Okay, a quick warning before we go on. If you found the Deathloved stuff a bit much, you will probably find this a bit much too. Out of the two campaigns, this is generally the less grim one. However, the last game went to some pretty dark places, and as such, the report has some fairly unpleasant bits in it.
However, if you have a strong constituion, or are just warped, read on and enjoy!
* * *
23:41 – 23:45 – TocToc stops his retreat and spins round to face the group suddenly. His eyes go through a mad cycling of lenses, and he slowly, cautiously, hops back towards them like an awkward, metallic bird.
More lenses flashing and subtle bursts of light as he shifts his awareness through several spectra scanning for the deadly construct.
“Most impressive! Based on this, I shall endeavour to help you find what you need – assuming of course that you are able to bring me what I asked for. I know of a daemon named Fungloop who has smuggled several Chronolilies into his club, a place called the Submissive Succubus [nearest translation from source language]. He intends, I believe, to trade the nectar to his, ahem, clients, and to make a fortune from their seeds and petals.”
“Where can we find this place?”
TocToc opens a small compartment on the side of his body and produces a length of tissue thin sheet metal with a bewildering array of numbers, symbols and words stamped into its surface. He snips it off and hands it to Ormid, who, after a moment, realises that they are the teleport coordinates for the Succubus.
“Um, what manner of club is this place?” Asks the artificer.
“Searching database...Hedonistic place of meeting, particularly catering to beings that enjoy inflicting or receiving pain, or those too weak to be unable to prevent it. Pain given or received for sexual or...”
“THANKS...that's, quite enough thank you. I. I get the picture.”
TocToc gives a curious bow that sees his entire cuboid body simply pitch forwards on his spindly legs.
“And you seek?”
“A power source. Specifically, one that would be of use to an item created by a race called the Ael'Shar.”
“I am unsure as to where I could find such a thing, but shall endeavour to locate one. Now however I must be on my way. As I said before, we shall meet here in 10 cycles, adjusted for the time that has passed between the last issued start point and the current time. Until then.”
14/5/13268 K.C. 22:30 – 23:00 – Two cycles have passed since the group left TocToc and the Fractal Muse; almost twenty hours of frantic activity and preparation, broken only by sleep and eating.
Their first port of call on leaving the inn was a district where they could purchase mystical rituals and pay with something as mundane as coins and gems (Llewellyn mysteriously donated to the group's funds during this time, having somehow come into possession of a highly valuable flawless diamond of alien beauty and singular purity – the legacy of a quick street crime on the way to the shop). Finding a district of human (and nearly human) traders, and within that a fairly “normal” group of businesses, the artificer found what he sought – a spell that would let him home in on a specific items energies. It was expensive to buy, and the artificer was unnerved by the strange cat that appraised their stone for the creepy shop keep selling it - a golden furred thing with one eye of red, and one of vibrant blue – but vital to Ormid's plan to locate the chronolily.
Following their purchase, the group had found an inn in the same area, and purchased rooms. There Ormid had set about deciphering the strange code the ritual was scribed in, unlocking its secrets and making them his own, whilst the rest of the group had taken the opportunity to rest; perhaps sensing that once they were on the trail of the lily, they would be needing every ounce of strength they had.
Time passed in a blur of study and practice for the artificer, and eventually, eight hours later, he had it mastered, and allowed a deep, dreamless sleep to take him like a heavy, liquid predator.
On waking there was more food, and then the business of finding the Submissive Succubus. Using the codes the Duodrone gave them in conjunction with the public teleport system, the group were able to clear the thousands and thousands of miles between the core and their destination in a heartbeat, arriving in a darker part of the dimension; a place of twilight skies and crowded, dangerous streets. Moving through the throngs of alien beings that choked those greasy, shadowed paths, the party eventually find themselves outside of the club; a huge, six floored structure made of imported stone; a shifting, shadowy rock that seems to breathe in the witchlight luminosity of this place. The club's fascia is a nightmare of bladed crystals and barbed cages, within which writhe souls, their ectoplasmic fluids and screams a thin drizzle of agony that forms a dismal miasma over the nightmare throngs that wait to enter the club.
Torches that appear to be humanoid souls with their skullcaps removed and their brainpans' filled with blazing witchfire, sprout like gargoyles from the clubs front, the foxfire flames flickering from their mouths and eyes. However, it is not until one opens its mouth too wide, and emits a metallic scream of incalculable agony that the party realise they are both “alive” in a fashion and suffering.
From within the breathing walls of the Succubus comes a rhythmic bassy thumping unlike anything the party have heard or felt before, and every time the monsters guarding the door allow a party in, a wave of crass, shrieking noise - unmistakably music of some tortured kind – greets the filthy night like a breath from hell itself. Crowds of malformed and strange beings wait to gain entry to the club. Hauntingly beautiful daemons – profoundly wrong and yet horrifically arousing in their unearthly beauty – inflict casual torments on captive souls with barbs of burning steel and drugged whips, whilst shadowed humanoids quietly cast their dark eyes appraisingly around the crowds. Feral eyed vampires wait besides beings too warped and hideous to categorise.
