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Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour - (Updated 14February2024)



I was fortunate enough to discover your work years after you began ... I had a similar discovery when I started reading Game of Thrones, where I got to skip much of the initial waiting due to my late arrival.

Of course, now that I've read everything you have produced, I can't wait till the next update. Your writing reminds me of GoT in that you have clearly planned all possible conclusions to this story for years. The large, overarching plot takes on a sense of grandeur, with the barely-witting characters proceeding like well-armed mice through enormous, ancient vaults, passing monsters and titans they barely comprehend. It adds something special when they survive and proceed.

Of course, unlike Martin, you have to leave enough room for free will to operate. Please keep playing/writing.


It makes me smile when someone new finds this and enjoys it. I'm still having a hell of a good time putting this campaign into story form!

Next update is in-progress. shemmysmile.gif

The PCs do more than just survive and proceed. They make some pretty big impacts by the end of it all.

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"I'm not going to question our good fortune." Malcolm cracked a smile that coexisted uneasily with the cold sweat upon his brow. "But let's not wait around and let the rats gather the courage to follow."

As soon as the words had left his mouth, a trio of the rats moved forward, crossing whatever tentative barrier they'd all refused to cross. The rats were all imperfect specimens, each with some physical, congenital deformity or an injury healed poorly - all of them sacrifices of little regard should their blood be needed to satisfy the safety of the greater whole. They proceeded perhaps a centimeter at a time, crawling with a tremor in their hind legs, limping forward on three good limbs and one withered, or pulling their body along with forelimbs only due to crippled stumps they bore as hind legs. Less than a foot in and they stopped, each keening their heads in the same manner as if listening to something heard only to their ears alone.

"What are they doing?" Surefoot peered at the trio of rats as they slowly moved across the line. Unconsciously, the bariaur retreated several steps on his own as they encroached.

Then, without warning, in unison the cranium rats remained still and ceased their approach. They shuddered and remained still, held fast in the same position of rapt attention. Behind them in the passage, the assembled mass of their fellows retreated a half dozen feet and chittered amongst themselves, oddly syncopated patterns of light flowing amongst their number like a single, massive brain pondering to itself.

"They're scared." Corwin pointed to the twitching of their noses and the position of their ears and tails. Whatever the power of their aggregate consciousness, the hive's individual component bodies were hardwired to react in the same base, murine capacity.

"Oh sh*t..." Malcolm muttered as the first of the advancing rats began to bleed.

A drop of blood dribbled from the rat's nose, the first of them to have crossed whatever demarcation existed in the hallway. Their eyes were blown wide, mouths open, muscles rigid in tetanus. Whatever they intruded upon did not apparently welcome their presence, and a point had been made to the rest of their hive.

"So we have two options. Two wonderful f*cking options!" Malcolm pounded his fist against the wall. "Walk back into a whole f*cking hive of cranium rats or walk forward into something that scares them sh*tless..."

"What in the Lady's name is all of this..." Ashlanaya stood further down the passage, staring at an elaborate triple pillar supporting the ceiling. Each pillar was carved to resemble a man or woman with closed eyes, a smile on their face, and elaborate designs across their skin. One of them was human, another an elf or aasimar, and the third very obviously some form of tiefling. Further down the passage the next support was carved in similar fashion, but with a different arrangement of races.

"They look like they're sleeping." Zenia motioned to the position of their hands cusped beneath their heads for support and the arrangement of their legs. "At first it looked like they were praying, but no, they're asleep."

Leaving the rats behind, but still looking over their shoulders should anything change, the others joined the paladin and Xaositect in examining the hallway's unique architecture.


"Magic that isn't precisely magic..." Zenia moved her fingers through the air, tentatively touching or plucking at the strings of glowing energy invisible to all but herself, augmented by a whispered spell of her own. "Spooky but kinda awesome."

"Not precisely magic?" Ashlanaya looked up from one of the bizarre pillars, this one a trio of humans. Of the sleeping, peacefully smiling figures, one of them was abnormally thin, nearly skeletal in aspect, and another bore prominent fangs; perhaps a tiefling's unique mutation, but it suggested vampirism more than anything else. The paladin inwardly frowned for what it forebode.

"It looks like a bunch of protective wards," Zenia motioned to specific threads of magic embedded in the walls and the air itself, eventually stopping as she realized from the others' expressions that they couldn't see anything other than an awkward pantomime on her part. "But it's different, just the same as how a priest's spells or Ashy's spells here look different from mine."

