ZEITGEIST [ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co. - Page 98
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  1. #971
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    Session 205, Part One - Godmind

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Coz3kyrBouo

    Uriel said, “Much as I’d like to revel in Nicodemus’ failure, I think we should go and stop the Godmind.”

    Admiral Smith nodded and said, “It might be wise to act now before the creature grows too powerful to stop.”

    Korrigan agreed, for several reasons – the most obvious and pressing being to prevent carnage in Cherage, and the rescue of their allies and friends at the symposium. This would also present an opportunity to learn about the hivemind phenomenon.

    At that moment, Leon arrived on deck. They had got used to his coming and going over the years, and spared no energy on surprise. He asked for an update, and they filled him in. They waited for him to reciprocate.

    “It’s too complicated to explain everything now. Kasvarina is dead.”

    “I take it her fight against the Voice of Rot did not go well,” said Uriel, sadly.

    Quratulain still nursed a grudge and without thinking about how Leon might feel, she said with some relish, “Did she suffer?”

    “Yes,” said leon. “Part of her is still alive. But it is complicated to explain and we have work to do.”

    “How is Helandra?” asked Gupta.

    Leon replied hesitantly and reluctantly, “Not well.” This was clearly a euphemism. “You should also know that the deep ones are gone. They have formed into a hivemind. Where it went, I do not know.” This much had been passed on to them already, but it bore repeating. They told him about the other, related reports they had heard: Ashima-Shimtu’s vision of an alien presence to the west of Ber (and in the Cold Claw Sea, supporting his account); the disappearance of the gith following a huge earthquake, and the psionic resonance Uru had senses in the Hidden Valley. “Either they have run away to hide somewhere else, or been killed by the gidim,” said Leon.

    Smith took charge and gave orders to take off. Amidst all the activity, Uru wondered aloud if their best approach to this situation might be cut off the support to the ‘head’ (or ‘heads’), since the leaders appeared to have derived their power from their followers. They considered simply killing the Godmind (assuming this was possible), but their experience on Axis Island suggested that might cause the death of everyone involved.

    By now, the Coaltongue had risen out of hiding and cruised towards the outskirts of Cherage. Now that their intentions were clear Pemberton cleared his throat and spoke for the first time since their ejection from the symposium. “This has been fun and all, but I’m going to have to bid you gentlemen adieu. I’m not going to dress this up in any way – although it seems to me that risking every member of our little conspiracy in a single fight might be an eggs and basket situation, so there’s that. Me and Pardo are going to high-tail it now. I admire your heroics, and I’m glad Brakken has a chance of getting out in one piece. But I’ve managed to stay alive for so long by avoiding fights when I don’t know the odds. Our alliance is one of convenience, not sentiment, so I hope it won’t be too badly affected, but I can understand it if you feel sore about this. So long, and good luck.” With that, he used a magical device to whisk himself and Pardo away.

    Uru shrugged. “I can live with that,” he said.

    In the distance, they could see the central body of the Godmind – a hundred-foot high mass of flesh and stone that surrounded the Congressional Hall, with tiny bits of the metal dome visible at its “head.” The entity crawled along on massive tentacles, but it didn’t so much move its limbs as grow fresh tentacles outward and then pull the body along.

    Gupta used a spyglass to study the amorphous mass. She concluded that it was formed of separate hiveminds, each of which would need to be destroyed in order to undermine the whole. The most powerful hiveminds were contained within the central ‘hub’ of the Congressional Hall, surrounded by a thick wall of flesh that they would need to somehow pierce in order to get inside. Korrigan told Rutger Smith to fire up the Brand. “Already done,” said Smith.

    Uru attuned with the city (as best he could): Tendrils spread out from the Godmind in every direction, gradually encircling Cherage to cut off escape. These fleshy vines twitched and occasionally blossomed with black flower-like petals. While the Godmind sought to absorb the like-minded – those it viewed as ‘worthy’ and capable of contributing – it destroyed any it deemed unworthy, disintegrating them with beams from the these black blooms. Now it was stalled over the government district, gaining more power through the minds it enveloped; burning common servants, invalids and the elderly to ash.

