Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour - (Updated 14February2024)

Karsten

Explorer
All I'm going to say is that there's a reason that the Upper Planes haven't become involved -well- prior to this point in time. When we get to that point, you'll understand why. :)
You've mentioned this before, so I am certain there is a good reason for it. What this reason may be, I will wait till we "get to that point" as you mention.

I merely pointed out my feeling, as the point we are right now in the story, feels like it is about time... ;)
 

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Tsuga C

Adventurer
All I'm going to say is that there's a reason that the Upper Planes haven't become involved -well- prior to this point in time. When we get to that point, you'll understand why. :)
Which of these possibilities might it be?

a) When your enemy is blind to the fact that they are doing something self-destructive or that will present you with an opportunity to strike at them, do not interfere.
b) You need time to muster resources to deal with the problem, so you bide your time and monitor the enemy.
c) The enemy has leverage that must be removed before you can act.
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
They were happy to leave Gehenna, happy to step off of the living moon of Nimicri, delighted even as Tristol invoked the words to a gate, focusing upon the distant, nearly magnetic pull of Nimicri’s child afforded by the piece of fleshy cobblestone that its parent had provided them. Happiness evaporated like morning dew beneath a blazing hot sun the instant that they stepped through and stepped out onto the blasted plains of Oinos, first layer of the Gray Waste.

“Gods above I hate this place…” Clueless whispered as he remembered each and every time that he’d stepped foot upon the bleak birthplace of the yugoloth race, fighting off the plane’s incessant, insidious emotional leaching.

Florian immediately began with invoking a prayer to protect them all from the worst of it, but still, the Waste was hungry, the Waste was rapacious, and it could only be held at bay in a losing manner before it began to feed. Time was limited.

Fyrehowl glanced about, seeking some element of landscape or geography to place their location there, relative to any known and mapped places. Everything she saw was a hallmark of the Waste, but nothing out of what might be expected. Certainly nothing that would serve as the hiding place a Nimicri’s child, whatever that place might be: a keep, a prison, a tower… without knowing the reason for the Oinoloth’s theft, they had no idea what they were looking for.

At least though, they were not entirely on featureless land, bereft of landmarks.

Forty miles outside of The City at the Center, its baroque walls rose up distantly on not one but two directions on the horizon, such was the twisting of the planar layer’s space and structure there, so close to that inflection point of the Three Glooms. Scanning the horizon elsewhere, yugoloth and baatezu army marched far to the south, while miles to the east a coterie of night hags rode atop nightmares, driving a herd of larval souls ahead of them to market somewhere in Carceri or the Abyss.

“There’s nothing here…” Tristol muttered, staring ahead, his eyes glowing with magic as he sought to shred the effects of any warding divinations or illusions that cloaked wherever Nimicri’s stolen child lay hidden and sequestered away.

The aasimar however could not have known, touched by a goddess of magic or not, that he’d never stood a chance of accomplishing that goal, given the identity of the being who’d laid the wards that cloaked the yugoloth citadel from sight: Vorkannis the Ebon. The Oinoloth had entrusted only minor elements of the task to his lessers, and he’d done the foundational work of the wards well prior to his seizing of his throne atop Khin-Oin, a personal side project completed ahead of time, one step in a future plan yet to have even begun by that point.

In Tristol’s hands, the chunk of Nimicri-flesh gently tugged to the northwest.

“I think we go…” The wizard pointed off in the indicated direction, a blank expanse of nothingness, a purity of pointlessness upon the plane that exemplified the same. “… I think we go that way.”

Toras was the first to move, and ever since they’d heard from Nimicri what had been stolen from it, and by whom, the half-celestial had burned with a nearly palpable rage in his eyes. The others followed his lead as Tristol scurried to catch up, given that he was technically directing their movement.

It didn’t take them long to find it. Less than an hour of walking across the pointless expanse of Oinos. Half a mile they trudged along through a field of shallow graves where a decade earlier a troupe of tanar’ri and ten thousand mortal mercenaries had been executed en masse by their erstwhile yugoloth allies, the atrocity par for the course for the plane and all involved, a line on a ledger in Helekanalaith’s archives, filed and forgotten. Three miles of bleak and dusty wasteland without even a bone or discarded blade to give it history or purpose. But then they found it, unexpected and abruptly. A place in a place of nothingness.

“What the f*ck?!” Florian blurted out as she stepped through an invisible barrier and beheld a cluster of black stone buildings rising up, three acres or less of space surrounded by a ring of intricately carved obelisks that glowed with a cold black flame.