"I'm starting to think that the cranium rat's might have been wiser than us." Ashlanaya sighed. "This isn't just a random bit of tunnel or an old wine cellar."

Given the expressions on their faces as they looked past the paladin into the gloom beyond, that was a foregone conclusion.

"That's a good guess. Now, I'm not all that familiar with Sigil's history," Corwin motioned to the pillars and the elaborate carvings upon the walls. "But given how so much of UnderSigil is made up of old forgotten cellars, tunnels, and subsumed buildings, this seems more like something you might find in a temple or even a Faction hall. Does this look at all familiar to anyone? Some crazy religion or some obscure Faction?"

"Neither obscure religion or crazy Faction no, not striking a bell." Zenia turned her head sideways and stared at the carvings. "Not that anyone knows much about what Factions were around before the Great Upheaval. Who knows what's buried down here. But it isn't like anyone would still be left."

"A hundred thousand years from now, I'm sure we'll still have Dusties around," Surefoot shook his head, "Even if the Mortuary has crumbled to dust and the Faction is only a memory and scattered references in obscure books. Undead in Sigil tend to last."

"Funny that you mention the Dusties..." Zenia frowned as she walked past the second of the triple pillars and stared at the walls. "This looks more and more like it's a catacomb."

The passage grew wider and now the walls bore alcoves every ten feet or so, some of them empty but for the dust of years, but others held elaborately mummified corpses and garishly decorated skeletons whose bones bore the same designs as the figures upon the carved pillars earlier. Previously unlit, the passage glowed dimply from the light cast by the oblong gemstones that hovered above the foreheads of each corpse.

"Please tell me that they're dead and not just sleeping." Zenia frowned as she looked at the niches. The mummies' faces were all smiling.


Dust and the accreted grime of fifty thousand years shuddered, resisted, and then broke as red, glowing eyes opened and focused. All was silent, all was dark, and the fading figments of their shared dreamscape receded as the corpse stirred within the open sarcophagus he lay within. Here they lay, the last and greatest of a Faction long forgotten, they who had foreseen the future and fled below into the darkness before the mazing, flaying shadows came for them in this reality. They had been so close, and still they were, albeit incrementally slow now hidden in the shifting dark and forced to hide their actions lest they face opposition again. They were only so tenuously anchored to this reality, but here where they slept, this was the last thing attached to this false world. However tenuous it was, no matter how close they were to escape from the clutches of the demiurge's false world, they could potentially be dragged back from the shining precipice.

Something approached, disturbing the sleep of the least of the Five.

Arms crossed in dreaming slumber moved and grasped the stone above, lifting its body up while its puissant mind plucked at the psionic strings they had woven millennia earlier.

It cast its mind out like a hunting spider, wondering what trod upon the webs. That momentary fear it had upon its return to this imperfect, flawed prison lifted, but wariness remained. It had to remain, lest the enemy find them.

The first thing that he felt were the rats. The Vermin-That-Would-Ascend scratched at the edges of their domain. Let them. The slaves of Ilsensine could once again hurl themselves into the raging sea and seek to swim, weighted down by the lead of their mortality. They were inconsequential. There were others though, new, unknown, servitors of something else. Was it her? Had she found them? Would he need to awaken the others?

The creature exhaled, scattering the dust from within his lungs and filling the air with a grey cloud. A heart that had not pumped blood for a thousand years before his slumber began now jolted within his chest. The approaching ones would need to be dealt with, preferably without disturbing his masters from their great work upon the Threshold.

Jolvan Metheticus, the fifth Perfectarch of the Brothers of the Dreaming stretched and called to mind the psionic powers latent in his mind, no longer bound to nor constrained by physical substance. Alone and yet never alone in the darkness, Jolvan smiled and waited.


Ashlanaya whispered a soft prayer to Nephthys, Lady of the Grave, protector of the righteous dead. For the briefest of moments the paladin opened her eyes to the presence of the undead. With a sense of relief, no, the nearby niches were filled with the actual dead. Turning her head however, somewhere further down the passage the radiant stench of the undead was like a sun imprisoned below the earth.

"You've got that look." Surefoot raised an eyebrow at the paladin.

"You've seen it before?" She glanced back at the bariaur as she stretched her sword arm, knowing that she'd likely be needing it very soon.

"Yeah," Zenia interjected, "You looked just like a clueless paladin walking past the Mortuary. That overwhelmed expression of not being sure if you should run or fly into a righteous fury against the dead."

The tiefling nodded, "This place is a tomb, and yes, there are undead down the passage. I've been past the Mortuary before though, back when Skall was there. It wasn't this bright..."