    To their surprise, as they drew closer to the Godmind, they heard a pained whisper from Brakken. He was still conscious, using all of his power to hide from the Godmind and struggling to resist having his personality subsumed. Brakken thought they might still be able to use their gestalt link to enter into mindscape – a psychically-created mental construct where they could engage in a metaphorical battle with the Godmind, to weaken it from the inside. However, it would need to be distracted from outside first, or else the psychic pain would make it difficult for them to stay in the mindscape for long.

    Uriel and Korrigan tried this. Uriel was driven away after just a few seconds, but Korrigan was able to resist. Within, he could see the attendees – rapt, eyes aglow, linked by fleshy tendrils. Brakken felt sure that some of the victims – the less enthusiastic, or unwilling participants – could be freed by physically hacking the tendrils away. The rest would need to be somehow ‘persuaded’ or removed from the Godmind in a more subtle fashion. Gupta and Leon would be ideally suited to this task, but had not been part of Brakken’s original psychic link. Korrigan thought that his own mental powers might be sufficient to ‘plug in’ other unit members who had not previously been a part of the gestalt. If Leon got in there he might be able to teleport the others. Leon studied the matter and said that the Godmind would repulse attempts to teleport inside it.

    Uru wondered if they might direct the coastal batteries in the harbour to fire upon the creature to distract it, or even rupture it. Clearly no such orders had been given, since – apart the futile report of side-arms and some barking dogs – there had been no hostile response.

    Leon teleported away to see if he could affect this. He found the battery in chaos. The soldiers there did not know what was going on or who to target. He presented himself as a Danoran officer and issued commands that the gunners dared not challenge. They aimed their guns at the Godmind.
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Thursday, 22nd November, 2018 at 02:13 PM.
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  2. #972
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    Session 205, Part Two - Inside the Mindscape

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQHAhD3FYdA

    As they drew closer, the urge to join the hivemind grew stronger. The unit was confident its members could resist, but feared for the minds of the crew. They could not get close enough to bring the brand to bear. Uru suggested using the dragon-fliers, but they were too vulnerable and could easily be lost permanently if they were forced to land. Uriel pointed out that he Quratulain, Rumdoom and Uru would all be able to reach the Godmind under their own steam. Once there, they could see if they could find a way to crack its outer shell and get inside.

    Leon reappeared on deck as the coastal artillery began to fire. (Its shells were sufficient to distract the creature, but not create a hole in its translucent hide.) Leon opened up a mid-air wormhole to help Uriel’s aerial assault team to get as close as possible, then he entered gestalt with Korrigan. Entering the mindscape was now much easier, as the distracted Godmind no longer sought to expel them.

    The fliers were immediately subjected to stronger and stronger coercion, urging them to join the Godmind and ‘contribute’. They were able to shrug it off and, when their resistance was obvious, were subjected to attacks from the black blooms. Uriel barely managed to dodge aside and called on Uru to deal with the blooms while the others landed on the surface of the Godmind. Uru winked out of sight and readied a careful shot. Rumdoom, Uriel and Quratulain landed. Blue and white pulses, wave-like striations on the skin of the creature, sought to repel them – to teleport them away. They stood firm, but realised they could not resist this indefinitely. Uriel saw that the skin was incredibly thick. It would take a massive blast to get through in one go!

    Inside, Gupta looked for targets and saw that three of the attendees in particular – Chancellor Takhenova, Cardinal Banderesso, and War Minister Duffet – had enough sway over the gestalt that they had manifested ectoplasmic bodies; huge slime-green semblances of themselves, floating over the nest of tendrils like barrage balloons. Korrigan tried to use the sort of mental attacks they had developed against regular hiveminds, but to no avail.

