Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour - (Updated 14February2024)

Akhelos

First Post
Storyhour update, wohoo...and know we know that Xiaosects can run on walls without knowing how and how fast Lupinals can run. *g* I hope they at least could save their loot and Information and did not lose it in the run. ^^
 

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Shemeska

Adventurer
The Grand Hall was a heavy, ancient structure, with walls wrought of black basalt and supported by ornate flying buttresses. The foundation stones were of a slightly different shade of stone however, and if one dug their hands into the street and perhaps pried up some of the surrounding courtyard's pavement stones, they might find deeper foundation stones in different colors still. The Grand Hall had been razed to the ground more than once and then rebuilt. Each iteration of Portent's heart was built to house the nameless throne within, itself the only piece of the original structure long since vanished to time and the ravages of invasion, the iconoclasm of long forgotten Oinoloths, and the internal strife of Portent itself where violence against one another was forbidden, but not the destruction of property - still the throne remained.

The Oinoloth nodded and a pair of towering nycaloths obediently opened the heavy wooden doors, revealing the inner sanctuary brilliantly lit by candles and magical braziers, and there at its center the ossified throne.

The archfiend smiled and then looked up at the dozens of corpses swinging in the breeze. All of them were petitioners, and under normal conditions, upon this second death, all of them would eventually decay into their base soul-stuff. While his retinue rightfully suspected that they would be swallowed by Gehenna itself and either vomited back in their present form anew, or else broken down and used in the forging of a new mezzoloth, the Oinoloth knew otherwise - something other than Gehenna would be feasting upon them.

The heavy doors slammed shut with a gesture as the 'loth entered. Away from his sycophants he smiled and walked calmly towards the bizarre throne.

"What have you done?!" A voice called out from the shadows, sibilant and hissing.

"They all deserved to die! They deserved it yes!" The second voice was that of an elderly woman.

"You!" A third voice, distinct from the first but also hissing joined in, full of rancor and confusion. "YOU!"

Standing between the Oinoloth and the throne at the center of the chamber stood an old tiefling woman. Dressed in dirty rags, she looked to have barely eaten in days. From the eye-sockets of her frail face, itself framed by a matted tangle of dishwater-gray hair, a pair of green and black serpents sprouted, each of them hissing angrily at the intruding archfiend.

"Silence larvae-spawned wretch." The Ebon's voice was curt and dismissive, and he never actually turned to look at the tiefling. He never even made a motion, but as he walked past her, a telekinetic wave hurled her back against the wall twenty feet distant.

Laughing Jane shuddered and struggled to stand. Her serpents hissed back, if only weakly, and she trembled with both fear and hatred, digging her nails into the palms of her hands so forcefully as to draw blood. The Oinoloth paused and glanced back, sneering as she bled, and then resumed his walk towards the throne, ignoring the tiefling as if she were no longer even there.

The Oinoloth sat upon the throne and waited for something to happen. With a look of patient amusement upon his muzzle, Vorkannis strummed his fingers upon the worn, calcified surface of the arms.

The vascular patterns locked in brick and cement into Portent's streets was not just a bit of macabre artistic flair, and deep below the city, something locked and sealed away stirred from its imprisoned slumber and blinked.

“What is it you wish my child?" A voice older than Gehenna itself issued forth into the Ebon's mind, trickling up from below the stones of Portent, focused and channeled by the throne he sat upon. "What brings you here to me?”

"Gormisekt ap Portent…" The Oinoloth spoke a name that had not been pronounced since long before Larsdana ap Neut had laid the foundations of the Tower of the Arcanaloths. Few remembered the name, and of those who did, fewer still cared for the reasons why its owner had been sealed away. The Oinoloth's tone was laced with self-satisfaction and a certain level of bemused deceit as he pronounced the name and let it dance upon his tongue. "Hello I suppose.”

"Hello is a strange word to use. Most of your kind are apprehensive, terrified even when they call out to me, sitting upon a throne when they should be on their knees." The voice was slow, still gathering itself from its slumber. "You think yourself better than the others that have come before you seeking my wisdom?"

"I am not the same as any that have ever sat upon this throne." The Ebon's violet eyes sparkled as the braziers and candles illuminating the chamber began to snuff themselves out, one by one. "You should know that."

"You have sat on more thrones than this one." The voice, or something backing it, oozed across the Ebon's mind like some sentient, psychic bacterium feeling and sensing about a new environment, tasting rather than seeing. "You have sat upon the Siege Malicious. You are an Oinoloth."

"That is one title I hold, yes." The Ebon smirked and continued strumming his fingers. "Probably one of the least important ones. But as far as making a statement goes, it was an important step to take."

