Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour (Updated 29 Jan 2014) - Page 94




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  1. #931
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    'We are fake, we are afraid. You know it's far from over.'

    Nisha stared through the blue interior of an hourglass and grinned. Her face was distorted by the shape of its contours, and the tiefling giggled as she made faces at herself just to see her own warped reflection looking back at her. The timepiece was a large steel bound hourglass that sparkled with tiny flickers of electricity as each and every grain of sand fell from into the bottom of the vessel. The sand in its base swirled like a desert storm, and every indication would have pointed that somewhere on the prime material plane, a blue dragon was living, breathing, and slowly aging towards their last days.

    The proverbial gears inside Nisha’s head were grinding together like the sabotaged guts of a Modron’s clockwork paradise gone horribly horribly wrong. She giggled whimsically as she turned her head sideways and continued to stare at the tiny flicks of sand as they filtered down through the bottleneck.

    “I wonder what happens if you turn one of these over?” The Xaositect mused openly. “Does a dragon somewhere start aging in reverse? That would be really awesome if they did.”

    Disturbed and worried faces turned towards her.

    “Or what happens if you stop the sand from flowing? Do they just pause and stop moving with nothing happening to them till it starts again?” Nisha was full-out rambling to herself, oblivious of anything else. “Or maybe they just live forever. And then what if you break one by accident? Does a dragon somewhere just keel over and die? That wouldn’t be good. And what does the hourglass of a dracolich here look like?”

    “Don’t even think about it Nisha.” Toras said preemptively.

    Nisha grinned knowingly at them through the distorting glass of the blue dragon’s vessel.

    “Never considered it. I just wanted to see your reaction.” Her distorted image laughed. “Xaos and self preservation aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m random, not insane.”

    “It’s hard to tell sometimes though.” Tristol remarked.

    “Then I’m doing my job right.” She grinned just so and jiggled the bell on the tip of her tail.

    Clueless chuckled. “We should probably stop goofing around and look for either this archway or whatever famous dragon has an hourglass next to it.”

    “Awww…” Nisha said.

    “Besides,” The bladesinger said. “Skalliska’s already walking away, so it’s probably a good idea.”

    And so they did, catching up with the kobold and searching for the portal. They wandered more or less, and the domain around them seemed to subtly change as they did. In one moment there would be a tree, the next moment a weathered statue of a rearing dragon, and in another mount a great hourglass just as tall as its predecessors. The landscape was dynamic, but always with the same feel of age, nobility, quiet tranquility, and acceptance of the inevitable.

    An hour later they found what they were looking for. Skalliska stood at the base of a great, weather archway of ivy-covered marble and glanced at its bound space with eyes that sparkled with the magic of a spell.

    “This looks like it.” She said.

    The others were looking less at the archway than at the towering hourglass that stood only a few meters away. It was massive, wrought of ruby colored glass that seemed blown and sculpted into shapes of smaller dragons, caught within its confines and struggling to break free, or swirling as images and inclusions within its sanguine matrix. The base and handles that bound the towering timepiece were wrought of gold and took the shape of four columns of stacked dragon skulls of all types and sizes.

    This was the life made manifest of a Great Wyrm, or maybe something more. And whoever they were, they were dead and passed beyond. The base of the monstrous hourglass was cracked and shattered, and a carpet of black gemstones spilled out onto the marble and grass of the great sanctuary it occupied like an archbishop among the penitent.

    “Wow.” Tristol said as he looked at the massive hourglass.

    “That’s the second time today that you’ve said that you know.” Nisha said with wide eyes. “I’ve been counting.”

    “Tempus forbid, that’s huge.” Florian remarked. “I’d hate to have seen the dragon it was connected to.”

    “It’s probably not a great idea to mention another deity in the home of one.” Clueless whispered. “Just my advice.”

    They glanced at the base of the hourglass where a series of draconic runes stood out in relief against the golden base, partially obscured by the spill of black diamonds from the interior. Florian knelt and brushed them aside.

    “Malystryx…” She said. “I’ve heard that name before.”

    “Krynn.” Skalliska said.

    Tristol rolled his eyes and muttered something about ‘stupid rules and stupid moons. Can’t get themselves a real goddess of magic’.