A chill ran down their collective spines as they struggled to comprehend what exactly that meant. Whatever slumbered here in the dark, deep below Sigil's streets was more puissant than the collective glow of the undead among the Dustmen.

Ashlanaya motioned a blessing and kissed the amulet of Nephthys that hung around her neck, "Let's hope that just like the carvings here, whatever they are, they're sleeping peacefully."

Moving down the passage, they kept their noise to a minimum, passing by dozens more of the eerie niches filled with the richly appointed bodies of the dead. Each corpse possessed a similar glowing gemstone that hovered in place before its forehead.

"You know, I've seen something similar to these before." Zenia leaned in, examining the gemstone before the grinning, skeletal countenance of one of the corpses. Her own flame-wreathed head shed a dull, rippling orange glow across the mummy, even as its gemstone spread a cool, sterile blue light across the genasi's face.

"You have?" Corwin looked at the same corpse.

"Yep," Zenia clucked her tongue, sending out a few sparks in the process, "Worn by our present employer."

"Huh?" Malcolm frowned. "I don't recall her wearing anything of the sort on her forehead."

"No," Zenia corrected, motioning to her ears and at her throat. "The hen's egg sized gemstones she had dangling from her ears and around her neck. The ostentatious ones, they glowed in a really similar way to these here."

"There's nothing -not- ostentatious about her..." Surefoot rolled his eyes, but at the same time, he understood just what the Xaositect was comparing: the gem's inner light.

"They're souls." Ashlanaya realized with a lump in her throat. "Every one of these corpses has a soul trapped in those gemstone."

"Their own?" Malcolm struggled to understand the meaning of it all.

"I would assume so." The paladin shrugged. "They died, they were entombed here, and whoever did it made certain that their souls stayed here with them. Perhaps to be rejoined with their body at some later point?"

"Or to make sure that they stayed here and never reached the planes." Surefoot recalled how years ago, he'd heard some more militant Athar speculate on starving the gods, and how the 'loths had supposedly done just that to a specific power ages upon ages ago to prove a point and to keep the powers out of the Blood War lest that happen again. But this however was different. This was far too ritualistic to be something punitive like that.

"It's creepy, whatever the reason." Zenia backed away from the corpse, the flames that made up her hair dimming at the thought that rather than sleeping peacefully in their tombs, the souls of the dead might be screaming in silence, beating upon the bejeweled shells of their prison. "Let's keep going and find a way out of here."


Passing another dozen bejeweled corpses, the passage narrowed and approached a chamber. Lacking a door, the open archway bore a series of words across the lintel in archaic planar common: 'The Dreaming Mind Beholds All. The Dreaming Mind Slips the Shackles of the Soul. The Dreaming Dead are Free.'

"Inviting isn't it..." Surefoot grimaced as they stepped across the threshold and into the chamber.

Clearly a mausoleum, the chamber's roof was vaulted and below that, in the room's center were five massive sarcophagi, arranged in a circle. Blessedly though, all was silent, the dust upon the floor was undisturbed by even the footprints of rodents, and no guardians sprang to life at the approach of intruders. A fierce blue glow radiated from each marble casket, all of them open and without a lid. Perhaps most importantly however were the two other doors that led out from the room, one of them hopefully in the direction of their target.

"Nobody touch anything." Zenia whispered. "Let's try to avoid waking anything up..."

"Do you serve the Queen of Agonies?" The lips of one of the corpses moved, stretching and shedding the dust of centuries. "Does the Bladed Shadow send her agents still?"

One of the five corpses in the room's center sat upright in its lidless sarcophagus, a glowing sapphire lozenge hovered before its forehead illuminating its gray, desiccated flesh. It wore scraps of once-rich robes, now long since faded and turned to dust, revealing flesh tattooed with moving, shifting symbols and swirling designs in magical, metallic ink. Once perhaps some breed of aasimar, the red glow of its eyes and the wet, purple pallor of its tongue revealed its nature as a ghast long since removed from the chronicles of the living.

Hands gripped weapons and spells came to mind, but the paladin's hand in the air motioning them down stopped -or at least paused- any combat.

"No, we do not." Ashlanaya shook her head, "Assuming of course that you mean the Lady of Pain."

"Good..." The corpse smiled and closed its eyes, the light of its gemstone dimming in concert. It seemed thankful for that particular answer.

The ghast bowed its head and then resumed its original stance, gazing at each member of the group. For a long moment it stared at Malcolm, almost appearing confused.

"Who are you?" Malcolm asked.