Had they known its precise location they never would have reached it, even with the strongest of magics. The only way was to have walked there and stumbled upon it. Even with an intricate mental picture, even having been there previously, the spells that warded the location would have warped the space they trod upon, harmlessly diverting them around it without the slightest suspicion of just how close they had come to a bitterly held yugoloth secret.

It was a pocket worried into the flesh of misery itself, a diverticulum hollowed out and stitched together to form a hollow, constructed abscess, and leaving not a scar, a newborn organelle of agony within which to slowly churn and digest the misery of those contained within. At least, that was the intended function for one of them, while the other was there like a tumor to churn out copy after copy after copy of the first.

Rather than a singular, massive keep or fortress there were three relatively understated structures: one resembling a short, squat barracks, likely to host the yugoloths staffing and guarding the place, a bizarre hemispherical pool surrounded by a retaining wall within which something… bubbled, and a squat tower with heavily warded gates inscribed with a litany of yugoloth runes. Whatever the location’s primary design, it seemed to hold more than one secret.

“And we’re not alone.” Fyrehowl’s ears swiveled and her head turned as she noticed the hollow’s defenders.

A pair of mezzoloths looked up, the first of them barely a dozen feet away, and it blinked, confusing playing across its insectile face as it turned to chitter at the other. Was this a planned arrival? Was the motley assortment of creatures there for the Oinoloth’s pet to feast upon? Was it a test of their rigor as sentinels?

The second mezzoloth glanced back and shrugged. No. There’d been nothing told to them by the arcanaloths, and their immediate overseer the dergholoth Nimozulius hadn’t even bothered to show up for their scheduled patrol; such was the nonsense of thinking that something or someone might ever actually penetrate the wards surrounding the place.

The least yugoloth’s look of confusion died stillborn as a lightning bolt leapt from Tristol’s outstretched hand, incinerating its guts even as its limbs danced about spasmodically. Its equally confused companion on watch died just as spectacularly as Toras cleaved it in two from shoulder to hip.

“So much for surprise.” Fyrehowl chuckled as the lightning bolt was followed by a clap of thunder that rung about the demiplane or whatever it was.

“Then before we get mobbed by more ‘loths, let’s do what we came here to do.” Toras was already moving towards the obvious location of Nimicri’s child, the second largest structure, the most bizarre: the hemispherical pool surrounded by black retaining walls, themselves inscribed with runes similar to those upon the obelisks surrounding the area. Something bubbled and frothed within it, a semisolid creature whose tentacles periodically waved skyward, briefly forming into the shape of foundations and half-formed buildings, the infantile babbling of a newborn mimic moon.

The others however, they paused, glancing in the direction Toras was headed, and then towards the larger, more obviously and heavily warded tower.

“Ok,” Clueless held up his hand and pointed to the other structure, “If that’s where Nimicri’s child is… what the hell is that? You know, the building that’s even more secured and warded?”

Toras paused his movement and took a deep breath, clearly filled with righteous rage and wanting to complete their promise to Nimicri without hesitation, but the bladesinger was right. Clearly there was something else going on, to say nothing of the lingering question of just -why- Nimicri’s child had ever been stolen away by the yugoloths in the first place.

“Fine. Fine.” Toras sighed, “But I get first swing at any ‘loths we find.”

“Be our guest!” Nisha giggled, then groaned as a loud magical alarm was triggered, the indolent guardians having finally noticed that they were being invaded.

The barracks emptied, disgorging barely two dozen mezzoloths and their dergholoth overseer, none of whom survived the first minute of combat as Toras waded through them with delight, leaving Tristol and Nisha free to crack the wards on the tower.

“He’s having a LOT of fun.” Nisha chuckled as the others slaughtered each and every yugoloth that emerged from the barracks or teleported out to face them. Mostly it was Toras, with Clueless and Fyrehowl mopping up the remainder.

“I’m glad he’s having fun,” Tristol grinned, then he narrowed his eyes, “But this place is barely guarded. They never expected anyone to find this place.

Behind them, they watched as a solitary and exceptionally self-interested arcanaloth sought to run, her arms full of her soon to be deceased compatriots’ spellbooks as she elevated skyward and began to cast a teleport spell, abandoning her charges, until an equally airborne Clueless skewered her chest on Razor’s blade.