    Nisha poked the wizard in the ribs.

    The cleric shrugged and picked up one of the stray gems that had served as grains of sand for the lifespan of the great dragon Malys, once Red Dragon Overlord of Krynn. No sooner had she picked it up and formed the intention of taking it as a unique souvenir, when the air trembled with a resounding “NO” that washed over the landscape and caused the hourglass sea to rattle with the displeasure of a god.

    Florian dropped it immediately with an obedient whisper of “Yes sir…”

    Where there had previously been only an hourglass strewn plain of rubble, there was suddenly a great depression in the landscape, easily hundreds of feet across, and at its center, nestled amongst a horde of draconic souls in hourglass form, was the Great Watcher himself. The draconic deity of fate, time, and death was huge, with scales the size of shields and the color of an overcast sky that loomed with the threat of a storm. A slow curl of smoke rose from his nostrils to flutter away and disperse from a breeze where there was no wind, and his eyes seemed more potent and piercing than the greatest of mortal mystics and seers combined.

    Chronepsis looked up at them with both eyes open and utterly alert, but otherwise he had not moved. The hourglass sea around him was once again perfectly still and tranquil with only the slow rise and fall of his chest and the perpetual trickle of sand to break the silence.

    “Ask.” The god said patiently after a moment of pregnant silence.

    Fyrehowl prodded Skalliska forward.

    “Great Watcher,” She began. “I and my companions, we’ve come to your domain in search of a portal, and in search of you actually. It leads to the astral and a place where I hope to find the fate of the gods of the pantheon of my former homeworld.”

    Chronepsis’ eyes stayed locked on her, but the others felt observed in a way that made them seem utterly transparent.

    “I’ve been searching for this information for years.” She continued. “And now, finally I’m so very close. But, great sir, I need your permission for the portal to activate. And I beg of you, please.”

    Chronepsis gave a heavy sigh and nodded his head.

    “You have my permission.” He said. “It is for the best anyway. Go, find what you are looking for. Perhaps the honored dead will find their deserved rest.”

    Skalliska gave a bow and stumbled with a protracted string of praise and thanks. But the god wasn’t listening really. The great dragon, be it Chronepsis himself or only an avatar, his great eyelids were already closed and the rise and fall of his chest had resumed a normal pattern of deep slumber.

    “I think we have what we need.” Florian said as she glanced at now lichen-covered archway across from the great ruby colored hourglass.

    Skalliska nodded and hesitantly approached. The portal swirled with a blue-white glow as it activated, Chronepsis’ permission given to allow it to function. The kobold hesitated still and took a deep breath.

    “What’s the problem?” Toras asked with genuine sympathy.

    “There isn’t, not really.” She said. “I’m just nervous and elated at the same time. I’m worried about what I’ll find on the other side, and the anticipation has my gut in a knot. Yeah, I’m afraid.”

    “Yeah, but you’ll have some answers.” He replied.

    The kobold gave a silent nod.

    “Besides,” Florian said from behind them. “Chronepsis was kind enough to give us use of the portal. He might appreciate it if we used it and didn’t bother him anymore.”

    The cleric glanced back. “And sorry sir about the gem. I apologize again.”

    Chronepsis was gone however. The great depression in the landscape in which he had lain, surrounded by the hourglasses of a hundred thousand dragons’ lives, it had vanished into thin air. Where he had been there was only a series of rolling hills and crumbling pillars, each decorated with the slowly sifting sands of the lives of innumerable mortal dragons, and each ticking away their allotted time till death brought them home to this place.

    “Come on. It’s time to go.” Fyrehowl said as she tapped the kobold’s shoulder.

    Skalliska looked back and tipped her hat graciously towards the distance. Manifest or not, Chronepsis would see the gesture, and she meant it in all thanks. Smiling, and with her heart thumping in her chest, she stepped through the portal and the others followed soon after.


    ***


    There was a burst of cold and they were suspended in space, a perfect, pure nothingness: the silvery void of the astral plane. All around them stretched a silver-blue expanse of manifest thought; what conceptually might be considered the backstage of the outer planes. In the distance their vision faded into a silvery, swirling fog, disturbed only by the sparkles of a random color pool in the void, or the wormlike cyclones of astral conduits that crossed the expanse of the plane, ferrying the dead to their reward or travelers from plane to plane.

