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[ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 234, Part Two

Bhoior

Once they were sure he was out of immediate danger, they left Leon in Ayesha’s care.

Uriel seemed withdrawn and contemplative for a while after their visit to Thrag. (He had learned something personal about the nature of reincarnation, which he chose not to share with the others right away.)

Korrigan studied Calily’s map, and the version they were making themselves. Then he asked Uriel (and Xambria) to employ the vortex array to examine the energies of the surrounding planes. Once this was done, he began to plot a careful path through the Southern Gyre that would enable them to explore each and every plane without retracing their steps. He did not want to skip over any opportunity to forge a better world. This path would take them to Bhoior next, so he asked Calily how she had managed to move the great turtle.

“Patience,” she answered. When asked to elucidate further, she explained that she had meditated on the turtle for over a month, whereupon it slowly flew across the void at her request, enabling her to explore the deadly Northern Gyre. “An experience I only narrowly survived.”

Gupta wondered how a whole turtle could form just a fragment of a plane. Answers were waiting on Bhoior:

Ignoring Uru’s attempt to chart a path up the turtle’s arse, they landed at the very centre of the plane, where the energies would be strongest and Kai’s reading of its traits would be simplest. The plane was indeed a twenty-mile-wide turtle composed of stones filled with fossils that had trapped the souls of the dead. Now many thousands more spirits from the Bleak Gate filled this world. “We can go no further,” they told Uru, gesturing ahead to the plane their charts called ‘Amrou’, which appeared to form some sort of barrier to them.

The trapped spirits, meanwhile, whispered that they knew secrets but would never reveal them except to those who knew the souls when they were alive. Uriel used a spell to compel them to do so, and they confessed that had been lying. When asked why, they said, “For fun; there’s not much else to do around here.”

After being temporarily side-tracked, Uriel used his location loresight ritual to see if he could learn something of the history of this place. While he meditated, so did Kai. Kai soon declared that if bonded with, this plane would cause sounds to echo many years later. (A hard concept for a four-year-old to grasp and communicate.) They interpreted this to mean that people would be more innately aware of the past, and less doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. Interesting. (Everyone immediately thought of one specific person who could benefit from this effect. …)

Uriel’s ritual yielded unusually detailed results, so rich was this plane in sentient, whispering spirits:

Long ago another, greater turtle bore several continents upon its back, and when it neared its proscribed death it traveled for the spawning ground of its mighty species where it could transfer the people who lived on its shell to another. Alas, the great turtle died before it could reach its destination, and so died an entire world.

Centuries later a new turtle awoke from the huge dead body, and it could hear the mournful memories of those it never had a chance to save.

Made aware of this sad story, Kai was able to bond with the plane and an hour later another golden icon was created.

Shabboath

Gupta made an attempt to persuade Korrigan to head north straight away. She gave some half-hearted reasons about reaching Egalitrix, but Uriel could sense an ulterior motive. When pressed, she admitted that the blinking lighthouse of Ascetia fascinated her and she did not want to wait too long to investigate it. Korrigan tapped his chart pedantically, where his proposed route was clearly marked, and said, “We already have a plan of action. All in good time.”

On to Shabboath: a vast bog dotted with spurs of karst limestone. Remote viewing yielded little, save that this world was fairly teeming with listless vaknids. Closer, they realised that a light drizzle fell here almost continually. Uru cast a water-walk ritual on everyone. (Except Leon, who was yet to regain consciousness.)

They followed the usual routine: land, and wait for Kai to bond, while Uriel sought to learn something of the plane’s history. While they waited, Calily suggested that they investigate one of the huge sinkholes they had seen as they passed overhead, one of which was close by.

Uriel, still present in the moment despite his evident concentration, told Korrigan that Calily did not say what everyone thought she said, adding: there is a powerful sentient presence here, deep below the surface. “Evidently, it wants us to go down there,” he said.