    On the outside, Quratulain drew the ridiculous Nok Gun out of her magical cloak. She had never used it in combat before because it was wildly inaccurate, but against such an enormous target she hoped to bring every barrel to bare and make hole before they were shunted away. She pressed it up against the Godmind and pulled the trigger. The pressure of the shot forced the gun up and away at the last minute, and would have dealt nothing but a glancing blow, but Rumdoom declared a fiat and the massive gun blew a hole in the Godmind that immediately began to stitch itself together. Uriel turned into a budgie and flew inside. Rumdoom and Quratulain jumped through. Uru severed the black blossom before it could open fire again and then steered Little Jack expertly through the rapidly closing gap.

    Immediately, the ectoplasmid entities (the Cardinal, Chancellor Takhenova and Eloise Duffet) responded to this physical intrusion, bombarding them with mental attacks and attempts to dominate them. Two more black blossoms unfurled from the ceiling. Uru buzzed in and sought to draw their attention – focusing his thoughts on the Nettles, and the negative perceptions of its inhabitants: feckless, shirking, unwashed, idle, immoral, poor and thieving. The blossoms turned on him, and he was easily able to dodge their beams.

    While the physical intruders dealt with the defenders, Leon focused on trying to persuade Eloise Duffet, as Brakken had suggested. This did not work – she was too staunch and inflexible in her views. So he changed tactics, and focused on her followers, persuading them that Duffet had succumbed to an outside threat, and as such was not worthy of their support as war minister. Convinced, they ejected her, the tendrils withered and she fell to the floor crying in horror at her sudden isolation. The black blossoms might have turned on her had Uru and Quratulain not already pruned them. Her ectoplasmic manifestation popped and vanished. Quratulain injured one of the remaining two, as did Uriel.

    Gupta used her bone-pointing curse on the Cardinal – not his bloated effigy but the actual Cardinal himself. This swingeing spell caused the victim to suffer mental self-deprecation, to the point of madness – even death – unless they turned away from whatever they were doing and worked to shrug off the malaise. But, dominated as he was by the hivemind, the Cardinal could not fight against the spell. Instead, it began to slowly bite into his psyche as his ectoplasmic self attacked the intruders.

    Uru began to sever tendrils. Each one cut saw a symposium attendee fall to the ground, comatose.

    Korrigan worked to free Lord Kulp. Because Kulp was an unwilling member of the hivemind, this was a matter of reminding him who he was and coaxing him to free himself. When his eyes ceased to glow, he pulled himself free of the tendrils and stood close to Korrigan, wary of being subsumed again. Close to his new ally, the king of Risur was able to lend him some of his own resilience and prevent him from re-joining the hivemind.

    Rumdoom landed heavy blows against the ectoplasmic Cardinal. Uriel stuck it too and when it tried to attack him back, Gupta’s curse killed the cardinal outright.

    The bloated ectosplasmic version of Chancellor Takhenova tried to dominate Uru, its attention drawn by his subversive thoughts. It failed to do so. Meanwhile, Leon set about ‘impeaching’ Takhenova too and, when her link with her followers was broken, she was ejected and fell to the ground screaming in horror, just like Eloise Duffet.

    Korrigan freed both Heid and Kvarti in one go. Gupta freed Sokana Rel, invoking the name of Hewanharimau. With no more foes to fend off, these were just the first of many more to be persuaded, cajoled, or simply hacked free of the Godmind.

    Once about thirty people were freed, the Godmind’s outer body stopped moving and began to shake in agony. The tendrils’ pulsing turned from blue to red, the Godmind gave out a psychic whimper, and its thought-flesh mass began to dissolve. They didn’t have long before the Congressional Hall crashed to the ground! Uriel began to prepare for the worst, asking Rumdoom and Quratulain to smash a section of the flooring free, in the hopes of keeping it aloft with telekinesis, but such desperate measures were not needed: Leon teleported out with the closest cluster of people and, back on board the Coaltongue, gave Rutger Smith the order to sweep in. Without fear of domination, the vessel drew close enough to fire its brand, at an angle sufficient to create a gap in the side of the structure without harming the occupants. Then Leon opened a wormhole, and everyone was able to stream through, just as the structure crashed onto the government district below.

