Chapter 97: The Summoning

Sweetleaf continued to hold up his lank long pale arms, and he made the sacred holy hand symbol to his foreboding dismal gods. His hands were clenched into fists with the index and pinky fingers extended out, thus making the high priest's hands look like some kind of horned creature ready to feed upon the unwary. Count Raven took the opportunity to do a shadow puppet show and making the holy hand symbol howl like a wolf at the unseen moon. He was casually kicked in a rather soft part of the anatomy by an unseen foot. Sweetleaf slowly lowered his head as if in a trance, and he took a step backwards, but the clutched hands and pointing fingers moved to point at the clueless sacrifices in the circle. The rest of the black coven followed the leader's example. They began a dark dreary dirge about death, destruction, and dreadful things best left unspoken. The melody and words were capable of chilling the warmest of beings to the bone. Unfortunately, the full efforts of the spell were lost on the unconscious Fafnir, so he had nothing to worry about, and the flaming two were just too dense to get it, and they were still too involved in making comments about the rude fashion mis-statements made in black.

The only one with the real sense of the terrible otherworldly chill was Valerius, who swallowed down his horrid dread. He knew he had to break through the terrible spell that these evil dark high elves had woven about him. It was his duty as a perpetrator of justice to stop whatever these twisted elves had in mind and cleanse the beautiful Greenwood of their corrupting influence. Justice had to prevail as he doubled his efforts to break free of his bonds. The gods just weren't with him on this one. He could not even call out to the most godly pair in their party to help. Of course, chances were good that they would just laugh at him. Saren would come up with Squezmette didn't do the Black Sabbath thing, and she would return to her praying. Strangely enough, the two were not praying at this time. They had just finished their round of prayers and were now in the process of relaxation and enjoying a well earned cigarette that was graciously given to them by that most illustrious of Counts. Having performed a prayer well done, Squezmette protected her devotees from the efforts of the dirge.

The offered blood spread itself across the symbol, and a red light illuminated the darkness. A mist of sweet smelling smoke, that was not at all like the special tobacco being passed around, hovered around the ritual area. This had nothing to do with the special power that the Doomsters called upon. It had to do with the prop elves in the tree roots with their incense and dry ice to produce the proper atmosphere. The elves of the circle swayed to and fro in what appeared to be a representative of the Danse Macabre. No one got it, and the only one who would have any familiarity with such things was soundly unconscious and doing a dance of his own in La La Land. Trouble and Tribble did a short promenade in the middle of the slow crawling somber movements, then returned to the rhythm of the others. An otherworldly glare from their leader sent them back into their place with no second thought of digression again.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Sweetleaf changed the movements of the dismal dance. He raised his head just enough so that his eyes could sparkle red with the reflection of the glowing blood on the symbol through his black dyed hair . He spread out the fingers of his hands as if to lift the power of his group. Valerius, who was the only one that paid the high priest any attention at all (Tallon, Grimslade, and Indel had their full attention on Terra Firma and her landscapes, and everyone else had their own agendas to look after), felt his pants grow warm and wet in a not so good way. He really wanted his mommy at this time, and Fluffy really wanted a new ankle to cling to!

In an uncanny voice that had an incredible echo to it (Done by some special tricks of the background crew), the coven leader spoke. The end result sounded like the dour dark leader was talking into a garbage can and the resident cat was none too happy about the intrusion. After several crude unnecessary comments under the breath of the priest and some rather loud comments made by the said cat that no one seemed to notice nor get, since no one was fluent in cat (Bloodstone was too occupied with depleting his purse with another kind of animal of the female type), the leader of this sullen group started a chant (that might well have done Kel proud if he wrote of such things). The others swayed in motion and reverently repeated the words . . . well, as close as they could manage. Count Raven was off a bit (as usual) and repeated many a made up word, but the general gist of it (Deleting the Count's additions) went as such:

"From "CANDLEMASS, VOL. 4, CHAPTER VI, PSALM 9"

"'MOURNER'S LAMENT, HIPPIE'S TRIUMPH'

"Hear now a prayer of GRIEF, SORROW, and woe, the PENANCE of A SINNER'S FAME.