Kai announced that linking Lanjyr with Shabboath would have a physical effect on the world, creating a network of spooky, underground tunnels, as vast and complex as the surface world. For the first time since their odyssey began, here was a trait that appealed to Uru. He was therefore presently surprised when, to everyone’s astonishment, the usually cautious Korrigan announced:

“I think we should take a look.”

There were mixed reactions. Uriel didn’t think it was a good idea; nor did Calily. Hildegaard said she didn’t want to go underground under any circumstances. “The last time I entered a sunlit, watery realm, inhabited by psychic entities it did not end well.”

When asked for his reasons, Korrigan said, “There might be someone down there who needs rescuing.”

That sounded a bit feeble, but Quratulain said, “You are the king. You call the shots. If you say we go down there, then we go down there.” Uru furiously agreed.

Uriel scowled. These inexplicable motives were signs of manipulation by a higher power. But Korrigan insisted that he was acting of his own free will, and wanted to leave ‘no stone unturned’ in their exploration of the Gyre.

A quick investigation of the sinkhole with Korrigan’s clairvoyant eye revealed huge, flooded tunnels that could only be navigated aquatically. Perhaps they could call in the Sunfish? They made arrangements for it to be lowered from the Coaltongue.

At this, Hildegaard became adamant in her refusal to accompany them and it was clear that she expected Rumdoom’s support. He gave a shrug and his expression was one of helpless resignation as he accompanied his wife back to the ship.

End of Session
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 235, Part One - The Severed Sea

The Severed Sea

When Rumdoom and Hildegaard returned to the Coaltongue, Korrigan thought better of bringing Kai along for their underdark explorations, and sent Quratulain back to the mother ship too, to protect him. Quratulain accepted this order without question, so it was unnecessary for Uriel to add, “I fear that mundane weapons will be of little use here in any case.” To which Quratulain responded, “There is nothing mundane about my weapons.” Calily decided that she would return to the Coaltongue too.

Those who remained on Shabboath checked out the sinkhole more fully. Creepers extended half of its depth, constantly dripping water into shallow pools in the rocks below. The tunnel then extended laterally for a while before it reached a deep, wide pool. It would be impossible to bring the Sunfish here, so they went back to check out other sinkholes. Eventually they found one where the water lay immediately beneath the hole. Korrigan shifted into his water form (a power he still had a habit of referring to as Meld with Mavishadespite its recent disconnection from that plane); Uriel took on the form of a squid; together they explored the tunnel to ensure that it was big enough to justify lowering the Sunfish.

It was: deep, branching and circuitous. They kept on going, maintaining telepathic contact. While they waited on the surface, Uru modified his tiny biomechanical friends for aquatic use, fitting them with miniaturised rebreathers. (These were prototypes he had not even tested out.) Gupta noted that several vaknids had approached and appeared to be watching them from a distance.

The scouts eventually found their way through to a vast body of water. How vast was unclear. Korrigan tried to inform those on the surface of this fact and at once discovered that telekinesis was no longer possible, which was disturbing. He wondered if this was a lake, and if they could surface, and so immediately headed up, rising a couple of hundred feet before meeting with a thick, waxy barrier. Neither he nor Uriel could identify this substance or name its origin. Uriel spotted hagfish-like eels – eyeless and barbed – swimming all about them.

Korrigan declared his interest in exploring further before bringing the Sunfish down, reasoning that it would be useful to know if the craft could surface: was there an air pocket above the wax? Uriel – who had counselled against coming down here in the first place – noted that there was something quite out of character in his old friend’s slightly reckless insistence on probing deeper and deeper into the depths with fewer and fewer allies. He gently insisted that they return to the surface and come back with the Sunfish, which was after all their initial plan. Korrigan reluctantly agreed and they did so.

After setting up a number of contingencies with the Coaltongue – namely that, should the king and his companions not return for any reason, the remaining unit members should continue their quest to explore the Gyre, create golden icons and find a way to get back to Lanjyr – they lowered the Sunfish into the sinkhole as far as they could, before dropping it the rest of the way. Uru, dressed in a fetching sailor suit, took the helm, with Gupta as his co-pilot. Down they went.