A daemon that resembles a floating, sentient, anal fistula, drifts towards Veteran, and in a horrifyingly child like voice begs to be “impaled on your spines” - a request the stunned warforged refuses. Another daemon resembling a six-breasted, fleshless woman of perfect proportions and nightmarish form, “walks” her pet souls; naked, whispering things that she controls with cruel hooks of rune-scribed iron which have been forced through the scruffs of their necks and attached to a leash, whilst another being - a writhing thing of flapping wings and other appendages - pulses and croons obscenely as its musky pheromones draw blank eyed victims into its folds. Screams of pain and lust echo over the throbbing music oozing into the street, and the stink of fecundity mixes with the sharp tang of blood, agony and scorched magics.
Only Shadevia, a being born of a darkly warped universe herself, is unmoved by the crowded horrors, villains and victims that carouse beneath the razorwire street lights here, her own black eyes drinking in the scenes with something akin to animation, and she becomes something of an anchor to the rest of the stunned party, as they try to figure out a way in.
The entrance is a heavy portal of dark stone and barbed iron, watched over by a huge slime-plated Xareth'Chelde, two massive gorgoth who's flesh seethes with tenebrous power, and a twisted creature that resembles a brain with muscular, dog-like limbs. Llewellyn suggests looking for a back entrance into the edifice, but this is quickly counted as a bad idea – both because the club hangs over the side of the street, jutting out into the twilight void of the plane, and because Ormid reasons that such a prospective vulnerability in the structures defences would be heavily, if more subtly guarded.
In the end, the group decide to try and get into the club through the front door. They queue besides a leather-clad male thing with no facial features other than a lamprey like mouth pierced with hoops of rusted iron and a hulking gnarrak type creature that pants foully and stinks of blood and madness. It takes a while for them to reach the imposing guardians, but suddenly they are there.
“Not suitable. Fuck off!” Rumbles the eye tyrant in a deep, phlegmy voice.
“So many eyes,” begins Veteran quietly, “and yet so blind. Let us in, or we shall make a point of showing all gathered here what pulses and squirms beneath your armoured plates.”
The gorgoth turn to regard the group, seeming to gather the darkness to themselves and to grow even more monstrous, but Shadevia gives a simple “Ah ah, no.” and allows a small sphere of seething gloom to writhe over her hands like deformed serpents, the vyrleen allowing the cruel flanges of his mace to glint in their darkness.
“I said...” Rumbles the Xareth'Chelde, its eye-stalks twitching.
“You said?” growls Veteran, the dundorin suddenly by his side, hammer over her shoulders, sparks snarling over its rune-carved head.
“Come on in.” finishes the aberration, “And may you find the place too much to ever leave.”
The doors open and an almost physical wave of noise and flashing lights bursts forth. Almost giddy with their success the party move on in, hoping to lose themselves in the darkness beyond before the mind-shattering fear they were keeping bottled up is able to burst forth and get them killed...
23:01 – 23:40 – ...Impossibly, inside, it's even worse.
The “music” throbs and writhes around the party, and they gain only split second impressions of the place they stand in, as the only light sources strobe in time to the booming, crushing percussion. They can tell they are in a vast chamber, hung about with barbed cages and filled with platforms of metal and stone, raised to various levels. Grotesque and erotic statues – many of which defy any terrestrial logic or form – bleed fluids into seething pools which are alive with writhing forms, and clouds of drugged smoke hang in musky palls in the stagnant, heavy air. Revellers of every kind, size and form writhe, copulate, give and accept pain, and feed in the darkness, each flash of light revealing a new scene of infernal wrongness to the party, and within seconds of entering this place Ormid feels a muscular tentacle questing for him.
“Eaargh! Let's find what we came for and get the hell out of here!”
“Agreed.” growls the Veteran, as he brings his brightly blazing axe to bear, its runes casting a pool of reddish light around the party.
“Stay close to me.” whispers Shadevia, her eyes reflecting like black moonstones in the darkness, “I shall help you to see better in this place.”
The group huddle around the shadeling, and begin to move into the depths of the club, trying to ignore the horrors around them and the tacky feel of the sticky floor beneath their feet.
“It's raining.” comments Ardwaine in a low voice, “It's ….oh Thorduin's blade.”
A constant drizzle does indeed drift from the vaults of the chambers ceilings, and with the shadeling's own perceptions guiding the group's they are able to see its source.
High above, the ceiling is hidden by a shifting canopy of twisting hooked chains and foully glinting barbs. Sewn into these are souls and beings; their flesh pierced and torn, their fluids the source of the precipitation. Ardwaine starts to wipe the filth off her face frantically, but stops when Shadevia warns her to be still.
“Blend in sister of the earth, and look for a way out of here. The chronolily must be kept apart from the main club.”
The group get a feel for the chamber, and manage to move without drawing too much attention, though many of the things they see in that place of sweat and agony will come back to haunt them when next they sleep. Eventually they locate a series of warped corridors almost hidden at the rear of the first chamber, and it is here that the nature of the “stone” from which the club is made is revealed, for a dark red light pours along the narrow ways, illuminating the writhing forms that hover like grim pareidolia within the rock's surface.