    Clueless beat his wings ineffectually. He didn’t move an inch beyond the slight forwards drift from the momentum of their step through the portal in the outlands.

    “How do we move?” The bladesinger asked. “Anyone been here before? Skalliska? Nisha?”

    Skalliska was moving forwards slightly, and then she stopped, turned to face Clueless and just hovered there motionless.

    “How do you do that?” Toras asked.

    Tristol looked at Skalliska. “Your trip, you can explain.”

    The mage wasn’t having any difficulty at all, and it seemed like only he, the kobold, and oddly enough, Nisha, were the only ones who seemed to be aware of how to control their motion within the void.

    “There isn’t anything here that’s real. Not anything physical, not unless it was brought into the plane by a portal, or by the death of a dead god.”

    “I’ve heard about that actually.” Florian said. “That if a god dies of lack of worship or they’re killed by a another divine being, that they appear on the Astral as a hunk of rock.”

    “More or less, yeah. They petrify and drift as islands of rock in the void. Sometimes they’ll take on some shape or feature that resembles what they stood for in life. And that’s why we’re here really.”

    “But about movement?” Toras said as he began to tilt sideways.

    “Ah yes, that.” Skalliska continued. “Since there’s no real matter here, there’s no air to fly against and no gravity to pull you ‘down’ towards anything. Everything here is just based on thought and perception.”

    “So if I concentrate enough I can think myself into flying somewhere?” The fighter asked.

    “Pretty much.” She replied.

    Clueless took to it quickly, though he still flicked his wings out of habit as he moved forwards and learned how to control his speed and direction. He’d probably known how to do it at one point in his life, but clearly, given past circumstances, he’d since forgotten it.

    Florian and Toras took a moment more and then they both seemed quite capable of the act. It might not be as fluid as those who had done it before, or simply came naturally to it, but they’d improve the longer they practiced.

    “Anything else we should know about this place?”

    “Don’t touch color pools unless you want to jump to another plane. Don’t mess with ugly yellow looking humanoids with liquid swords, and…”

    “Wizards go crazy here!” Nisha said with far too much of a grin as she concentrated and tumbled in erratic motion around the others in a wide circle.

    “That too.” Skalliska said. “Magic is more powerful, more ‘pure’, and it’s a rush like a shot of good alcohol. Now I’ve never had a problem with it. And before you ask Florian, it only applies to arcane magic. I’m not sure why though.”

    “I’m a wizard too you know.” Nisha said with a wider grin.

    Tristol patted her on the head.

    “We couldn’t probably tell the difference.” He said.

    The others didn’t tell him when the tip of his tail turned purple a few minutes later once they began to move off in the direction that Skalliska directed. Nisha grinned like a fool as she realized that the raw belief of the astral could be manipulated in ever so slight ways, just like the probability of the ethereal deep, or the chaos of limbo. It would be fun…


    ***


    Roughly two days of travel later, and a few color changes to Tristol’s tail, they hovered within the slight gravity well of an oblong, vaguely humanoid slab of black basalt rock. A vague sense of sadness surrounded the corpse of Abiormach, and they did not approach it. But still, they had a landmark, and they had made the first leg of their trip without incident. In fact, they hadn’t seen a single living thing in the entirety of those three days. The astral was truly desolate as a plane: beautiful perhaps, but largely vacant of life.

    They hung there in the void above the corpse and looked at Skalliska. She glanced at her map and plotted the direction towards the distant godisle of Ibrandul. It would likely take them another three days to reach that dead Torilian deity according to her map.

    “Isn’t this a city in Baator?” Toras asked, pointing down towards the coal-black corpse of the dead god.

    Fyrehowl nodded. “That it is. On the 4th layer, Phlegethos.”

    “The Baatezu claim that the city’s foundations are built on the corpse of the deity, and that Asmodeus killed him.”

    “Then if the corpse is there… why is there a godisle on the astral?” Nisha asked with a perplexed expression.