"What are you?" Ashlanaya added, "What is this place?"

"We are dead and dreaming." Jolvan Maltheticus explained. "We would shed the chains of this world for a paradise calling out to our perfected minds, tethered only so little now to the corrupted anchor of the soul and the physical flesh that holds it."

The psionic ghast's bizarre theology had no parallel to any sect or Faction with purchase in Sigil. Whatever they had been, they had been long dead and forgotten for eons.

Once more the ghast looked out at them, narrowing its eyes in suspicion, "Who is it that sends you here? Why did you seek us out?"

"We didn't intend to come here actually." Zenia shrugged and smiled. "Honest truth."

Maltheticus began to stand, steadying himself against the edge of his tomb as he used limbs and muscles that had lain sessile for much of Sigil's extant recorded history.

Not wanting to directly reference the Key, Zenia continued, "We're here below searching for something lost centuries before."

"Centuries are the blinking of the eye, a tick of the demiurges clock with the shadow of the Queen of Agony the second hand to the first." The ghast rambled as it jerked upright, exhaling and smiling as it stood, extending a bloated purple tongue to taste the air and presumably the nature of its visitors.

"Not a queen, but a king sent us." Malcolm explained as his fingers reached for a concealed blade, for whatever good such might do against the undead. "The King of the Crosstrade, Shemeska the Marauder sent us."

Maltheticus shrugged as he stepped from his tomb. "Meaningless transitory names, hollow titles and temporal appelations that are ashes sifting through the gaoler of this world's fingers."

"She's a fiend." Corwin moved out of the way as the undead stepped onto the chamber's floor. "She's old enough to probably remember you."

Maltheticus paused and narrowed its eyes to slits. The gem at its forehead glowed fiercely.

Zenia chuckled awkwardly, "That probably wasn't the wisest thing to say..."

"They are souls incarnate," Meltheticus hissed, "the handmaidens of the demiurge, traitors and things of chains and physical desire. You will not stop us from escaping this world."

Ashlanaya's whispered words were simple as she raised up her holy symbol, "Run..."

The psionic ghast snarled and raised its hands, swirls of lambent blue ectoplasm already congealing out of the thin in swirls around its extended claws.

"RUN!" Ashlanaya shouted as she raised her holy symbol and invoked the power of her goddess. Radiant light surged forward, enveloping the ghast as the others bolted for the nearest exit. Seconds later, the light faded, and with it, so too did the paladin's expression.

The ghast stood there smiling, unharmed by the paladin's turning attempt. The designs and symbols tattooed upon its undead flesh glowed with sapphire light and fragments of the white glow that Ashlanaya had invoked. By whatever mechanism, the symbols penned and mortified into its flesh had deflected and siphoned away the energy sent against it.

"You pitiful things of flesh and souls, you will not stop our apotheosis!" Maltheticus gestured and bowled the paladin over with a burst of psionic energy directed into her mind.

Everything was confused. Her ears rang, her mouth was dry, her legs ached even as she ran on instinct and fear, stumbling into walls, delirious from the creature's ego whip. Barely comprehending what was happening the tiefling fled, hearing only the incomprehensible shouts of her companions and the mocking laughter of the abomination as it stepped forward from its tomb and lurched after them.


Things were still a blur to her mind, and in hindsight she would suppose that Nephthys herself had taken her shoulders and guided her in her stumbling retreat out of certain death. Things made no sense to her as Zenia hurled a glistening bead of flame past her, nor did she fully register the cause and effect when it detonated at the ghast's feet, forcing it to leap to the side, scorched and screaming when it finally stood up again.


"Hurry! Hurry with that!" Surefoot urged Corwin on as the druid whispered to himself and moved his hands about the base of one of the hallway's support pillars.

"I'm doing this as quickly as I can," Corwin moved his hands deeper into the stone, moving mass and weakening the base, "otherwise you won't be able to break it down and bury that thing!"

"I don't have any more fireballs left to throw!" Zenia was frantic as she watched Maltheticus emerge from the darkness, red pinprick eyes glittering below the pale blue of its manifest soul.

Smiling as it slowly approached, now less than ten yards away, the psionic ghast motioned with its hands and a pair of figures began to coalesce. Skeletal hounds outlined in the same eerie blue light as their master's soul gem, the creatures gained muscle and viscera as the seconds ticked onwards, both of them scratching and slavering as they manifested.

"Done!" Corwin snatched his hands out from within the pillar and moved as Surefoot lowered his shoulder and charged.