    At once, Korrigan used his macrophone, and Uriel a skywriting ritual, to address the whole of Cherage and declare the facts to its populace. “You have been saved by the Risuri RHC, from yet another mistake made by the Obscurati, whose leaders abandoned you in your hour of need. They have destroyed the sun. We will return it. They have lied, and continue to lie. We will tell you the truth. Where was Han Jierre today? Where is his wife? The Jierre family have worked in secret to hand the entire nation of Danor and its resources over to a shadowy organisation and this is the result.”

    (Unbeknownst to them, everyone who had been drawn into the Godmind – hundreds of people throughout the city – had a shared awareness with those inside the hall. There were huge numbers of eye-witnesses to the bravery of the king and his allies.)

    They released the majority of the freed attendees soon afterwards, using wormholes rather than risk a landing. They kept Eloise Duffet and Chancellor Takhenova as prisoners of war. They freed Kulp, who thanked them warmly. Vlendham Heid and Kvarti Gorbatiy spoke to Rumdoom before they went. Rumdoom asked about Grandis Kamanov. She was said to be calling her followers to her, somewhere in the snowy north. Heid said he would listen out for news when he attended his next conference in Bhad Ryzhadavdut – a gathering of eschatologists who would decide Drakr’s philosophical response to the changes the Ob had wrought. Kvarti said he was glad that Hildegaard was safe, and then the philosopher and his bodyguard departed.

    Gupta stole a moment with Sokana Rel. Sokana returned her passionate kiss, thanked her for her freedom and wished that she could stay longer. But she and Betronga would travel back to Elfaivar as quickly as possible and report what had happened here. Sokana still felt she could influence Betronga positively and that in the end he would prove to be a capable leader. (Right now, he was slumped against the gunwale, disoriented enough by his ordeal not to notice what was going on around him.) She bid Gupta farewell, then used a teleportation scroll to take them back to the jungle.

    Brakken was not sure what to do next. Korrigan asked him about a possible alliance with the Bruse. Though Brakken had not been back to Ber since the Great Eclipse, and could not be certain about any of this, he reminded Korrigan that the Bruse was fickle – likely to side with whoever he thought was strongest. While it was true that the new king of Risur had saved his life, so had the Obscurati – and both groups had helped him to suppress Pemberton’s coup. No doubt the Ob would soon bring him word of the dragon’s recent alliance with Risur, and this would help the Bruse to pick sides.

    Funnily enough, at that very moment, they received a message from Harkover Lee: They were wanted back in Slate at their earliest convenience as a Beran messenger had arrived at court.
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  3. #973
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    Session 206, Part One

    Shortly after their departure from Danoran airspace, Gupta was visited by the planetar, Adimel. It hovered effortlessly over the main deck, although the vessel was in rapid motion.

    “GREETINGS, MORTAL,” it boomed. “MY THANKS FOR RIDDING ME OF THAT TROUBLESOME PRIEST. HE WAS THE VERY WORST KIND OF DIVINE SPELLCASTER: HIGH ON POWER, AND LOW IN MORAL FIBRE. IT IS FORTUNATE THAT I WAS DELAYED IN MY TASK. HAD I RETURNED IN TIME, I WOULD HAVE BEEN BENT TO THE WILL OF THE ALIEN CREATURE THAT HAD DOMINATED MY EARTHLY MASTER. BUT I HAVE NEVER HAD TO FIND SHOES BEFORE. VERY CONFUSING. SEARCHED THE WHOLE WORLD FOR JUST THE RIGHT PAIR AND ENDED UP GOING WITH THE FIRST ONES I SAW.

    “I OWE YOU A DEBT. BUT I SEE YOU SERVE A DARK MASTER. AS SUCH I CANNOT OFFER TO AID YOU IN BATTLE. INSTEAD, MY GIFT SHALL BE TWOFOLD: FIRST, ADVICE – RID YOURSELF OF THE MALEVOLENT INFLUENCE OF HEWANHARIMAU. YOUR SOUL IS IN JEOPARDY IF YOU DO NOT. SECOND, THESE SHOES – THEY WILL FIT; WEAR THEM WITH MY BLESSING.”

    With that, Adimel departed. Gupta found the shoes to be incredibly comfortable and very easy to move around in.