    “Can’t say. Might just be Baatezu propaganda.” Skalliska replied.

    “Not that there’s eeeeeever any of that.” Fyrehowl said with a smirk. “Never, not ever, hardly ever.

    “Or that thing in Baator might be a physical corpse,” Skalliska continued. “And this here might be a sort of metaphysical aspect of the dead god become solid on the astral.”

    “Either way, it’s a dead evil deity and we’re not here to worship it or cry tears of remorse at their passing.” Florian said. “They’re probably better off this way. Now where are we off to next?”

    “Next we’ve got a couple days travel till we reach the corpse of Ibrandul.” Skalliska said.

    “Since when was Ibrandul dead?” Florian asked.

    “That was what I said originally.” The kobold replied. “But apparently they are. And we’ll find out here once we reach it.”

    Without further discussion they continued off swiftly into the silvery void towards the godisle of the former Torilian deity of caverns.


    ***


    They proceeded at that brisk pace for another three days. Their only break of the silvery monotony of the plane were the sporadic blotches of color that heralded the openings of color pools, the astral equivalent of portals. Every so often the distance would be darkened by the presence of another unnamed deific corpse, the lines of astral conduits stretching from horizon to horizon, but little else. Vacant and sterile it all seemed, but it was utterly peaceful in its absence of anything foreign.

    Eventually the godisle of Ibrandul loomed out of the silvery mist, a vague serpentine shape like an elongated dragon. Another of the honored dead in its final resting place, and one that would, like all the others, eventually be forgotten in every way except that they had once existed.

    "And here I thought that Ibrandul was still alive." Florian said. "Hells, I know he still has worshippers, and they're still praying for spells just as much as I am."

    "Well," Skalliska said. "That -is- Ibrandul, the corpse even looks like him."

    Florian drifted closer into the gravity well of the godisle, her curiosity perked. She'd seen worshippers of the apparently dead Torilian god back in Amn only a few months back. It simply didn't make sense that they would still worship him if he was dead, plus still granting prayers. It all made sense when she touched the surface.

    Not audible before she landed upon the rocky surface, something roared through her ears like a distant, rolling clap of thunder from stormclouds on the horizon. A voice, the last plaintive and agonized roar of a dead god.

    "SHAAAAARRRRRR..."

    Florian blinked and shook her head in sudden understanding. "Yeah, that might explain things a bit. Damn, she killed him."

    Back up and above the godisle, the others were bantering as Skalliska tried to work out their next course.

    “Well, at least we don’t get hungry while we’re here.” Nisha said.

    “Say that when we leave. You’ll feel like you’d be willing to eat your shoes.” Skalliska replied.

    The Xaositect looked at her hooves.

    “I don’t wear shoes.” She replied. “Unless you mean the horseshoes, and those are made of metal. I don’t think I’d ever be that hungry, unless I was a rust monster. And I don’t feel like being a rust monster today.”

    Tristol laughed.

    “You don’t mind that do you Toras?” Nisha stuck up two fingers to the side of her head like antennae, grinned lustfully and looked at the fighter’s sword and armor.

    He stuck out his tongue. “Bloody rust monsters. They’re like some evil, vindictive god’s cruel joke on the multiverse.”

    Clueless clutched his sword’s hilt protectively. “Agreed.”

    “Well,” Skalliska said as she looked up from the map. “We’ve got about…”

    “What the hell is that?” Fyrehowl interrupted, pointed to something dark looking fast out of the silvery mist in the distance.

    It was a ship.

    “Sh*t! Githyanki! Hide!” Skalliska blurted out as she recognized the profile of a ‘yanki astral carrack.

    “Hide where?!” Toras shouted in dismay a moment before moving closer to the godisle below.

    Tristol, Clueless and Skalliska had simply gone invisible at the first sight of the approaching carrack. Florian was still down on Ibrandul's corpse, and Nisha was bolting down towards the godisle to join her a step after Toras, but Fyrehowl hadn’t moved.

    “Guys? Hold on. Look at the ship.” The lupinal said called out to them.

    The carrack was rapidly approaching them yes, but as they watched it, they saw that it was slowly tumbling awkwardly along one axis. The ship was adrift.