"Why are you here Oinoloth?" The Ebon's ears echoed with the sounds of hissing serpents and the dull, monotonous throbbing of an ancient heart grown quick by renewed interest for the first time in eons. "Tell me."

The Oinoloth shrugged, "I wanted to speak with you."

"Few have ever come here with that express purpose." The voice grew louder as the presence behind it slouched away from its quiescence. "Only a handful have ever known that I existed when they sat upon this throne. Yet you did, and you know my name. How is that?"

"I know a great, great many things Gormisekt." Vorkannis exuded a sense of smug confidence, even as the presence feeling about the ramparts of his mind carried within itself a growing sense of distrust and even confusion.

"Answer me Oinoloth: why are you here?" The voice grew more attentive, more focused, and the foundation stones of Portent began to rattle as if from the subtle trembling of an earthquake.

"We've never formally met you see." Vorkannis smirked and his teeth glowed white within the darkness, they along with his eyes and the trio of ioun stones above his head providing the only light. "I felt it high time for me to give my respects and gaze into your cell. So as I began by saying, hello."

Suddenly the presence shuddered and that distant, powerful but slumbering malignancy sleeping and imprisoned below Portent awoke and turned the full measure of its ancient, god-like gaze upon the Oinoloth.

“IMPOSSIBLE!" Dust and stone rained down from the ceiling as the psychic presence screamed into the Oinoloth's mind, manifesting elsewhere to collapse a dozen structures in the surrounding blocks and reduce every petitioner in the same radius to sudden, inexplicable pain. "IMPOSSIBLE!"

"Greetings," Vorkannis began to laugh. "Such a pleasure to finally meet you."

"YOU WERE NEVER MEANT TO BE FREE!”
"You of all beings should appreciate the irony!" The Ebon snickered, genuinely smiling at the inchoate rage bubbling up from the ancient prison below Portent.

“YOU?! YOU WERE LOCKED AWAY! WE IMPRISONED YOU! YOU CANNOT BE FREE!" The baernaloth's voice shifted from rage to perhaps the closest thing to fear that such a being was capable of experiencing, "WHAT HAVE MY KINDRED DONE?! WHAT HAS LAZARIUS DONE?!”

“The Demented have done nothing." The Ebon spat the pronunciation of the collective name of the 13. "That is what they do, and that is why they will fail. That is why I am free and you are here."

"THIS WAS NOT TO BE! EVERYTHING WAS FORESEEN! EVERYTHING!"

The Ebon laughed, “Everything that you or they might have hoped to achieve in this reality is for naught. Everything will change Gormisekt. Everything!"

The shackled baernaloth screamed and the foundation stones of Portent rocked with its impotent fury. Vaguely, the Ebon heard Laughing Jane vomit and weep convulsively. The baernaloth screamed a hundred questions and curses at the Oinoloth, but the Ebon ignored them as he laughed with bitter, triumphant contempt.

Finally, the Oinoloth ceased his laughter and addressed the shackled baernaloth one last time, "You are not of the 13, and so Gormisekt I suppose I also came here to let you stew on words of warning that you will never share with the Demented and they would never ask you to tell them. The Oblivion Compass nears midnight. Soon. Oh so soon my old friend. 475 days, 9 hours, 3 minutes, and 12 seconds." The archfiend rose from the throne and smoothed his robes, preparing to leave, save for one final, damning statement, "Rot in your prison as I was meant to Gormisekt. We will not meet again before this is over."


****​


The gloom that blanketed the skies above the Waste was unremitting in nearly all places, and of those few blessed or cursed locations where the clouds withdrew in respect or terror, only a grey void was seen beyond the cloud cover. The isolated valley that contained the Oblivion Compass was one such place, but even before a mad or lost traveler noticed the clouds peeled back, they heard the shrieking of metal, the thrum of gears spinning, the tremble of great mechanical engines moving below their feet, and above all of those things, they heard the screams.

The multitude of dials erupted out of the ashen soil untouched by rust of grim, constructed not of metal, not of stone, but of the welded together bodies of modrons and the screaming spirits of moignos and others bound into the horrific amalgamation as immortally suffering grease and nothing more. The great central dial, unmoving for eons at a time moaned and a shudder resonated through the system. Simultaneously every other wheel stopped and the great dial clicked forward, one step closer to whatever position indicated midnight, and the Secundus and its chorus of agonized moignos began to scream in a single, tortured, unified voice.

"Probabilities collapse. There is still chaos, uncertainty within the solution. But the time of collapse remains the same for all outcomes: 475 days, 9 hours…"


****​


13,000 years previous - somewhere upon the Gray Waste:


Off in the distance, the armies of Anthraxus marshaled for their long march to Gehenna, and from there to Avernus. Yet, though numbering in their millions, none of the fiends felt the presence of a single, conspicuous set of eyes upon their number. Not one of them held even a glimmer of awareness of a singular incongruity upon the Waste that sat silently upon the ashen soil, itself rendered from the bones of a billion, billion dead.