A shudder ran through the pillar followed by a spiderweb's pattern of cracks and then a groaning sound from within the stone itself. The ghast snarled and loosed its created servants, but it was too late and they would never manage to close to distance as tremors shook the ceiling and stones began to dislodge and fall. In the moment before the ceiling collapsed, burying its route of access and sealing it within its tomb, Malcolm stared at it and it stared back, repeating the same wary expression that it had before.

Something that coiled within the human's mind stirred from its slumber and spoke to the undead in a tone of authority and power, "Do not follow."

A hundred tons of stone came crashing down, dust choked the air, and then all was silent.

"That was awesome!" Came the Xaositect's exuberant shout, cutting the still and trailing into a peal of laughter. "But yeah let's go and not think about if it might just walk through, yeah that's a terrible thought. Let's go."

Corwin shook his head at the genasi's horrid notion, hoping beyond hope that it wouldn't come true. He glanced over to Ashlanaya as she clutched her holy symbol and stared at the cave-in, and presumably what still lurked behind it, sealed off.

"It's retreating back." She said with a sigh of relief, "It can go back to sleep for all I care. Just as long as it leaves us be."

"I'm perfectly ok with that." Surefoot sheathed his sword and took note that the passage was still a portion of the same bizarre catacomb. "Let's just hope that we can find another way back out..."


Eventually the passage ended with a hard shift between the carved and decorated tunnel and a return to one made from simple brick. According to the map that they'd been provided, assuming that they hadn't gotten turned around in their flight from the undead, they were getting close to the buried portion of the old Prime Ward.

"Does anyone else smell that?" Corwin wrinkled his nose at a sudden breeze blowing from the passage. Gone was the scent of dust and stale air, and also gone was the reek of sewage that had preceded that.

"It smells like that brothel over on Two-Lamp and Whisper." Zenia admitted with a belated blush of orange flames as the others turned and stared at her. "Not that I would know much about the place, yeah..."

"The fiend one?" Surefoot quirked an eyebrow.

"I don't need to hear any more about that..." Corwin shook his head. "Let's worry less about any of our ways of spending our money and more on finding the Key."

Zenia mouthed a quick, 'That's the one.' before they collectively faced the source of the breeze and exchanged wary glances. The rush of air was filled with the acrid reek of sulfur, and not that of a volcanic vent or Zenia's hair. It was more complex, and something that only appeared in the presence of numerous fiends of more than one type, and only then when they had occupied a place for years.

Distantly they heard a monstrous roar and a loud explosion, then silence, followed by more screams of both pain and anger. Bits of the screams were intelligible, if barely, and they came in two varieties: Abyssal and Infernal. The fiends that had come through the portals opened by the Shadow Sorcelled Key so many years ago, they were still here, still fighting against one another - the Blood War in microcosm raged on below Sigil's streets.



Which part is this a response to? :)

Umm... everything?

So this is the second time that the Brothers of the Dreaming have been mentioneded and the first time they have shown up. That makes me really, really curious as to what the group would have discovered if they had gone through that door in the Jester's Palace. By the Unity of Rings and Rule of Threes, I'm expecting they'll show up at least once more before all is said and done.

They are a really cool idea though! A psionic group of dreaming undead, they almost seem like a combination of a proto-Mind's Eye with a proto-Dustman. I can't find any reference to them anywhere else, so did you come up with them whole cloth?

I also think that you need to draw a rough map of Under Sigil for us. You've clearly got large portions of it mapped out in your head.

Then there is the Blood War continuing underneath Sigil. Given who the main antagonists are and why these PCs are down there, that can't be a good thing for the overall story arc.
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Umm... everything?

So this is the second time that the Brothers of the Dreaming have been mentioneded and the first time they have shown up. That makes me really, really curious as to what the group would have discovered if they had gone through that door in the Jester's Palace. By the Unity of Rings and Rule of Threes, I'm expecting they'll show up at least once more before all is said and done.

They are a really cool idea though! A psionic group of dreaming undead, they almost seem like a combination of a proto-Mind's Eye with a proto-Dustman. I can't find any reference to them anywhere else, so did you come up with them whole cloth?

I also think that you need to draw a rough map of Under Sigil for us. You've clearly got large portions of it mapped out in your head.

Then their is the Blood War continuing underneath Sigil. Given who the main antagonists are and why these PCs are down there, that can't be a good thing for the overall story arc.

You won't find any other reference to them, I made them up whole cloth.