Eventually, they came to the vast expanse of water and, having first established that they were too deep to maintain radio contact with the Coaltongue, rose to the level of the wax and began tracing the wall of the cavern. Uriel spotted the barbed eels shooting up through small holes in the wax, then slithering back down again. Occasionally, they clutched something in their mouths when they returned: bats! This was a lake after all.

Korrigan wondered if the wax was itself a barrier to communication, since they were able to communicate with each other freely. Uriel said that he felt the same presence he had detected on the surface – a psychic presence that caused a kind of interference in its proximity. But the emanations weren’t directional and he couldn’t tell where they were coming from. Having dealt with that question, Uriel now dealt with another – he transformed into a barbed eel, and shot up one of the hole they were using, finding open air on the other side. The receptors the eels used relayed information to him – movement overheard, which he presumed to be the bats. Uriel then shifted form again, this time into a giant bat (so as not to present a tempting target to any other eels), and used echolocation to establish that this chamber was very large – extending far beyond the range and limit of the bat’s echolocation. Caution prevented him from flying around in this form. He switched back to eel form, returned to the water, and became a squid once again.

They resumed their circumnavigation, keeping a careful mental track of the location of the entrance hole, which was difficult, since the wall of the cavern was not circular or regular. In the end, after half an hour – at the end of which they merely established that this lake was very, very large – they turned around and headed back to the entrance, which they marked with an invisible symbol. This done, they then headed down. And down. Several hundred feet. The water became soupy and they spotted small fragments on the bed – shell or bone. Now they moved directly out, perpendicular to the cavern wall, hugging the bottom. The layer of detritus on the bed became thicker as they went and eventually the fragments became larger and more identifiable: bones; humanoid bones – skulls and ribs and femurs. Many, many creatures had died here.

“Drawn down here to explore, perhaps?” Uriel mused, pointedly.

Something loomed large in the water above them: what turned out to be the tip of a large structure, like an incredibly large, fat stalactite composed of the same waxy substance as on the surface of the water, from which this tower of wax depended. There were holes in the structure large enough for the Sunfish to enter, and so they went inside. Within were twisting tunnels that could not have been caused by the natural passage of water. These were far too abstract, sharp and strangely beautiful, like the interior cavity of a shell, or an earlobe – curved and carved, unlike the flat, functional seal above. After some time navigating this strange labyrinth – coming across occasional exits as they went; always heading gradually higher and higher – Gupta wondered aloud if they would find anything resembling a chamber, or if it was just tunnels all the way to the top. At that very moment, the tunnel they were currently following, gave out onto just such a chamber: broad and high, with many entrance and exits throughout, leading away like valves from a heart. But the chamber was empty. Uru suggested blasting it with the Tyrant Eye but his plan was overruled.

Uriel used location loresight here, and was instantly overwhelmed by psychic emanations – alien and unintelligible. He had never experienced such a powerful mental assault when using loresight before, and it left him reeling. When he eventually recovered, he tried to make some sense of what he had experienced, but could not do so, save to confirm that a very puissant mind indeed had occupied this chamber for a very long time. Korrigan at last demonstrated something of his customary caution, and suggested they leave the lake entirely. Uriel used the detect planar energies ritual the Voice of Rot had taught them. If this being was not native to Shabboath, they could follow its trail. But it must have been native, as the ritual failed. By the time he was done, Korrigan had changed his mind again, driven by curiosity to investigate further. This time they decided to exit the tower and follow it up to the surface in the water outside.

When they reached the wax barrier, Uriel found a hole and went through it again. Again, in giant bat form he used echolocation to establish that there were strange structures nearby, hemispherical lattices formed by clasped fingers of wax. He returned to the water, and it was decided that they should try to breach the wax barrier here. Uru began to use the Tyrant’s Eye to cut a hole; unlike the very basic mechanical means of firing and shutting off the eye in more-or-less a straight line, Uru was able to use his ghostly friends to manipulate the eye quite finely.