    On their flight back to Risur, they dined with Admiral Smith once again. Though it would be easy enough for them to teleport straight back home and leave the ship to catch up, they decided to share a meal together and reminisce about their previous adventures.

    When the time was right (once everyone had had time to enjoy themselves, rather than souring their mood from the outset), Leon shared the story of his recent adventures, and the mood became much more sombre. (Details to follow.)

    As if his tidings were not woeful enough, when the dinner was almost over, they were called up on deck. Lookouts did not need to point out what they had seen: the northern skies were far brighter than they should have been, brighter than they had been since the Eclipse – lit by five comets, streaking low into the atmosphere. No such celestial bodies had been reported at a distance by skyseers or astronomers; Uriel had not seen them during his studies, or his visions. “Perhaps they have been called here,” he said. “Or sent?”

    While they watched, the comets fell silently to earth and the sky grew dark. Quratulain calculated that they had fallen in Northern Drakr.

    Rumdoom growled with sudden understanding of their significance. “The Five Lost Riders,” he said.

    End of Session
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Thursday, 29th November, 2018 at 06:36 AM.
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  4. #974
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    Did Gupta get ruby slippers? Or just some casual loafers?

    Hearing the parts about the Deep Ones is always interesting because I don't know what to expect, and I'm curious how you'll tie it into the published parts of the campaign.

    I assume you know what musical selection I have in mind? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PdnGszYAZg
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  5. #975
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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerWickett View Post
    Did Gupta get ruby slippers? Or just some casual loafers?[/url]
    They have been blessed by Adimel for comfort and ease of movement. But they look like normal shoes. Nice ones, mind, but not ruby or glass or anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by RangerWickett View Post
    Hearing the parts about the Deep Ones is always interesting because I don't know what to expect, and I'm curious how you'll tie it into the published parts of the campaign.[/url]
    Leon's story (in my next few posts) reveals the direction I'm taking. But there are even bigger revelations about another subplot. Tying all the loose ends together for a straight run to the finish!

    Quote Originally Posted by RangerWickett View Post
    I assume you know what musical selection I have in mind? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PdnGszYAZg
    I did not know that, but now I do. Useful, as I planned to have a musical theme for each of the acts of adventure #11, and wasn't sure what to choose for Act 2.

  6. #976
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    Lost Riders are Dethklok? Mind = blown, I want to skip forward 2 adventures solely for this.

  7. #977
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    The Adventures of Leon the Clever

    Part One - Down at the Bottom of the Cold Claw Sea

    At the command of King Baldrey of Risur, Leon the Clever travelled south, in the company of the Archfey Beshela. Beshela’s aid was given in thanks for the mercy they had shown her mistress, She Who Writhes. Beshela was able to swim many hundreds of leagues in a day, and first brought Leon to the undersea palace of the merfolk, far to the west of the land of Ber.

    There, Leon was met by an old ally, the druid Oolsholeel, who had fought alongside Leon and his friends many times before. Oolsholeel lamented that the palace was not as it once had been. The green undersea fires had dimmed and only a few of his folk remained, now the pass-ways to the Dreaming were lost. Those who had been left behind feared the Deep Ones ever more greatly in this darkened world. Their sahuagin minions disdained the sun, and daylight had limited their rapaciousness.

    Beshela offered to bring Oolsholeel south along with them. He was not eager to revisit the lair of the Deep Ones, but put aside his fears and agreed to come. Oolsholeel had been with Rumdoom and their other friends when Hildegaard surrendered herself to save them all. If he could do anything to help free her, he would be glad to.

    After many days of travel – for the Deep Ones dwelled very far from human realms – Beshela told them it was time for them to dive. Her spells would protect them from the cold and fierce weight of the deepest depths. Even at speed, the descent took a very long time – or perhaps it only seemed so, for the mind responds to nothingness in strange ways. At length, they could see rock walls arising, and knew that they had come to the chasm where the Deep Ones made their home.