Imagine undead psions heavily inspired by dualistic gnosticism (of the Bogomil or Cathar variety). The physical world is a prison, created not by a loving God, but by a powerful, flawed, evil demiurge. This particular Faction however went a step further - the soul is what anchors the mind to the psychical world (taking a page from Egyptian belief of not just a body/soul dichotomy, but body/ba/ka trinity in play) The soulgem hovering before each of them was each of them slowly separating their souls from their body, with their undead state being used to further cleave the soul from the body and mind. In the end all that would be left would be a sort of psionic Ba able to leave this corrupt, physical world behind for a reality of their own making.

That was the idea anyways.

As for maps of UnderSigil, I had tons of individual locations and/or encounters mapped out. What the PCs did or didn't encounter was partially based on where they chose to go, and partially a random roll of the die since well, it's UnderSigil, and things shuffle around.

As for the Blood War going on, it's just among those fiends left behind and trapped in Sigil after the Shadow Sorcelled Key opened up all the Prime Ward portals. Presumably they still have reinforcements popping in from time to time through some of those ancient portals that open on occasion, fueling a bloody stalemate since none of the fiends wants to leave and admit defeat, especially when they feel they might be able to establish a beachhead in Sigil. Not likely to happen, but enough hope on their part to keep several hundred fiends bottled up in a few square blocks of buried Sigil.



"This is something I never thought I'd see," Zenia gave a nervous giggle as she stepped out of the passage and into the buried remains of the Prime Ward.

"It's something alright," Surefoot glanced about with equal measures awe and wariness.

"Wow..." Malcolm blinked and strained to see the finer details of the ruins, details lost to his all too human eyes.

The tunnel had ended abruptly, opening up into a massive underground cavern whose size made the imagination struggle to comprehend that it was the result of a mundane collapse of the old city into the underground, and more an attempt by Sigil itself to swallow and encapsulate something that it could not simply reject, like scar tissue surrounding a splinter. It all resembled nothing less than Sigil in the twilight hours of Anti-peak in the worst regions of the Hive or the slags, the only other portion of the city to have ever suffered the worst ravages of the Blood War. Everything was ancient, and though seemingly untouched by the ravages of time and mundane decay, the warring fiends had reduced many buildings to burnt-out shells and uneven piles of broken stone, protruded here and there by the bladed gables and spires even so long ago a hallmark of Sigilian architecture.

A burst of light from a fiend's teleportation heralded the current status quo as a towering glabrezu appeared atop a broken foundation. It bellowed with rage a moment later as more bursts of light heralded a motley collection of other tanar'ri appeared, scattered about at random rather than in any intended fighting formation. They snarled and roared, reorienting themselves and branding their weapons both at each other as much as at the figures taking cover some twenty yards distant. There in groups of three and four, an organized detachment of barbazu braced for the chaotic fiend's charge. Heavily armored, they stayed silent with the exception of the voice of a single amnizu that bellowed forth invocations in the name of Dagos.

"Everyone down!" Surefoot motioned them to find cover, pointing up to a pair of armored, black-winged erinyes patrolling the skies above the baatezu encampment. "They see us and we're going to get press-ganged or just killed outright."

"We could always name drop our employer." Malcolm shrugged, "She seemed powerful enough above."

"That will get us tortured first, then killed." Ashlanaya smirked. "These fiends have been bottled up here for so long I think the last thing they want to deal with is a 'loth."

The tanar'ri charged as dozens more flashes of light erupted from teleportations, bringing both more of their kind and baatezu reinforcements as well. Within seconds there were more than a hundred fiends tearing into one another's positions. Lightning bolts lashed from the tanar'ri, rocking the air with the sonic boom of their crack and the harsh reek of ozone, while bolts of hellfire launched from spellcasters and infernal bombardment devices on the side of the devils. What had happened daily since the Key had arrived began once more.

"Everyone be quiet, everyone keep your heads down." Ashlanaya put a finger to her lips and then pointed towards a series of ruined buildings away from the mass of the raging and building conflict. "Let's make for those buildings and then keep going. Avoid any fiend we see and let's get in and out of this gods-forsaken place as soon as we can. We're close. I can feel it."

"You can feel it?" Malcolm glanced at the paladin questioningly. "What do you mean?"

"It doesn't feet right down here." She answered with a shrug. "I can't really explain it, but ever since we stepped out of that tunnel there's something just terribly unsettling; I can feel it in my bones."

"I'll attest to something not feeling right." Surefoot shivered, "I've been in the Slags, and it didn't feel like this place. I can't explain it any better than that, and I'm not sure if I feel it quite as pronounced as Ashy does, but yeah."