    They watched it approach closer, and they saw that there was not a soul to be seen aboard its main deck. To compare it to a sailing ship upon the prime, the vessel was dead in the water.

    Tristol, Clueless and Skalliska faded back into view as their spells wore off, and the others drifted back up to rejoin Fyrehowl as she continued to peer at the ship.

    “Who wants a ship?” Clueless asked bluntly, much to Nisha’s delight.

    “Wonder what the hell happened to them… we’re pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.” Skalliska said. “There’s no ‘yanki cities within a week’s travel of here. I made certain of that before we came. I half expected to be attacked when we went through that portal in the Outlands to be honest.”

    Fyrehowl nodded. “Seemed prudent, especially since you don’t know who sent that letter. Has to be a kink in that somewhere.”

    “At the least we can board the ship, make sure that it’s really abandoned and all.” Clueless said. “And perhaps there’s something onboard that we can salvage to make it worth our time.”

    Nisha grinned and was joined by Skalliska in the sentiment.

    Approaching the vessel from the top it was clear that it was not originally a military vessel, but rather a transport or a merchant vessel. The magical sails hung useless, their knots having come loose in the time since it had been abandoned, and nothing moved across the deck except the clap of an open door as it moved back and forth with the tumbling motion of the ship.

    “Creepy.” Tristol said as he whispered the words to a spell.

    The mage peered at the vessel, his eyesight enhanced to detect even the faintest lingering dweomers, particularly those left in place for wards or traps. He saw nothing upon the deck; the magical spectrum was just as deathly quiet as everything else.

    Once aboard the deck itself they paused to reorient themselves to the motion of the ship, and to slow the course of the ship as best they could. In the absence of gravity in the astral there was no reason to feel that they were spinning, and so after those moments or concentration it appeared that Ibrandul’s godisle itself was moving with respect to them.

    The top deck of the ship, perhaps a hundred feet from stem to stern showed no signs of conflict or struggle. It appeared as if the crew had simply abandoned the ship for no apparently reason. It was deeply disturbing, and their eyes kept darting back to Fyrehowl. They reasoned that if the Cipher felt that things were ok, that they’d be fine. It was like making vacation plans outside of Sigil on short notice whenever Factol Rhys abruptly left town for whatever reason.

    Cautiously, deck-by-deck they searched the ship. Everywhere it was the same: empty corridors with doors open and unlocked, but with nothing at all missing except any sign of life. They crew was gone, food was left on tables to go stale as if they’d simply gotten up from their meals and walked off into the silvery void on the influence of some astral siren song in the depths.

    “There’s no sign of attack at all.” Tristol said. “No blood, no lingering traces of spells.”

    “Still doesn’t explain where the crew is.” Florian said.

    “Hell, doesn’t explain why this ship is all the way out here.” Skalliska said as she stared at a cargo hold still stocked with bags of what looked like flour and bricks of a bland but edible fungus the ‘yanki were known to cultivate on certain godisles of former deities of agriculture.

    Nothing was stolen, nothing except the crew it seemed. But they found some answers, or hints of answers, when they examined the captain’s quarters.

    It too was as empty as an athar reliquary, but Clueless found what he was looking for, even if the captain himself was gone.

    “He or she might be gone, but the captains’ log isn’t.” The bladesinger said as he examined a thick leather journal that seemed to be wrapped in a purplish hide of sorts: Illithid.

    “Interesting…” He said as he skimmed the last week’s worth of entries.

    “What’s it say?” Toras asked.

    Clueless looked up from the journal of the Githyanki captain. Whatever had happened they hadn’t been attacked by anyone interested in plunder. The ship’s holds were fully stocked with what the captain had recorded at their last port of call: food and materials from the prime material, maybe some other goods from an outlying Githyanki city. But there in the Captain’s records from their last stop was something out of the ordinary.

    They had picked up a singularly interesting passenger: a Knight, a high ranking one at that. She had effectively taken command of the ship and caused it to divert course, apparently commandeering the vessel in her hunt for several “traitors who would deny the will of our Queen”. Beyond that, the Knight had given no further details to the captain, nor to the crew. The captain spoke in awe of the woman and the silver sword that she carried. She was no rank and file soldier, and even though she came with no others of her kind, the captain seemed to feel that she didn’t need any.