"Recall the story of the NATIVITY IN BLACK and the SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH, when the SPIRIT CARAVAN of the Holy Trinity, The Great and Terrible OZZMAN, his dour portly right-hand man MESSIAH, and his canonized smoking bud SAINT VITUS, found the ETHEREAL MIRROR and fled this rotten world to dwell BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP, for they endured deep dark depression within the COSMIC FUNERAL, this sickly SYMPTOM OF THE UNIVERSE decaying WHILE HEAVEN WEPT.

"Until one day they met a great bard who gave musical voice to their lamentations of MANIC FRUSTRATION, and in a moment of inspiration went on yet another farewell tour, NEVERMORE to release further YATTERING BLACK SHAPES OF DOOM in story or song.

"In remembrance of our JADED ENTITY, we invoke the SIGN OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS, for THE MISERY SHOWS in our haggard forms, knowing we are BORN TOO LATE in this place where the WAR PIGS walk and FAIRIES WEAR BOOTS.

"So NEVER SAY DIE, COME TOUCH THE SKY and RUN TO THE LIGHT, so that you may find final rest and SOLITUDE UNDER THE OAK, BORN AGAIN within the eternal MEMORY GARDEN where ALL IS FORGIVEN.

"We moan and groan in praise of the MASTER OF REALITY, the great and terrible wizard OZZMAN COMETH!

"EPICUS DOOMICUS METALLICUS! "

The chill of the air was like an Arctic blast upon unsuspecting victims. Jareth and Saren felt the need to warm each other in their mutual company, and they threw in a prayer for good measure. The gamblers were so tied up in the heat of the frivolous game going on that they could feel nothing else. Tallon, Indel, and Grimslade were charmed in another world and therefore warmed by other things. Swaying suited Miss Firma well. Silverleaf and Chance were in a similar situation but over the Iron Man. The two fops had decided to proceed forward and discuss how dark and morbid the color black was with their favorite silent Doomster. Not to mention, long flowing robes really did not do Iron Man justice at all. Fafnir mumbled some obscenities about the coldness caused by the use of damn necromancy and rolled over. The haflings cuddled close together, and Banjo pulled out a blanket from one of his bottomless pockets. No one questioned (nor cared), and if they did, stranger and bigger things had been taken from the hafling's pockets. Valerius was already cold from other problems. This just made him colder. Fluffy just sought out a drier part of his clothing to hide in. Maxwell, not being used to cold and having no fur for the occasion, let out a hearty sloppy sneeze that broke the rather foreboding mood and slopped quite a bit of unpleasantries down Terra Firma's robes. The trio of gawkers didn't even notice, and the amazing elfess bit her lip to stay in sync with her coven members. The little rodent mongrel would get his in the end. The Kobold didn't notice her glare as he wiped his nose on the end of Tallon's shirt. The young apprentice didn't even notice as his eyes and mind were all focused on the vision of loveliness before him. The elf smirked. They would all get it in the end. Unfortunately for her, they would enjoy it too much. Count Raven only cracked that goofy smile of his. She looked good wet (even if it was Kobold snot). She made a mental note to put him on her hit list also.