“Stop goofing around with ‘loths! Let’s go!” Nisha shouted as Tristol broke through the wards. In truth the wardings had been heavy, but clearly designed and crafted by a much lower skilled creature than the spells which had crafted the place and hidden it from the multiverse’s sight.

Several more dead ‘loths and finally they took the hint and dashed into the tower, finding the tower’s interior hollow as it reached skyward to nothing at all, while a spiral stairwell descended into darkness. Warily they took the only route available, descending a story down below the level of the Waste’s soil, closer somehow to the plane and to the hollow’s crafter himself and to the prison cell where he’d secreted away a single, solitary prisoner.

She sat slumped against the far wall, contained within a cage, the remnant crumbs of several meager meals scattered about as the only method of defiance possible for one so utterly abandoned and perhaps even forgotten. Her position was also the furthest retreat possible from the open channels in the walls of the rest of the room, ducts and pipes that lead up and outwards to where Nimicri’s child played in its crafted basin of a mimic moon’s crib.

“The F*CK…” Florian blurted out, a phrase equaled in feeling and repeated verbally by most of her companions as they stared twenty feet across the unlit chamber to where someone from their past sat.

Bound in chains, the wrist cuffs emblazoned with sigils to prevent her casting even the simplest of magics, the tiefling, Alisohn Nilesia, once-factol of the Mercykillers gazed up at them. Somehow. Much the worst for wear from when they’d first and last encountered her, ironically in another prison which they’d sprung her from at the urging of the Marauder, one of the first steps in the Oinoloth’s rise to power.

But no, that hadn’t been the last time that they’d encountered her. They’d stood by when she’d made a triumphant return into Sigil, marching at the head of a band of her faction members. They’d listened as she’d shrieked invectives and curses against the Lady of Pain. They’d watched in horror as she’d drawn a vorpal sword and beheaded a dabus, drawing out Her Serenity, only for The Lady’s shadow to fall upon her and reduce her to a flayed and obliterated corpse.

“You…” Nilesia spat, her voice ragged but just as filled with intensity and virulence as any other time. Despite her starvation physique, her eyes haunted and sunken into her nearly skeletal face leaving her seeming decades beyond her years, but eyes nonetheless that remained even more fanatical than the first time that they’d met her, at the very beginning of their journey together as an adventuring party.

“How are you alive?!” Clueless met the factol’s gaze and flinched as she stared back at him, her eyes instantly darting down to his ankle where the gemstone lay that had once allowed the Marauder to manipulate him like a puppet, even going so far as to disintegrate the door into Nilesia’s cell.

“Alive?” Confusion crossed the Factol’s face and she sneered, “Out of spite for my captors and with the knowledge that I will rain down punishment upon them for what they’ve done to me.”

Nilesia clearly had no comprehension of what they and hundreds of others had witnessed in Sigil when “she” had been flayed alive by Her Serenity.

“Yes yes Justice and all that…” Toras waved a hand dismissively.

Had Nilesia possessed a blade it would have been at Toras’s throat, but out of weakness from her long imprisonment or simply some understanding of the group being her only way out, she gritted her teeth and allowed the comment to slide, eyes burning in the darkness.

“But no,” Clueless asked, “Factol, how are you alive? We watched you die.”

Nilesia blinked.

“Yeah, the last time we saw you, you stepped through a portal into Sigil with a group of your former faction members.” The bladesinger explained, “We watched you scream invectives against The Lady and then behead one of her dabus.”

Anger spread across Nilesia’s face and she cursed.

“That wasn’t me! That was never me!” She shouted, raising her arms and rattling her chains. “Shortly after you delivered me to the mercanes, they delivered me here, veritably gift-wrapped for the ‘loths where I’ve been in shackles ever since. The only justice is that they never left this place either, the mimic abomination pet of the Oinoloth ate them. Slowly. Piece by piece. I’ve been here ever since.”

The once-Factol glanced down at her left hand and the finger conspicuously missing at the first digit. The others stared, the gears of their minds tumbling, searching for meaning.

“It ate of me as well.” She snarled, a cold fury in her eyes, “The first thing that happened to me once I was delivered here. The Oinoloth was here to witness that. He smiled, that damnable ivory smile and those f*cking albino eyes. He smiled.”