    Clueless related the details to the others and they nodded.

    “And according to the log’s last entry,” He said, “The ship has been adrift for a while now, about a week if I read their notation for dates correctly.”

    Skalliska said nothing as she glanced at the logbook. Before it had been set adrift, the ship had been traveling in roughly the same direction that they themselves would be heading as they neared the godisle of Maanzicorian. That was a bit much to be coincidence.

    “Any ideas?” Florian asked.

    Skalliska shrugged. “If she was hunting someone like that, it’s either because they stole a sword like the one she herself had, they consider them holy, or she was chasing a renegade member of her own race.”

    “Would make sense.” Fyrehowl said. “Especially when the log mentions her chasing someone who had denied the will of the Lich Queen. Sounds like she was hunting a gith who had, for whatever reason, forsworn Vlaakith.”

    Nisha perked an eyebrow curiously.

    “When githyanki get powerful, eventually their Queen eats their souls.” Skalliska explained. “They consider it an honor and a requirement. Sometimes though one of them doesn’t like the idea and they run.”

    “Might be what this Knight was doing. But it still doesn’t explain the missing crew.” Clueless said. “But if you don’t mind, I’m going to try something.”

    “Oh no…” Tristol muttered. He’d already felt a bit exhilarated when he had cast even minor spells while on the plane. The scant bit he’d incanted had left him giddy to an extent, though it wasn’t a bad feeling.

    “Don’t go craaaaaazy.” Nisha said.

    The bell on Tristol’s tail, the one he’d never noticed her tie on it, jingle softly.

    The half-fey nodded and smiled as he tapped the bead on his neck and called the spell into his mind. Oddly, it didn’t seem different despite being on the astral. Perhaps the ‘pure’ magic of the astral simply didn’t come into account since he was drawing the power from the liquid itself and not from the plane.

    But regardless, the spell filtered into his senses and he watched events in the ship’s past flash before his mind. They’d indeed been attacked, but it had been utterly by surprise, and aided by apparently potent magic. They’d never seen it coming before at least a dozen other githyanki, armed to the teeth, had appeared on the deck and inside the ship by magic. And it was not only another group of Githyanki. There was another being with them.

    A Rakshasa had been with them, watching the seizure of the ship with patience and apparently having cloaked his force from sight before it was too late for the ship’s crew. The tiger-headed fiend was oddly colored for his kind, a stark white fur with black stripes as opposed to the orange and black of a typical member of his race. And he’d smiled when they dragged the crew up to the deck and hurled the Knight to the ground in front of him; he seemed to be expecting her.

    The spell ended without any further information, leaving Clueless both curious and disturbed.

    He relayed the details to the others, but like him they were as equally disturbed and no closer to an explanation.

    “Renegade githyanki in league with a Rakshasa?” Florian said. “Strange bedfellows.”

    “So long as they’re not going to mess with us I don’t care if they eat the crew.” Toras said with a shrug.

    “I doubt it.” Fyrehowl said. “This looked like a targeted attack, not just an ambush of anyone that might be passing through. If we don’t interfere with them I doubt that they’d go out of their way to go after us, a fiend with them or not.”

    Clueless nodded as he glanced around the captain’s cabin. He walked over to where the captain’s last meal sat half eaten, and picked up a clean bowl and filled it from a pitcher sitting off to one side.

    “I want to see where they went. No need for us to get mixed up in this if we can avoid them.”

    Glancing down at the bowl, he whispered the words to a spell of scrying and waited for an image to appear upon the liquid surface. Nothing happened.

    Tristol glanced at the bowl. “Oh that’s not good.”

    “No it’s not.” Clueless replied with a frown. “The spell worked but I’m simply not getting anything. They might have gone off plane, or they’re more likely to just be warded against a casual scry.”

    “Don’t fret, you only saw them through a spell.” The mage said. “You’d have had more luck if they’d left anything behind to focus on.”

    “But they were pretty smooth about it.” Clueless said.

    “Don’t worry. If we happen on them later, we’ll at least know that they’ve got a fiend with them.” Tristol replied.