"She said that we'd know it when we were close." Doran grimaced, "I suppose that this is what she meant. You're both planars, so that might be why you can tell. Personally I've felt uneasy since I first stepped into Sigil, but that's just me."


"Sh*t!" Zenia hunkered down and the flames on her head flickered and nearly extinguished in fright as a massive sphere of flame detonated only a few yards away.

The smell of brimstone wafted through the air, followed shortly afterwards by a rain of cooling, glassy tektites that cracked and shattered as they peppered the ground. Peering over the edge of their cover, as far as they could tell, no fiends were making their way towards their position; luckily it had been an errant strike and not an intentional targeting.

"As if we didn't need any further excuse to get out of here, there's that." Ashlanaya exhaled and nodded her head towards the next ruined structure. "Come on, let's go."

Too distracted by one another and their innate and endless hatred, the ever growing mass of fiends never noticed as the small party snuck past them deeper into the ruins of the old Prime Ward. Winding their way from hiding spot to hiding spot, they progressed several city blocks inwards, following a growing sense of unease and something that could only be described as -wrong-. Blessed by serendipity, they weren't noticed by the warring fiends except for one close call with a pair of vrocks, and they thanked whatever powers they worshipped that they'd escaped the fiends' collective notice.

They were not however beneath the notice of everything.


High above, something peered down and smiled. A shadow without substance, a projected fragment only barely cohesive here in the least of the Lady's dominion, it watched intently as the Marauder's pawns drew closer to the Key's location, and to it, all as intended, all as foreseen and planned.

Each move was calculated, each as one more step necessary, one more tumbler to fall in the process of the grand experiment. The others would chide this appearance as micromanagement or as uncertainty in the plan itself, but no, this was neither. Bladed eyes and shadows danced around the radius of the Key's influence, and there within, it presented a manufactured blind spot. What that provoked was itself a thing of interest, and a crack in the adamantine domain of the Bladed Stranger. The destruction of the old Prime Ward had itself been a test and a deliberate provocation.

Behold. Now wait, and watch for the signs to manifest themselves.

The shadow pulled out of its introspection with a smile and looked down as one of the Marauder's puppet's paused and looked up. The tiefling paladin, the armored godslave of Nephthys, the one who betrayed the blood within her veins, the one whose blood sang to the shadow looking down at her. The tiefling frowned and gestured to her companions, pointing up. They noticed the barest outline of a tall, robed figure and then it vanished back into the darkness, back closer to the unhallowed artifact, the Key, the poison that allowed its tenuous purchase in Sigil's underbelly.


"What the hell was that?" Ashlanaya motioned to the figure standing atop a ragged pile of stones that had once been a tower. The tiefling's face was pale, and for a moment she'd seemed terrified.

"I don't see anything." Zenia shrugged, "But I was also crouched behind a wall at the time, so I can't really be of much help."

Doran stared at the paladin with a look of worry, "I saw it too, just for a moment. But I also saw your expression. Honestly you went from your normal self to looking as if you were going to vomit from fright, and I've never even seen you look worried before."

"There was a figure standing on top of that fallen tower," Ashlanaya was adamant. "Tall, human height, no wings, and dressed in a hooded robe."

"Did you see a face?" Doran queried as he studied the empty darkness where the tiefling indicated the figure had stood.

"No," The paladin admitted, "it was covered in shadow."

"Some sort of fiend?" Malcolm frowned. "After what we saw earlier, I doubt that there's anything else down here."

"Are you sure it was real and not just a shadow?" Zenia flicked cinders off her hands and gazed up into the darkness, not seeing anything either.

"I had a sick feeling, the kind that I would have felt if I'd opened up my senses and looked at what sort of evil our current employer had in herself." She rolled her eyes at that very notion; she hadn't bothered at the time to spare herself the gauche obviousness of it and the wave of nausea it would have probably provoked. "Except I wasn't doing that just now, and I felt that way anyway."

"Sure it wasn't a shadow of a statue," Zenia motioned off in an entirely different direction.

"A statue?" Ashlanaya shook off her feelings of dread for the moment.

The genasi pointed deeper into the ruins, "Like that one there."

"Huh?" Surefoot glanced in the direction of the genasi's motion and then blinked in disbelief. "That's something taken out of the history book right there. Damn."

Largely shrouded in darkness, precariously standing upright amidst a fallen, shattered wall of stones stood a tall statue of a twin-aspected man. One face was old, one was young, each of them bearing a puzzling half-smile upon their face, and the statue's hands perched atop a single, large door carved out of the same stone as the statue. For anyone alive in Sigil with an interest in the City of Door's history, the figure was both obscure and immediately, hauntingly recognizable: Aoskar the Portal Father.