One by one, based on what they’d seen, what they knew of Nimicri, and what they might have already suspected, they blinked with a sudden understanding of just what was going on, and what they’d helped originally come into fruition. It hadn’t been Nilesia flayed alive by Her Serenity, and it hadn’t been her risen revenant or revenants that had plundered books from two hidden scriptoriums and libraries in Sigil, nor plundered notes from Factol Hashkar’s vaults in Mechanus. Those had all been copies of the true Nilesia, spawned by Nimicri’s stolen, brainwashed child, fused with the essence of the Waste and servile to the Oinoloth himself for some plot they still failed to fully understand. There were puzzle pieces still missing, major ones, leaving the true image a jumbled set of isolated pieces with only an outside yet formed, but it was something which intersected with what Factol Nathaniel had indicated was linked to what his mother, Lariset the Inescapable had been working on long, long ago.

“Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.” Nilesia demanded. “You’re responsible for getting me here. You owe me that at least! Hurry!”

They’d have time to interrogate the mad factol later and time to try to desperately make some sense of what they’d just discovered. But they had to hurry. They had no idea if the Oinoloth himself cared enough to personally appear, and it was tempting fate to assume that at some point he wouldn’t personally become aware of their intrusion, their release of Nilesia, and their soon to be return of Nimicri’s child.

“I’m Nilesia. The real Nilesia.” The Factol whispered to herself in the darkness, rocking slowly back and forth, her words interrupted only by an unnatural, unstable giggle. “I know who I am. The others are copies. The others will die. They will die and I will laugh. I am Nilesia. I am Justice.”



****​



The yugoloth army marched in glittering black ranks through the gleaming, refracting landscape of the Gemfields, inexorably worming their way towards their destination, the Tower of Lead. They crawled and their clambered, they flew on their own and by slasrath-back across the elemental plane as it slowly bled into the positive energy plane itself, a mass of Evil, of spirit and metaphysical substance alien to and infecting a plane of solidity and of substance, and they did not move unopposed.

Their intrusion had not been subtle. They’d burrowed holes across half of the cosmos and formed themselves a beachhead. A host of parasites deposited into fallow flesh, they’d drawn inflammation, attention and opposition from the Lords of Earth. The armies of Ogremach and of Sunnis had erupted from the ground and engaged them in combat without hesitation and without question. The forces of the evil and of the good archomental of Earth had also been butchered, by the hundreds, the thousands, then the tens of thousands, albeit slowly gnawing away at the monstrously arrayed yugoloth forces in a slow game of attrition.

Above it all the Overlord of Carceri and the fragment of the Oinoloth that flew nestled within the flesh of an ultroloth atop the slasraths next to her, they did nothing. Not at first. Shylara directed her forces of course, the actions of an archfiend and a general, but she hadn’t taken part in the conflict herself, personally. She hadn’t hurled a blizzard of black, poisoned ice at the hordes of elementals, nor reached into their minds to compel them to fight one another or ravage themselves in lieu of that. No, she’d stared impassively as her forces fought and died in her and the Oinoloth’s name.

Two days of butchery and a hundred miles towards their destination and finally the elemental lords sought to parlay.

Sunnis of course had come first. Not the Elemental Princess of Good Earth herself, no, but a cadre of her generals: a mixed group of earth elementals, a xorn princeling, various beings of glittering gemstones, and even a noble dao and a great sapphire wyrm. It was finally here and only here that the Overlord of Carceri, with the Oinoloth next to her finally took direct involvement, but there would be no parlay.

“Why are you here?” The representatives of Sunnis had asked, confusion on their faces or what passed for their faces. Many of them had never before seen a fiend, much less a yugoloth in their existences, and now here they stood before an army of them marching through their homeland for no apparent purpose.

Shylara the Manged had smiled a mocking smile and then she’d hurled a meteor swarm at them. Some of them survived, screaming in agony, calling out to Sunnis herself, and the Overlord of Carceri walked amongst them, casually dispatching them, ending with the sapphire wyrm when she teleported before its face to stare it in the eyes, just before hurling a flood of molten iron to roll down its throat. At no point during the butchery after it began had she stopped laughing.

It was the same twelve hours later when the representatives of Ogremach arrived in their pomp and glory, not seeking resolution, but actually broaching the topic of arranging some manner of allegiance by which they would first jointly assault Sunnis in her great fortress of Sandfall and then aid the ‘loths in whatever it was that had brought them en masse to that far flung quasielemental corner of the Plane of Elemental Earth.

Of course, they should have realized that they would find no opportunity for allies there, given that Shylara had festooned her slasraths with as many severed, broken heads of Sunnis’s contingent as the beast had been capable of carrying while still remaining aloft. Even worse, it had not been the Manged who’d taken point to listen to their proposal.

