Using My Monsters

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Post War Natives - 7/3/2011 (Part 1)

08:20 - ??? - The group rest in the sumptuous prison of a pocket dimension “housed within” a small, armoured caravan; part of a large fleet of caravans that seem to form Sarion's group. As they are lead to the caverns where these structures wait, the group are able to see that Sarion's contingent numbers at least one hundred soldiers, and twice as many slaves. The caravans – hunched, dark things, armoured with plates of chitin and adamantine – sit in a rough circle in the middle of a large chamber, their perimeter warded by a circle of etched runes and ominously bladed pylons that quietly seethe with power.

Sarion accompanies the group to the entrance to one of the caravans, and with a sibilant word of power causes its curtained door to open, revealing a vast perfumed chamber beyond, filled with lush furnishings, low tables groaning with dwaer' delicacies, and tall pitchers of gleaming spiced wines. A pale pinkish light suffuses the entire area, having no apparent source, and the boundaries of the chamber are hidden by curving tumbles of shifting drapes and intricately sewn dwaer'syth tapestries. Two dwaer'syth from Sarion's own guard are appointed to watch the entrance to the caravan (though all the group apart from Schnecke realise that the “interior” is actually a pocket dimension), and the group realise that although they are to be in luxury for the foreseeable future, they will be prisoners nonetheless.

As soon as the group enter the caravan, Sarion reiterates his promise to find them later, and then leaves, shutting the door behind him, trapping the group within the caravan's pocket dimension, the area where the door once stood becoming another draped wall within the dimension's bounds.

??? - ??? - There is no way to be sure of how much time has passed within the perfumed comfort of the caravan, and the group take advantage of the break to get some sleep, to eat some food, and to enjoy a little luxury before their next run of pain and horror. The daelndorin however refuses to touch anything, and as soon as he sees the party (who he seems more than a little intimidated by) eating and drinking the fare within the chamber, he withdraws to a corner and simply glares at them, tapping his foot nervously and looking longingly at the place where the exit was.

The party find that not only is the food delicious, but it seems to have some kind of healing magic worked into it, for their wounds begin to melt away, and a sense of general well being seeps through them. Sleep also seems to be better within this place; refreshing in a way that natural sleep could never be...

...And so it is particularly jarring when their rest is interrupted...

??? - ??? - The doorway out of the caravan flickers open, and the group's senses are immediately alert to danger, for a malevolent presence has entered the chamber's confines – its source, the squat, robed form that clambers stealthily into the room, accompanied by four others and a tiny, bat-winged daemon.

As they enter the room, Jaeger spots the lead figure brushing his knuckles over the frame of the doorway, and at the same instant Grigori senses a subtle but definite shift in the nature of the pocket dimension. Outside, the dwaer'syth guards can be seen staring, wide eyed and smiling vacantly (their masks discarded in their joy) at two small clouds of writhing, flickering shadow – clearly noctramantic constructs of some kind – and the group know who leads this group before he casts back his hood – a dwaerdorin noctramancer they saw with Sarion; a captain of some kind. 

He is paler than most of the his kin, and has eyes of a washed out, venomous green, instead of the more common black or sullen red. His beard is scraggly and unkempt, and his hair thinning and wild. Blocky runic tattoos crawl as if alive beneath the flesh of his face and neck, their patterns threatening to draw each adventurer into their dangerous depths if stared at too long. The daemon – a Quasit Seren realises – is clearly his familiar or ally. Two of the other figures also push back their hoods – warriors; one carrying an ornate hammer, the other a spiked shield and brutal looking axe – whilst the two figures at the rear of the group stay silent and hooded, a black mist spilling silently from within the shadows of their cowls.

The Noctramancer takes a step towards Grigori, his eyes blazing with sudden madness, spittle flecking the corners of his mouth as he hisses, “The vial! It calls to me. Give it to me! I must have it. Give it to me now!”

Stunned, shocked silence as the group struggle to work out how the vial – still bound as far as they know within Archevult's binding glyphs – could do anything other than discolour the cleric's robes with mildew. Grigori reflexively grabs the vial, and takes a step back, panic suddenly gnawing at his entrails, the ancient necromancer's laughter bubbling within his mind.

Seren steps forwards, a terrific roar escaping her draconic throat, putting herself between the dwaerdorin and the priest. For an instant, it seems the noctramancer may actually back off, but he suddenly seems to hear a voice, and with a scream repeats his demands, adding that he will not ask again, the air prickling as magic translates his words.

However, hidden by the drakven's bulk, the cleric has slipped his bag of holding out of his pack, and his allies, thinking he plans to hide the vial within it, move to conceal the movement from the dark dundiir. However, as the noctramancer turns to order his men to attack, his own hands suddenly bathed in crepuscular radiance, Grigori does something that no one expects...

...He slashes the bag of holding with his sickle...

...An extradimensional space rupturing with the bounds of another extradimensional space...

...There is a soundless burst of colourless light. A horrific sense of falling in every direction and none at once...