“It's phantasmium or a similar material” whispers Shadevia, running her slender fingers over its surface and suppressing a shudder (of delight?), “solidified nightmares taken from a dream dimension or a descending shadow plane.”
“Dangerous?” Asks the Veteran.
“Not normally.” comes the reply.
No one feels up to asking the shadeling to qualify her statement.
Chambers decorated with flesh and steel are found beyond the corridors, clearly on a lower level than the main club, curled beneath them. The air here still thrums with the beat of the music from above, but it is the cries of lust and pain that provide the main ambient soundtrack.
Pulsing curtains of living flesh hang from bone rails, creating a maze of smaller chambers, within which writhe things – and no one, not even Shadevia - dares to look within, for the silhouettes cast by the bloody lights that gleam within onto the flesh curtains, are enough to bring madness by themselves. Passing by a number of circular pits cut into the oily floor of a large circular chamber hung about with more weeping soul torches, the group spot a number of stairs descending to a deeper level, watched over by tall humanoid daemons clothed in chains of hooked cthoninc steel, and fire-wreathed creatures similar to dundiir, who's beards and hair are made of flame, who wear fabulous plates of obsidian and who wield flaming hammers of the same vitreous stone.
“Chain devils and Zaidir” Whispers Ormid.
“Zaidir?” Queries Shadevia, “We call them Azer in my world.”
“Whatever,” whispers Llewellyn, “the stairs they are guarding bear warding glyphs of surprising power. I suspect that what we are looking for may be beyond them.”
“Ugh great!” Snorts Ardwaine, looking over at the nearest pit in the floor; a yawning shaft lined with upward pointing rows of flesh adorned hooks, which belches a continual mist of blood vapour into the room, adding to the coppery, sticky humidity, “Wish I had brought an umbrella.”
23:41 – 23:46 - “Right then,” mutters Llewellyn, “Vetters, Ardwaine and Ormid, go and draw the guards attention a bit whilst Shadevia and I try to lower the wards. When you see me give the thumbs up, come over and cross the boundary. Okay?”
The two warriors and the artificer agree, and move to engage the guards in a conversation about the pits and what lies beneath (the guards don't know, but do know that no one has ever come back up once thrown down), whilst Llewellyn and Shadevia skulk in the shadows and move to the edge of the stairs and the runes carved there.
The stairs seem to curl down into formless darkness, and both the vyrleen and shadeling can feel the familiar prickle of otherworldly magics and warped dimensional bounds. The runes are strange things filled with a mercury like fluid, which are charged with toxic magic. However, to the experienced rogue and the deadly shadeling they are simple to safely disable, and both feel a slight release of invisible tension as their warding energies fall. Seeing the vyrleen madly waving at them, the three distracting adventurers bid the guards farewell, and move quickly to join their companions as they dart down the warped stairs into the darkness below.
23:47 – 23:50 – The stairs and the “corridor” in which they float, are clearly a linking portal between the club and another pocket dimension. At their base is a small square chamber dressed with blocks of black iron. A large set of double doors, 12' high and 10' across bar further progress; a ghastly carving resembling a caricature of a laughing porcine beast, emerging like a guardian from its surface. Lewellyn moves to examine the carving, and after a few moments reports that he can clearly feel the presence of warding magics within it. Ormid considers using the ritual he bought, but realises that within this corridor, technically between two discrete dimensions, his spell will probably not function properly.
The rogue and artificer both turn their attention to the carving and the wards bound within it, and realise a second too late that they are far more complex than those at the top of the stairs...
23:51 – 23:59 ...The pig headed carving spits madness.
A blast of chaotic mental energies are vomited by the head, engulfing the Veteran, Llewellyn and Ormid in their dizzying embrace. Agony rips through their minds, and they taste copper as insane visions of hellish torments and unwholesome pleasures rip their minds to pieces. Weakened and disoriented, they are only vaguely aware of their allies warning screams as the corridor and everything in it fade away, to be replaced by a very solid corridor of black iron, designed it seems to see them cut to pieces by the fiends who wait there.
The group are within a 10' wide corridor, which slopes up straight ahead gently for some 40' before ending in a T-junction. Either side, the party are flanked by corridors who's floors are 5' above the floor they stand on – clearly joined to both prongs of the corridor ahead. Behind the group is a wall of 1' long barbed spikes.
There is a pale grey light in this place, which has no apparent source, and after the sensory overload of the Succubus, this stark place feels decidedly empty.
However, it definitely is not.
Two Zaidir, three of the chain devils and a lean, green-scaled daemon with burning red eyes and a writhing beard of poisoned tentacles, who expertly wields a cruelly barbed polearm, await the group, and strike at once without mercy. A whirlwind of carnage engulfs the corridor as the group suddenly act to defend themselves against these supernatural foes, and although they are severely wounded, they manage to slay all the fiends, the last foe to fall one of the chain shrouded daemons, its putrid gore spilling like oil from the withered flesh-body hidden within the lashing armour of chains and barbs.
The cold, dry air of the corridor stinks of corruption, and with their foes slain, the group allow themselves a few moments to catch their breaths and to gather their wits...