Sweetleaf's expression did not move nor even twitch as if rigor mortis had set in. The energies of the power summoned hung heavy in the air and the doorway was being opened despite the lack of fear in the sacrifice and his not exactly confident cohorts. He threw back his head, and the entire circle stepped backwards. The air above them started to churn clouds from an unknown source and the imagination would say that there was the rumble of thunder. Count Raven would claim that it was the burrito that he ate for dinner. Everyone of the blood sacrifice got the idea that something was amiss, and Fafnir and the haflings mumbled uncomplimentary things in their sleep. Of course, this could have to do with the charge of electricity in the air, and all those that had hair felt it stand on ends. Even Max's scales stood up and took notice. Tallon shrugged it off. He had dealt with such power surges back at the tower. Everyone including the gambling trio, (The praying duet were done for the time being. Saren had to admit Jareth was getting better since he was able to send such jolts of electricity through his body) could see the swirling clouds above them. A vortex opened up and so did Tallon's eyes. He nudged his fellow gawkers, and they came to a mutual decision to flee for their lives. Max grabbed hold of an ankle, and the wizard's apprentice grabbed the sleeping haflings by their collars as he vacated the premises. The spell broke from Valerius as all power went into the gateway. The young man valiantly grabbed hold of his lady fair, who was in a heated argument with a certain dwarf about owing her a golden belt buckle. Bloodstone argued that he'd loose his pants if he gave up his belt buckle, and none wanted that. Taurus crossed his bovine eyes in confusion. He could have sworn that the buckle in question was made of brass. The paladin did not care about the gambling that the beautiful elven maiden participated in. He was more concerned with the impending enlarging massing black shape hurtling towards them and spelling a not so nice doom for anyone remaining in the circle.

Although Jareth and Saren were seeing things as a result of that special tobacco, they were able to surmise that things weren't looking too good from their position. So, they managed some amazing feat of acrobatics that would have been most impressive to the Olympic committee and made good their escape.

Having lost their gambling partner and ring leader, Bloodstone and Taurus turned their minds to other things. The dwarf counted his losses, and the minotaur, sensing the danger, grabbed his stubby companion and vacated the premises.

Silverleaf went to make good his escape, although his partner seemed completely unphased by the whole situation, but that was Chance, and it was a waste of mental energy to try and figure Chance out. So, the delicate elf did what he could to get Fafnir's hulking bulk out of the way, but the weight versus the wet noodle strength just wouldn't do. So, the prince of Greenwood had do a most horrifying thing. He had to appeal to that other noodle thing and use his brain. He put his hands to his cheek and cried out in his tweaky high pitched girlie voice, "Oh my! It's a virgin sacrifice!"

All grogginess left the dragon man, and he hopped up looking around expectantly for his next free meal. Given that there weren't many virgins available in the near vicinity and of the preferred variety . . . female (Silverleaf failed on both counts), the huge serpentine creature made a b-line to Judel. The elf maiden, used to such ravenous attacks, casually picked up a huge rock, that one did not think that she would have the strength to lift, and casually bashed her fierce attacker. Valerius' eyes opened wide and he swallowed the huge lump that formed in his throat. He was planning on marrying this woman. Fafnir was yet again unconscious, but he was at least out of danger.

Fearing another rather nasty and most certainly messy fashion statement, Silverleaf called for Chance to move his most excellent buns out of the target range. The priss extraordinary young man stood his ground and crossed his arms in his haughty way and was his defiant arrogant self. He saw no reason to take orders from his inferior silver haired tramp. That was alright. Within seconds, the object appearing in the whirling clouds from above came spiraling larger and wider out of the air. Suddenly, it landed on the prissy fashion model with a sickening squish and a thunderous thud. Some not so pleasant nor clearly coherent words flooded from the mass underneath.

All available eyes (including the one of the squashed individual) turned to this new and but strange intrusion on the black and red blood stained symbol on the lawn as the smoke of the magical energies dissipated. Before them (and atop Chance) appeared to be a ratty old couch that had most certainly seen better days. There was a pale middle aged man with stringy dirty blond hair and wearing small spectacles that now sat cockeyed on the bridge of his nose. He was sitting eschewed on the couch. He held an odd little black device no bigger than a dagger that had many glowing green buttons on it in one hand. In the other hand, he held a can of what Tallon recognized as beer. This man had the look in his eyes and the dragged out appearance of one who had visited many of those incredible places that Kel (and Count Raven) had often been and his face said that he most certainly thought that he was now in one such place now. He sat up straight on the edge of the abused piece of furniture and cried out . . .

"Sharon! Mumble . . . mumble . . . bleep . . . bleep . . . The bleep . . . bleep . . . bleep . . . mumble bleep again!"