...Physicality melts away...

...The party grab each other as the solid world of the caravan, the dwaerdorin and the physical plane fly away to be replaced with...

...Nothingness....

[Kelter physics speak of the incredible energies released when one manipulates dimensional bounds whilst within the contained area of another bound dimension, and give us a means of calculating accurately the energies such interactions release. It is by using these formulae that we hope one day, to craft vessels that are able to travel between worlds in hours rather than days, and to craft portals that reach into the most remote and until then inaccessible of realities – Chief Artificer Adarrak's opening lecture to the Unified Order guild of artifice, 1470]
 
The group are sucked into the ultimate, primordial, ineffable nothingness that all realities float in; the water in the painter's pot that the paint clouds of reality drift through, the place between everywhere, the nowhere that is without end or beginning. The psychic plane. The Ethereal or Astral realm. The Great In between. 

The void.

[There is no time in the psychic plane. No air, no pressure, nothing physical at all. For those few travellers that somehow find themselves there, remember – consciousness is reality. Without thought, there is no existence there. Remember also that without luck, the aid of the few natives, or the possession of great wiles or magic you are there forever – unaging, unchanging and unable to die. They say Hell is a place of shadows, flame and iron. I say it is a place that lies everywhere and everywhen, a no-place that lies beyond physicality and which embraces and supports all physicality. I say that it is the void of the psychic plane, and that I would rather know Hell as written than that eternal, timeless horror – Unknown quote]

??? (Beyond time in any understandable form) How long they have drifted there in the infinite gulf of the psychic plane there is no way to know. They are alive in a manner of speaking, and miraculously are together. There is no sign of the dwaerdorin, or for that matter, the unfortunate daelndorin, and each one of them is deafened by an internal tumult of yelling voices – a tumult each hero quickly realises is the panicked thoughts of their allies. Focusing their thoughts, the noise ebbs somewhat, and the party try to take in their current surroundings.

To their minds, there is darkness, though somewhere deep within their consciousness, they understand that this is merely their way of interpreting the nothingness around them. Within that “darkness” the group gain a sense of impossibly massive angles that defy every sense of physics bound to their home universe; vast, eternal angles that twist and knife through the essence of creation; the skeleton of all things. Simply glimpsing these is enough to unseat something within the psyche of both Grigori and Jaeger, the assassin suddenly feeling a terrible chill settle through his soul.

As the group [drift/hang/stay still/ fly] they begin to grow more accustomed to the “dark” and begin to make out other shapes, shimmering and whirling in the distance; clouds and nebula like swirls, twinkling ribbons of star like points of light, angular shapes carved from the void itself. They also become aware of a subtle pull within the (substance?) of the void, and the expression “star wind” is thought by someone in the group. For a moment a sense of utter terror threatens to devour the party as the hugeness of infinity is briefly hinted at – at least, until their mortal minds shut down enough to prevent their psyches being shattered forever.

[panic/ fear / hope] “We need to get out of here”. Jaeger's voice.
[irritation / fear / hope] “How?” Schnecke?
[hope / confidence / irritation / despair] “I could work a ritual that...no, actually I couldn't”. Grigori.

…...

….................

…..I can get you out”...

The psychic voice is evil made manifest. It is a bubbling, glutinous voice that leaves a sense of oily taint in each adventurer's soul simply by being heard. Ripe with all the unholy hatred of the pit, its source can only be the fragment of consciousness within the vial.

You should have given me away priest. Better the pain I would have inflicted on you for your cowardice than this. Maybe now you will listen to my offer? Escape from here, and in return, your assistance in my own goals?

Stares of disbelief from the rest of the party who have yet to come to terms with the apparent deceit regarding the runes disappearance from the vial.

[Embarrassment/ fear / anger] “Filthy thing, as if I would ever allow you have your way with me. I should cast you into this void and leave you here alone for all eternity!”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You couldn't cast me away even if you truly wished it, you fawning, bleating shit stain. However, I should point out to you that I can sense another part of myself in a dimension that is passing “close” to this area. Maybe I should call to it and see who – or what – turns up!

A burst of psychic yelling and anger from the whole group; questions, accusations, suggestions that the vial should indeed be cast into the void, or that the group should try and find some kind of energy plane that would contain or destroy the vial's essence.

Weak, frightened children!The voice hits them with enough psychic foetor and fury to stun the group to silence, You have no concept of how the multiverse works. Trust me, I shall see to it that I am no longer burdened by you, and shall see to it that you [Grigori] suffer a million times over for your weakness and pathetic loyalty to your 'kin'

The anger – raw and hateful – from the vial fades, and it grows suddenly silent. For a moment the group fear it has sensed something terrible and vast moving through the void, but they realise that it is merely choosing to no longer speak to them.

The psychic conversation turns to finding a way out of this place – a process actually enhanced by the non-verbal mode of communication this plane allow, as ideas and concepts are expressed in a purer form. 