"Why do you have that look on your face?" Malcolm squinted, struggling to see the statue itself. "Unless it's a golem, we don't have anything to worry about."

"Not worry really," Surefoot explained, "It's just that it's unexpected but at the same time, it completely fits the area."

Malcolm shrugged, "What do you mean?"

"It's a statue of Aoskar the Portal Father." Ashlanaya motioned to the statue as they approached closer. "He used to be worshipped by masses of Sigil's citizens, and then he apparently stepped across a line when one of the Dabus became a high priest of his."

"What happened then?" Malcolm stared at the haunting smile playing across its stone lips.

"The Lady of Pain killed him." The tiefling's tone was flat and somber. "In the space of moments his clergy was decimated, his worshippers flayed, his former temple in the Lower Ward razed to the ground, and his corpse hurled into the Astral. Some lines you don't cross."

"Now you've got that look on your face." Malcolm watched as the paladin glanced at the statue and shivered. "Why?"

"Because the closer we get to the Key, I can't help but feel that we're about to cross that very same line..."

Under the statue's indeterminate expression, they were all silent at that thought. But still, they proceeded deeper into the ruins, past the statue and into the heart of the region of the city that had collapsed in the aftermath of the so-called Night of Bladed Shadows. The destruction was greater deeper in, with entire buildings reduced to piles of broken stones with not a single intact block remaining, an architectural debris field marred with bones and the aftereffects of fires that must have ravaged entire city blocks at a time during the Clueless Rebellion.

"Death to the Incantifers?" Doran read aloud a splotch of graffiti painted on a toppled wall.

"They were a Faction, though they've been dead and dissolved for nearly as long as this place here." Surefoot spoke as they progressed. "They were one of the most powerful factions, and they ate magic like normal things eat food and drink water. It was their stranglehold on power in Sigil that led to the Clueless Rebellion, and though they survived that, eventually their headquarters and their leaders were mazed by Her Serenity. Supposedly a few of them survived and linger on, but their philosophy is pretty much dead and gone. Walking around down here is like a history lesson. It's fascinating."

Onwards they went, passing more graffiti against the Incanterium, against the Sodkillers, and other long-forgotten groups once pillars of Sigil now turned to dust. They passed skeletons dressed in the armor of the Sodkillers, the style a precursor to the Mercykillers now split once again into their original component organizations. The deeper they went however, the looming sense of dread that Surefoot and Ashlanaya felt only increased, and doubly so for the paladin. In fact, she felt nauseated with each step.

"Why is there an intact building down here?" Zenia stopped dead in her tracks, pointing to what had once been a small, squat building adjacent to a short stone tower. Every building adjacent was reduced to broke stone and pools of slag, but it remained without a scratch. Upon its front still stood an archway and a single closed door, all unmarked by the passage of time and even the scavenging predation of the fiends that still haunted the subsumed city.

Doran rubbed the sprig of mistletoe at his neck for luck, "What do you want to bet that that's where we're going?"

"That's it..." Ashlanaya grimaced and swallowed, unsteady on her feet.

They were finally close to the object they were tasked to find. 'Finally,' Ashlanaya thought to herself, 'We'll finally be done with working for a fiend', but what they saw upon the door would not improve her feelings of sickness and apprehension.

It was made of stone, and the hinges too, both implausibly cut from the same block, presumably conjured forth by magic than through the genius of some legendary stone-cutter. Upon the door though was something that they did not expect.

"Oh pike it all..." Zenia slumped her shoulders and stepped back.

"This isn't good..." Ashlanaya winced and clutched her holy symbol like a life preserver.

"Oh what the hell?!" Surefoot gave an agonized sigh. "I really, really truly don't want to even touch that door."

There upon the door was a sculpture of Her Serenity in iron, frowning, with her eyes bleeding rust and verdigris.



So, I know this was a oneshot side story... but I can't help but image your players finding every curse word imaginable to throw at you after those three encounters.


So, I know this was a oneshot side story... but I can't help but image your players finding every curse word imaginable to throw at you after those three encounters.

The rats, the psionic undead, fiends... Yeah :)

The next one shot I ran, Clueless's player played a cranium rat hive.


Heck, I was thinking even shorter term, like shadowy figure (either the Jester or, more likely, Vorkannis), the Aoskar door, then the Lady's door. Sounds freaky as all get out.

How does playing a hive even work out? And is that oneshot part of the same continuity?

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