    Clueless nodded as he disposed of the bowl of water and canceled the spell.

    “And if we get attacked by regular Githyanki we can probably save ourselves trouble by telling them about this.” Fyrehowl added.

    “True.” Skalliska said. “They may be xenophobic, but they’re insane when it comes to loyalty to their Queen.”

    They discussed it some more there in the empty interior of the ship, but came no closer to having any real answers to the questions that were lurking in their heads, especially Skalliska’s. Eventually they left the ship without taking anything; there really wasn’t anything of value to them that they could easily cart away.

    Once back out of the drifting vessel, they looked to Skalliska to point them in the direction of Maanzicorian’s godisle, the next leg of their journey. She did so, but she was deeply worried that they would find more than they bargained for along the way. After all, it would only take them another five hours to reach the corpse of the dead Illithid god of secrets.

    But off they went, vigilant and doubly prepared for any sudden assault of ambush along the way. But truly, given the nature of the Astral there really was nowhere to hide and wait to ambush anyone, nor was it possible to simply spot an ambush and evade it given that the plane was an empty void. What would come would be what would come, there’d be little way to avoid it.


    ***


    Five hours later they stood and looked at the mountain suspended in the silvery void in the distance. It was empty, just as empty as the drifting carrack had been. But something was off. Something simply wasn’t right.

    They paused and gazed at the godisle of the dead Illithid god of secrets. It looked normal; a twisted, gnarled figure with a vaguely squid-like head, roughly a half-mile from head to feet. The surface was rough, but largely free of the marks of age that the dead gods of the astral tended to accumulate over time as they slipped further and further into oblivion.

    “What the hell is that?” Fyrehowl asked as she turned to look at something in the distance as it passed out of a bank of silvery mist nearly a mile past the godisle itself.

    The creature was itself massive, a hulking being that seemed comprised of a slavering maw, a single massive eye, twin arms that ended in wicked chitin pinchers, and a body that spiraled off behind it as a gleaming silver chord off into infinity in the silvery depths.

    It was circling the godisle of Maanzecorian, observing it, never looking away from it. It was looking for something.

    “That’s an Astral Dreadnaught.” Skalliska said breathlessly.

    It was terrible to behold, but it didn’t even seem to see them as they stood there watching it in the distance. It was solely preoccupied with the seemingly vacant deific corpse.

    “What do they do?” Florian asked.

    “It won’t bother us.” Tristol said. “If anything astrally projects, they’ll go after them mercilessly. But if you’re here in the astral physically, they just ignore you. No one knows why really.”

    Skalliska nodded. “And they also seem to prevent anyone from desecrating the corpses of the dead gods, like followers of an old rival deity, and they prevent anyone from building on them invasively, mining them, etc.”

    “So then why is it here?” Toras asked. “There’s nothing here.”

    “Not sure.” Clueless said.

    “Something isn’t as it should be about this place.” Fyrehowl said. “I can just feel it. And whatever it is, that –thing- feels it too.”

    The Astral Dreadnought continued to circle the godisle, always keeping to around a mile out from the corpse. And it always kept looking directly at the surface. When the group approached closer, they immediately knew why the Dreadnaught was there.

    “Holy…” Toras said as he and the others passed through some sort of tangible barrier surrounding the godisle itself, just under a mile or so out from the surface.

    “Mystra preserve…” Tristol added as he too saw the activity upon the surface of the ravaged corpse.

    Two buildings of githyanki architecture hung like bloated moons in orbit within the godisle’s gravity well. Four separate githyanki astral carracks were moored on a platform that linked the two buildings. They were the least of what had attracted the attention of the Dreadnaught however.

    Upon the surface of the dead god, a large gleaming tower rose up from its foundations sunk deep into the chest of the deific corpse. The tower gleamed white and seemed to emit a spherical pulse of energy every few seconds. The bursts of energy erupted out and formed an ephemeral shell at the boundary of where the Dreadnaught lurked and waited, smelling but not seeing that which it hunted.

