knew the dream he had been having were no longer dreams. They were reality.

Netosa, Old One of eternal suffering, despair, and the undead was awake.

Gateways of the Ancients

Diane Yarstrom