Ogremach’s chief representative had laid out her proposal, to which the Oinoloth smiled and promptly incinerated her and her fellows, obliterating them in an instant with somehow a sneering show of contempt visible upon the featureless face of the ultroloth puppet he fractionally resided within, projected out from across the cosmos, deep within the Waste.

With the agonized screams of Ogremach’s dead and dying representatives still echoing across the landscape, the ultroloth with a cobalt gemstone studded into its head, it turned to Shylara, and only then did she perceive it swaddle its form with illusions to have an image of the Oinoloth himself superimposed above his host.

“Ask your question.” Vorkannis spoke without turning to the Overlord of Carceri as she sat astride her slasraths a dozen feet distant.

“We know where the object of our quest resides.” Shylara stated, a look of curious, respectful confusion playing across her jackal’s countenance. “Why not go there directly? Why not go there ourselves, you and I and a limited retinue? Why bring an army and tempt the archomentals’ wrath when we are here so far out of our element?”

“Because here,” Vorkannis nodded, “So far afield of our native plane, your and especially my power is reduced to a fraction of what it would be in the Waste, Gehenna, or Carceri. Our army is not here to defend us, they are here to provide the means by which the elements suffer and bleed in my name, and they in turn suffer and bleed in my name as well.”

Shylara blinked, understanding the beautifully horrific logic of it all. She’d felt it when she’d massacred the representatives of Sunnis. “You’re feeding upon it.”

The illusory projection of the Oinoloth’s arcanaloth face smiled, “I sup upon their agony moment by moment, a mobile domain to sustain my projection of power even here in a place where concept and alignment gives way to solidity and substance. Whatever awaits us in the Tower of Lead, we will be ready for it.”

“Oh, that you could be here in the flesh, by my side.” Shylara pined, studying the Oinoloth’s illusory features and those of his host for some meaning in his response. Perhaps when he spoke of their power being reduced, perhaps his own was affected that much more as Oinoloth, or perhaps he knew more of what waited for them in the Tower and his caution was overriding. After all, she’d been nearly paranoid in her caution during her activities on his behalf in the Astral. She’d danced between color pools and acted through a surrogate body when she’d astrally projected into the Silvery Void.

“I will be ready.” The Oinoloth said, unexpectedly so without turning to her. “Eventually. Too much is yet uncertain. Too many things have yet to play out. But I will in time.”

Was he speaking of the Tower of Lead, or of something else beyond it? The Overlord of Carceri bit her lower lip in anticipation, her mind vacant of any other thought for the next hour as their army marched onwards, ever onwards. Eventually however, her obsessive fascination was disturbed by an unexpected action on the Oinoloth’s part.

“What…” Vorkannis muttered, or rather his ultroloth puppet wrapped in illusions of his true form muttered.

Shylara glanced over at him, something in his tone drawing her attention. “Is there something…” Her voice trailed off as Vorkannis’s illusions glitched and then dropped abruptly, the ultroloth puppet continuing on in automaton fashion without overt control and focused attention by the Oinoloth. Something had suddenly drawn his attention strong enough to cause him to overtly divert his consciousness from halfway across the cosmos back to his native plane, back to the Waste.



****​
 

Karsten

Explorer
Come on...you cannot leave it hanging at this point!!
It is not fair for any of us, reading the storyhour!! :p:p

Things are becoming very serious...a glimpse of the impact of the group is finally up?
 



Having binged this entire story hour over the course of the last two weeks, all I can say is: wow. You have a brilliantly torturous mind, Shemmy. Hats off to you for such a fantastically plotted and fantastically written story!
 


Tsuga C

Adventurer
Congratulations on your planar aspect/avatar being featured on the cover of "Turn of Fortune's Wheel". I do hope they did not nerf your exemplary Lothiness in the adventure.
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
Congratulations on your planar aspect/avatar being featured on the cover of "Turn of Fortune's Wheel". I do hope they did not nerf your exemplary Lothiness in the adventure.
The cover art isn't bad at all, I rather like it (minus the inexplicable absence of her razorvine...), but the miniature based on it makes me think that the art director for the mini simply gave that cover art headshot to the mini sculptor and nothing further for reference whatsoever, so we got that bonkers spiky dress. Not really sure what to think of the mini, though Ask_Shemeshka is raging about it on Twitter, and will rage and/or preen more in the future I assure you!
 

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