“All of you will die.” The figure whispered. “Helekanalaith has sold you a dozen times over to the lords of Hell and a dozen more princes of the Abyss.”

There was a pensive tone to his voice, something between bravado and put upon bitterness and cynicism. With the inflected emotional tone, he sought to take his mind from other things as he sat within the dirt before a particular, seemingly unexceptional spot.

“But at least all of you wretches…” He paused, gritted his teeth, and looked at his hands, filthy with the soil of the Waste. “At least all of you wretches –can– die.”

His tears would have stained the ground if they had formed. Feel as he might, and even try as he might however, that which refused him death, it refused him that particular outward display of emotions as well. Very little was his own anymore. He’d given up everything, truly everything, and as a result his life, his tattered, broken soul, and every aspect of them both were no longer his. Any level of control was simply an illusion in the unimportant moments between moments when he served as a vessel. Age was meaningless, as were death and disease neither a worry nor succor, and the only emotions he was capable of experiencing were those considered negative. His grief and self-doubt remained with him like a sick blessing to remind him of his sloughed mortality and all that he had done wrong.

IT IS ALMOST TIME

He shivered as the voice rattled through his body, ringing in his head like a peal of funeral bells – the voice that echoed up from the ragged holes torn in the essence of his immortal soul.

He looked up at the sky, featureless and oppressive normally, but now… no, something had changed. A circle of clouds had formed overheard, coiled like a serpent directly above the otherwise absolutely prosaic spot that he sat before. The Waste itself, just like him, was waiting for something to happen. Something ordained if not perhaps foreseen.

“What of Lazarius?” He blurted out his question without pause and without a drop of fear. “Tellura? Harishek? Alashra? The others? What of them?”

He winced in pain as the yawning void reaching through his soul reached closer and seemed to chuckle.

THEY KNOW ONLY WHAT THEY HAVE DONE. NOTHING MORE. THE ARCHITECT AND SHEPHERDESS CANNOT SENSE ME, NOT AT HOW LITTLE MY INFLUENCE STRETCHES INTO THIS REALITY. EVEN IF THEY COULD, CHORAZIN HAS ALREADY DRAWN HIS FIRST CARDS.

The man nodded, even if the last name was not one he was yet acquainted with. A visit to the Thrice Damned seemed to be in his future. Perhaps.

High above, the circle of clouds grew wider like some great, pensive Ouroboros, or perhaps a school of sharks circling, and waiting. Whatever the Waste was reacting to, it was something that he was here to bear witness to.

With a deafening shriek it happened.

The ground before the man exploded. His teeth rattled as the shockwave ripped through the earth and rocked across the Waste for miles as the ground erupted with a deafening roar. Ash, stone, dirt and powdered bones mixed into a polluted slurry with Styx water sprayed outwards with force enough to pepper the flesh of a fiend. The man simply stood there, and as the falling earth splattered back down around him, sizzling and still cooling as a rain of black, glassy tektites, somehow he remained unsullied.

All was silent for a moment but for the crackle of shattering, cooling glass.

The man peered over the lip of the still partially molten caldera that yawned wide before him, gazing down some seventy meters to the glowing, bleeding bottom, marred by a single dark blotch at its center. Either something had plummeted and finally landed, or something that torn its way up and out. As quickly as it had happened, the man wasn't sure which it had been.

A gaping wound in the flesh of the Waste, Styx water flowed in rapidly like the blood of an angry, infected gash. There at the very center, a solitary figure crouched and then stood up. Dirt and mud matted his fur and Styx water dripped from his form incessantly as the sound of his heavy, triumphant breathing cut the sudden silence in the explosion’s aftermath. Black lips parted to expose brilliant, ivory teeth. Liquid, moving shadows licked up from his body at the bottom of the cauldron, tasting the air like the forked tongues of a thousand serpents and slowly, his head rose up and a pair of piercing, reddish-pink eyes fixed upon the man looking down upon his simultaneous arrival upon Oinos, Niflheim, and Pluton.

The man at the crater or caldera’s rim started to speak, but as he prepared to do so, the presence lurking in the dark places of his soul and the void beyond them surged forward. He smiled and looked down, a passenger within his own body, host to something greater, and the voice that spoke was not his own, but in the present instance, oh how it was familiar.
“Hello Vorkannis. We should talk.”

The Ebon looked up, eyes glowing with an intensity unmatched by the molten soil a moment before, his ivory fangs bared and snarling. Then, in a moment the fiend's rage bled away and he stared upwards, not saying a word. His head tilted to the side in a gesture of curiosity, and then he smiled, comprehending. The Ebon's albino eyes locked with the thing lurking behind those of Professor Cilret Leobtav, "Yes. Yes we should."
 