    They had expected to be challenged by now, and proceeded with caution, for fear of surprising their ‘hosts’, but just as fearful to announce their presence lest something other than the Deep Ones be listening. Ashima-Shimtu’s words had been mysterious, but spoke of an ‘alien intelligence’ lurking in these waters. So they went on carefully, through what had once been a sahuagin city, but was now seemingly lifeless.

    Towards the centre of this expanse they came to the egg fields, where the sahuagin had tended their brood. These were still intact, but for the first time, Beshela sensed movement. Leon covered them all with an illusion and they inched forward, until they came across an abhorrent sight: Lacedon, scores of them, cracking open egg after egg and gorging themselves on the contents. Above the carnage floated a great undead whale, from whence the lacedon had emerged. This was the vessel of the sea hag Weary Enid.

    It did not bode well for either the sahuagin or the aboleth, that this slaughter had been allowed, but Oolsholeel did not think that Enid could have brought about their demise. No doubt she was merely an opportunist here. Beshela said that she might have approached Enid, had her mistress not been weakened, but Enid served the Voice of Rot and might be hostile, or take advantage of their present vulnerability. So they chose to slink past the hag and her foul minions and see what else they could find.

    Not far beyond the egg field they found the rusting hulk of the Lamprey, mother ship to the Sunfish, which had been sunk when last they came here. The sahuagin had decorated it with totems of Sekolah, the demon-shark they worshipped. The sight of this lost vessel filled them all with sudden fear and they were loath to go on. Then they realised that the sense of foreboding was coming from without, like a malady or infection borne on the chill waters. With effort and counter-magics they suppressed the feeling, and again proceeded with caution.

    Suddenly the waters were alive with cries and moans and wails so loud as to be deafening. But these were not sonic in nature, rather they were formed of pure thought, and as such were all the more difficult to defend against. Above them – movement: a great fat, glistening shape, lurching down to engulf them, to absorb their own small fears into its greater whole. Beshela spirited them downwards in an instant, but Oolsholeel had been gripped by a terror so complete he could not bear to run, any more than he could bear to stand still. A psychic pseudopod wormed out from the vast thoughtform and ensnared him. Beshela turned to help, but Leon could see that it was too late. He opened up a wormhole and dragged them both through it. They hid under another illusion.

    But they had not gone far enough. The range of Leon's spell was restricted to his field of vision and the waters were murky indeed. Despite his best efforts, the fearful hivemind came after them. Whether its movements were purposeful or random, they could not tell, but soon their minds were screaming again, and it would be impossible to stay quiet and still. Before it was too late, Leon opened a door to the Chamber of Dreams, and they escaped.
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  8. #978
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    Aw dang, . . . *shudder* . . . deep water is freaky enough without you putting all this weird down in it.
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  9. #979
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    The Adventures of Leon the Clever

    Part Two - A Dream So Sad He Woke Up Crying

    Leon found himself alone in the Chamber, without Beshela. The light was different here, roseate and warm, and there was a pleasant aroma too. He couldn’t see much else thanks to a scintillating fog that swirled throughout. Then a figure stepped through it towards him. It was Kasvarina! She held in her hands two goblets and, smiling, passed one to him. He had learned from his time with the eladrin that it was meet never to turn down a proffered beverage, and before either one of them spoke, they drank. As always, the elvish wine was nonpareil, but the exquisite taste was an afterthought in the presence of Kasvarina herself.

    It was odd that she hadn’t spoken yet, and that small doubt caused him to notice a magical resonance, the sign of a charm or illusion which he should have been able to pierce with his truesight. Whatever was creating it must have been very powerful indeed. Kasvarina must have noticed the shift in his expression, as she reached out and touched his hand.

    “Please do not try to see through my illusion,” she said. “Trust me. Your questions will be answered very soon. But for now, I would like us to lie together, just as we did here not so long ago.”

    Leon agreed wholeheartedly, and they did so.

    When he awoke, many hours later, he was alone in bed, and alarmed to notice small bloodstains on his body and on the bedclothes. There were many of them and the blood was not his. He stood, dressed and left the bedroom he and Kasvarina had created, to find a sobbing woman at the table in the main chamber. He recognised her to be Helandra, the ananta paudha whom Gupta had killed and then revived. She looked up, saw him and was wracked by even greater sobs. Leon thought she looked wan, not just emotionally drained, but physically too.