    Maanzecorian’s petrified flesh, which from a distance and beyond the confines of the glittering barrier, had seemed unmolested, was utterly ravaged. The dead god’s surface looked as if it was being strip-mined. A swarm of figures, githyanki and some other manner of humanoids, goblins perhaps, sprawled across the surface. Collectively, they appeared to be ripping up hunks of the dead god’s flesh. Deep ruts and furrows raced across the corpse giving the appearance of bleeding wounds, or the ragged flesh of a fresh kill being slowly dissected and hacked apart before being consumed. They were mining the corpse of the god.


    ***
    Last edited by Shemeska; Tuesday, 5th July, 2005 at 12:47 AM.

  • #933
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    My communities:

    Cool scenes, as usual.

    Spoiler:
    You might want to change "Chronepsis might was kind" and maybe the repetition in "the typical orange and black of a typical member..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shemeska
    Maanzicorian’s petrified flesh, which from a distance and beyond the confines of the glittering barrier, had seemed unmolested, was utterly ravaged. The dead god’s surface looked as if it was being strip-mined. A swarm of figures, githyanki and some other manner of humanoids, goblins perhaps, sprawled across the surface. Collectively, they appeared to be ripping up hunks of the dead god’s flesh. Deep ruts and furrows raced across the corpse giving the appearance of bleeding wounds, or the ragged flesh of a fresh kill being slowly dissected and hacked apart before being consumed. They were mining the corpse of the god.

    God-flesh! God-flesh! Get your fresh ... um, relatively fresh ... god-flesh here! 27 coppers a can while stocks last!

    Very nice
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  • #935
    Quote Originally Posted by Shemeska
    Maanzicorian’s petrified flesh, which from a distance and beyond the confines of the glittering barrier, had seemed unmolested, was utterly ravaged. The dead god’s surface looked as if it was being strip-mined. A swarm of figures, githyanki and some other manner of humanoids, goblins perhaps, sprawled across the surface.
    Or kobolds, perhaps?

    If you will forgive me a minor pedantic correction: "Maanzecorian".Nice bit with the ghost ship there... I see what you mean about "scattering plot hooks about".
    "Hey! What kind of talk is that? There are Bleakniks around!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fimmtiu
    Or kobolds, perhaps?
    You'll find out in a week. *grin*

    If you will forgive me a minor pedantic correction: "Maanzecorian".
    Notices that for the first time. Umm ... he's dead, he doesn't care

    Nice bit with the ghost ship there... I see what you mean about "scattering plot hooks about".
    The Marie Celeste of the Astral.

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    FWIW, I added a tiny bit about Ibrandul, and a tad about Clueless trying to scry on the Rakshasa and its githyanki companions. I'd intended to write them in originally, but it skipped my mind when I posted this last update.

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    YAY! The... joys... of scrying. *headshake*
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    What is good ole Chac Mool not interested in the 'Yanki's strip mining ol Maanzi??? Strange that the Dreadnaught's Anti-magic gaze didn't suppress the Illusion. Curiouser and cusiouser...

    And What's with the Rakshasa... not the first time the groups run into one of those fiends. Last time one was on the Yrthakk in the Void between Cubes on Acheron (by far one of my favorite random encounters you've described)!!!
    Walking the fine line between Order and Chaos, Darkness and Light...

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    Quote Originally Posted by primemover003
    What is good ole Chac Mool not interested in the 'Yanki's strip mining ol Maanzi??? Strange that the Dreadnaught's Anti-magic gaze didn't suppress the Illusion. Curiouser and cusiouser...
    Was waiting for somebody to ask that question. *grin*

    He would be, but for whatever reason the Dreadnaught isn't able to see what's really going on. And whether this is something in canon or not, I have the Dreadnaughts serving in some oblique way as servitors of The Guardian of Dead Gods.

    And for the record, don't necessarily infer and connection between this current plot and the scene in the prologue of the 2nd storyhour featuring Anubis and a second, unnamed figure. That's 150 years removed from this all.

    And What's with the Rakshasa... not the first time the groups run into one of those fiends. Last time one was on the Yrthakk in the Void between Cubes on Acheron (by far one of my favorite random encounters you've described)!!!
    You'll meet him this next update, and not at all for the last time. To quote Indiana Jones, "I'm like a bad penny, I always turn up."

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