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81Dagon

Explorer
What. Is. He!?
And oh great, it looks like time travel has entered the equation (at least I think). Shemmy, your flowcharts for this story must have looked more like a tangled briar rather than a tree. I greatly approve.
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
What. Is. He!?
And oh great, it looks like time travel has entered the equation (at least I think). Shemmy, your flowcharts for this story must have looked more like a tangled briar rather than a tree. I greatly approve.

*GRIN*

This last update links back to some things in the very first post regarding what Helekanalaith thought to himself about the Ebon having just walked out of the Waste with no history to speak of, and what Lazarius and Sarkithel talk about to the General of Gehenna and himself respectively.

Everything is connected in some capacity: Unity of Rings and all that. :)

Tristol's player ended up making a flow chart for the campaign, and it's a monstrous briar patch that would look fitting atop the Marauder's head.

The same player is making a flow chart for our current planar Pathfinder game (it's not quite as poetically twisted as the one for the Storyhour, but it's weird and complicated, which tends to be standard for any game I run).
 

Akhelos

First Post
*GRIN*

This last update links back to some things in the very first post regarding what Helekanalaith thought to himself about the Ebon having just walked out of the Waste with no history to speak of, and what Lazarius and Sarkithel talk about to the General of Gehenna and himself respectively.

Okay....Vorkannis becomes really frightening....if even an Baernaloth Fears him and says that he should have been imprisoned and never been in this Reality....

Let me Guess...he is something akin to an Baernaloth, that nuked the last Reality and now they dont want it repeated in this one and so imprisoned him? ^^
 

81Dagon

Explorer
Okay....Vorkannis becomes really frightening....if even an Baernaloth Fears him and says that he should have been imprisoned and never been in this Reality....

Let me Guess...he is something akin to an Baernaloth, that nuked the last Reality and now they dont want it repeated in this one and so imprisoned him? ^^
I'd agree except I've gotten the impression that the Demented are the ones who want history to repeat itself and Vorkannis is the one screwing it up. Although I do admit that that theory certainly jives with the explanation the General was given in the first post. I'll have to reread again.
 

Tal Rasha

Explorer
Very good writing Shemeska, as always. Still enjoying this SH after all these years.

The man at the crater or caldera’s rim started to speak, but as he prepared to do so, the presence lurking in the dark places of his soul and the void beyond them surged forward. He smiled and looked down, a passenger within his own body, host to something greater, and the voice that spoke was not his own, but in the present instance, oh how it was familiar.
“Hello Vorkannis. We should talk.”

The Ebon looked up, eyes glowing with an intensity unmatched by the molten soil a moment before, his ivory fangs bared and snarling. Then, in a moment the fiend's rage bled away and he stared upwards, not saying a word. His head tilted to the side in a gesture of curiosity, and then he smiled, comprehending. The Ebon's albino eyes locked with the thing lurking behind those of Professor Cilret Leobtav, "Yes. Yes we should."
See, and I was sure it was Vorkannis who had directed Leobtav to do all he did. Guess not.

So VOR’NEL’THRAANIX is a proper name then? Would explain why all attempted translations resolved to the same term.
 


Shemeska

Adventurer
Very good writing Shemeska, as always. Still enjoying this SH after all these years.


See, and I was sure it was Vorkannis who had directed Leobtav to do all he did. Guess not.

So VOR’NEL’THRAANIX is a proper name then? Would explain why all attempted translations resolved to the same term.


Thank you! I'm still having a blast writing it. Working on the next update.

My players at that time were pretty much sold on "the 'loths are behind everything!" and then the Pandemonium plot arc came out of left field. There are more moments like that to come, some of which were punctuated by loud, out of character, bewildered curses at the time because of some plot twists. Damn I had fun with this campaign! :D

As for VOR'NEL'THRAANIX, I might go back and rephrase the details of the translation attempts. Essentially all of the attempts come back as unable to do anything with it. It isn't a proper name, it isn't gibberish, it isn't a verb or a pronoun - it's something that doesn't make any sense to any attempt at magical translation. It's something that shouldn't do that, but it does it anyway.

Don't worry, you'll see it again. Might take a while, but you'll see it again. Everything comes back together eventually.
 

81Dagon

Explorer
Speaking of things coming back, I've been rereading the Demented cycle as preparation for one of my campaigns. Any chance that the remaining four entries will see the light of day any time soon? Not to add more on top of the already far too long list of requests we've given you ;)

EDIT: Also, while we're at it, was the caldera where Mydianclarus met with the shadow-that-is-strongly-implied-to-be-Vorkannis the same caldera that Leobtav found Vorkannis in?
 
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