    “I wish you had been able to hear me,” she said. “Perhaps together we would have been able to dissuade her. But her magic was so powerful! I even reached out and took hold of you, shouted in your face, but you couldn’t see or hear.”

    “Where is Kasvarina?” he asked.

    “Through there,” she said, gesturing to a new door; not a portal to a new place, but an internal door to a new room within the Chamber itself.

    “And Beshela?” This, an afterthought.

    “Gone. She is haughty, and would not wait for you. She left through one of the portals. She said you would have to resume your quest alone, as she had no intention of returning to the Cold Claw Sea.”

    Leon shrugged. He went through the new door, and Helandra rose shakily and followed him. As they went she said, “She was so badly injured. The titan’s magic had poisoned her and she said that nothing could be done. But she didn’t seem to care. All she cared about was meeting you again. Once that was done, she created this place, and used the last of her magic to…”

    The new room looked like some sort of magical or medical laboratory, lit by the green glow of a strange lamp that hung from the ceiling. Beneath there were two cold slabs of stone, upon which lay recumbent forms – one entirely covered by a white sheet; the second, Kasvarina. She was dead. Leon closed his eyes and mastered his emotions, then looked again. Her flesh was taught and pallid, her robes bloody, and the smell of rot was no longer masked by the illusory scent she had conjured.

    Helandra was still speaking. Leon focused on the words he had missed and found he could still hear them, echoing in his mind. Helandra said that Kasvarina had used the last of her strength to create a new person, what she had described as a being ‘formed from all the good within her’. Hanging in the lamp was all her spite and anger – which had festered within her ever since the loss of both her daughters – as well as a soul-poison inflicted by the Voice of Rot. “The serpent’s bite poisons not just the body, but the eternal spirit.” It was this poison, Helandra told him through her tears, which had caused Kasvarina to abandon her own body, unable to find a cure in time – or unwilling to do so once she had set her mind on this extreme solution. “I told her it was madness, but she would not listen. Now there she lies. She warned me not to go near or tamper with the lamp. Much of her initial energy went into crafting it. It is a prison, she said. Once that was done, she devoted herself to the creation of the form beneath the sheet. This endeavour took many days, it seemed, though time passes strangely here. Each step of the process required me to give up some of my blood. She could not use her own, as it was poisoned and she was too weak. I am beginning to think now that it is the only reason she brought me here.” At this, she looked bereft.

    Although he already knew the answer, Leon asked how Kasvarina’s injuries had come about. Helandra said, “I thought you knew. I thought she must have told you. We travelled to a silver ring she told me was the plane of time, and there she meditated for as long as she could. Before long, the serpent of the swamps arrived and challenged her. Kasvarina drew her sword and fought him. Even now I cannot think why she did not simply flee. When the titan proved too strong to best with her most powerful magic, she spared a moment to send me here, so I did not see the end. After a while I began to fear that she was already dead, but then the door to Reida opened again and she fell through.” The memory caused Helandra to weep again. “I wish she had chosen someone else. I was so proud when she chose me.”

    Leon said something soothing and moved to the covered form. He stood looking down at it for a while, then gently turned down the sheet over its face.

    It was Lavanya.

    Suddenly, everything made sense and no sense all at once. A flood of answers begat more questions. But the turmoil in his mind was short-lived, as it ceased when her eyes snapped open. Lavanya made eye-contact at once, smiled, rose, and kissed him, as warmly as Kasvarina had. When she did so, the sheet fell away entirely from her naked form, but she showed no sense of shame or shyness.

    “It is strange,” she said, happily. “I know who you are, although we have never met. I have never ‘met’ anyone have I?”