It is assumed that many of the “stars” in the void are in fact other realities. Given this, it is possible that the group may, somehow, be able to make their way into them, and that there are two main ways to do this; through a shadow plane attached to another dimension (this would be the assassin's job), or by seeking out and hijacking the effects of a spell wrought in one of the multitude of dimensions to connect it to another reality. Both are incredibly dangerous, and both are almost certainly beyond the group's ability to accomplish. However, with no other viable option available, the party gestalt decide to go for the latter option, deigning it the least hazardous and potentially most direct route towards getting home.

The next issue is transport. With experimentation the party realise that movement is accomplished by force of will, the mentally strongest moving at a terrific pace, whilst the more intellectually challenged plod along at a snails pace. They also realise that it may, with combined thought, be possible to shape the fabric of the void into a vessel they could use to ride the subtle star winds that blow between the universes, though this is quickly abandoned when their first attempts result in an agonising backlash and the loss of a degree of awareness – a deadly condition in a universe where awareness / consciousness = existence. 

Eventually, they decide to try and synchronise their thoughts, to combine their mental strength through the mental singing of a bawdy drinking song, and to their delight, this works incredibly well. Without any real sense of movement, the group begin to fly – or the plane to move around them - at impossible speeds. The angles of the void flash and warp as they shift through it, and the star winds tug and push at them; subtle pressures that steer them towards their unknown destination.

Soon (possibly millennia or a split second later) the group arrive at a massive wall of angles and twinkling motes of colourless light. It is vast beyond cognition, and indeed, the very idea of even trying to fathom its reaches fills each adventurer with a sense of horrible dread, the result of an innate understanding that to try and take in the wholeness of this thing before them – an entire dimension; infinite and yet, within the bounds of this void, finite – would blast their consciousness to metaphorical dust, ending them utterly. As they near the reality, they begin to perceive an impossible number of writhing lines pouring from its “face”, each one stretching out into the void, bunching together to form writhing cables of energy. As they near these, they can be seen to be in constant motion - vortexes of dimensional disruption - and with a start, several members of the group gestalt realise that these are manifestations of interdimensional magics at work – the conduits between the plane before them and other realms.

Sudden fear sweeps through the gestalt. To try and ride the violent currents of these conduits, should they fail to master them, could easily tear them apart and scatter their fragments across the void. On the other hand, if successful the party would once more become separate entities, which after this time of joining (how long has it been? Forever?) would seem – odd – as does the idea that they were ever separate creatures of flesh and feeling and sluggish, weighty corporeality. 

Despite these fears, thoughts regarding tactics are sent through the collective that is the group, and it is decided that everyone is willing to risk the terrors of entering the conduit, as well as the chance that the dimension at its end will be entirely hostile to their weak physical forms and will kill them.

Synchronising their thoughts with the song, the group plunge towards the conduit, trying not to focus on the incongruities of its size as they move...

...Closer to its surface they can feel the savage, cyclonic power of the energies they must penetrate, and fear blooms within them...

I wonder if death will hurt?

The move towards the skin of the conduit, and pushing on immerse themselves within its tearing, ripping, utterly destructive bounds...

Jantherak screams....


The Gestalt screams....

Their entire beings become agony...

The song becomes deafening in their minds as they drive forth through the sudden storm of the conduits walls, primal energies lashing at them like bolts of seeking lightning, trying to tear these invaders from beyond its veil apart...

The. Song.

Concentrate.

On. The....

Insanity. This must be what insanity feels like. The rushing, chaotic pull of the energies, the pain and fear of their deadly, ripping embrace....

..Falling.....Flying........Screaming...???

And then, through a mist of rushing, translucent energies, the group see an ordered, physical location that seems to make sense. They see that they are within the brightly blazing bounds of a carved circle of runes, worked in the stone of some impossibly vast structure. Rune carved pillars the size of Huulgen trees support a ceiling lost in shadows, and vast humanoids twenty or thirty times the size of Schnecke move around them like ghosts.

Individual thoughts begin to separate, and each adventurer realises that beyond the skin of the conduit aeons are passing. The figures come and go in a silent, chaotic blur of activity. Then the ceiling collapses, the pillars crumbling like chalk. As they watch, the speed with which time flows begins to slow. The floor around the circle – which has endured throughout – becomes covered in mosses and ferns that appear as if teleported, and the pillars of stone are replaced with living pillars of wood as vast pine trees erupt with the perceived speed of mushrooms from the ground.

And then, with a jolt, the group enter the universe and its time stream – and like a rebirth it is agony – for all the things they had first missed when they entered the psychic plane; pressure, sight, sound, touch, taste, flesh, corporeality, and individuality, all come crashing down on them like a smashing weight. 

It is too much to take, and overwhelmed all of them collapse into merciful unconsciousness. 

.......

In truth, they are lucky to be alive, and even more to the point, mostly sane.

(Arrival +30 minutes) – When they first awoke all they could do was shiver in the cold, damp atmosphere of this place, and try somehow to process all that had just happened.

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