    Then she looked across at Kasvarina and said, “I think I know almost everything she knew. You must be very sad to have lost her.” Leon said that he was. Then he said that he loved Lavanya too, and now understood how he had been able to love them both with equal intensity. “That is good,” said Lavanya. “I am pleased. Now come on. Find me some clothes. We have a lot of work to do and I can’t run round the multiverse stark naked.”
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  10. #980
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    The Adventures of Leon the Clever

    Part Three - Oh, the places you’ll go…

    While Lavanya prepared herself for their adventures, Leon returned to the undersea trench where the deep ones dwelt. The hivemind was gone. He explored the whole area, guided in part by notes Khaled Valchek had made during the short period that he possessed the journal of Silas Fennac. He ranged over the ravaged egg-fields, explored structures that once channelled the power the aboleth had harnessed from the Stone of Not. Their dwelling spaces were isolated from one another, in some cases perhaps a mile or more apart. It was a hopeless task, he thought, to locate Hildegaard without the deep ones’ help, but he was determined to try.

    While he explored one set of tunnels, he was approached by aboleth thralls, who took the form of Karl Krauss: copies, based on their shape, but altered to help them survive, and to fulfil a variety of functions. Some had extra, articulated limbs; others, antennae, pedipalps, tentacles or squid-like eyes. To his surprise, these thralls demonstrated sentience and beckoned him to follow. He did so, and they led him to a place where various surface-dwellers were held in stasis, within translucent membranes. There he found Rumdoom’s wife Hildegaard, still in her armour, sound asleep.

    Leon used magic to enable these thralls to converse with him. They said they did not know what to do now the deep ones were gone. Leon asked them to return the imprisoned land-folk to the shore, if that was possible (except for Hildegaard whom he would take charge of). The thralls nodded. That was a function they could perform. Then Leon asked them about the hivemind. It was gone, they told him. When it had consumed the last of the aboleth, it floated upwards and took to the air. What became of it after that, they could not say.

    Leon took Hildegaard out of her membrane and transported her back to Flint, handing her over to Rumdoom’s followers, still asleep. Along the way, he collected Helandra, who said she wanted to return to Elfaivar. When presented with her freedom, however, she changed her mind, asking that she be allowed to remain in the Chamber of Dreams for the time being.

    Lavanya was ready now. She pointed out one of the new doors Kasvarina had created in the chamber during her travels. This door had a slightly different cast to the others. Lavanya said it would allow them to travel to certain places at certain times, and do things that needed to be done, if the Voice of Rot was to be thwarted. They could go anywhere Leon or Kasvarina had been before, but had to be very careful what choices they made.

    First, they needed to go to Axis Island, twenty years ago, so that Lavanya could build Conquo, and rescue Leon. Yes, the rescue took place five years later, but building a golem from scratch took time. Lavanya gave him a look and told him not to ask too many questions. “I know what needs to be done, but often I don’t know why. I also know that it might be a bad idea for me to tell you even if I did. You might change the way you behave in the future and mess up this timeline as well.”

    Just before they stepped through the portal, Lavanya reminded Helandra not to go near the green lantern. Helandra took some offence at this and scoffed, “Of course not. Why would I?”

    After they arrived on Axis Island, and Leon helped to build her bunker, she told him to go back to the Chamber of Dreams and wait for him. “I will come through when I am done.” Leon did as he was told, and was surprised by a sudden, vicious attack on his arrival – an assault both magical and physical in nature, which he was at pains to fend off. Whatever creature it was, it was determined to knock him aside and escape through the open door. It was all he could do to defend against serious injury and the wild thing escaped. He picked himself up and looked around. In the creation chamber, the green lamp now lay on the floor, smashed. The wicked essence that once filled it was gone, as was Helandra. The hissing creature that attacked him had taken the form of a wild-haired woman. He could see her twisted, green grimace even now.

    Lavanya arrived just a few minutes later, wearing very different, rustic clothes. She embraced Leon as if she had not seen him for many years. Leon told her what had happened and Lavanya nodded. “Helandra is the first host of the green malaise. The poor girl’s curiosity got the better of her. Now we have even more to do to stop not just the Voice of Rot, but his servant, Jenny Greenteeth…”
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Tuesday, 4th December, 2018 at 08:16 PM.
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