It took some time. The hole was three-quarters done when Uriel saw that something was coming.

At first it looked like a shoal of glowing fish, blinking in and out of sight but generally coming closer. Only as they neared did it become apparent that they weren’t ‘blinking’, but passing behind a much larger, darker shape which they were endlessly circling around. This thing was not at all streamlined, and yet it powered through the water at incredible speed, as if the water around it were less of an obstacle than thin air. A huge, segmented shell, the size of a house, with three glowing ‘eyes’ peering out of its segments, and three thick rubbery tentacles trailing behind it.

Both Uriel and Korrigan tried to communicate with the creature, while Uru rotated the Sunfish and prepared to fire if necessary. He had set the eye up to fire as a default – he was holding it closed. If something happened to him, it would fire automatically. He warned Gupta to take over in such an eventuality.

The creature powered forward, heedless of all telepathic greetings, reached out with a rubbery tentacle and grabbed Korrigan. Psychic energy coursed through him, and might have driven him quite mad, were it not for the anchoring power of the Humble Hook. The creature let go of him and kept on moving, leaving him hanging limp in the water, feeling disconnected from his own body, as if he were in fact the creature, moving at speed towards the Sunfish, ploughing past Uriel who was able to weave its fate as it passed (a spell that connected him to the destiny of the target).

Uru fired. The Tyrant’s Eye struck the creature and pain coursed through Korrigan, who had somehow been psychically linked to it. (Fortunately, the Hook once again protected him from suffering any real harm.) Shortly after the beam hit it, the creature vanished. Gupta peered through the porthole to confirm that it had in fact gone, not simply turned invisible.

What was it? Was it real, or a manifested psychic memory? Gupta thought on it for a while, and intuited that it had been a psychic projection of some sort.

Nothing happened for a while. Since cutting a hole seemed to have provoked it, it was agreed that Uru should finish the job. This he did, and proceeded to then slice up the circle they had made such that it would easily part when the Sunfish rose through it. Uriel kept an eye out, and announced that not one but two forms were approaching – both more easily visible than the first as the main body itself was aglow: one a blue and red harlequin, the other sporting purple striations. Again, Korrigan tried to reach out to them as they approached.

Suddenly, Uriel was aware of the approach of the being whose fate he had woven. It loomed upwards from the depths having approached from below, and emitted as net of eerie, slimy bars. These bars wrapped around anything they struck, forming a sticky acidic mesh; otherwise, they dissipated in the water. Uriel dodged clear, but the slime struck the Sunfish, eating into the hull, and interfering with propulsion.

Korrigan avoided being grabbed by the blue and red projection; the other swept past him and tried to grab Uriel, who darted away and wove its fate too. Korrigan swam towards the Sunfish and tried to hack off the acidic bars around the propeller. Gupta took the controls and turned the craft while Uru brought the Tyrant’s Eye to bear on the stripey purple manifestation. He fired and it vanished. Uriel fended off more tentacles. Korrigan ordered Uru to fire again and, with the help of his ghostly hands he turned the eye towards it, fired again and caused it to vanish too. The third creature – the original with the fiery fish-motes – vanished of its own accord.

Uru sent his biomechanical creatures out to try to fix the leaks that had sprung up in the hull of the Sunfish, but the damage could not be easily fixed. Korrigan wondered if they shouldn’t head back now. These beings were very dangerous, and further contact did not promise to yield further insights. Uru was keen to investigate the waxy structures on the surface, having gone to all that trouble to make a hole. But no, discretion finally got the better of them, and they returned to tunnel from whence they had come, hoping to cover the four miles without further encounter.

To their relief and surprise, the creatures did not return and they eventually came to the tunnel Uriel had marked. They entered, only to discover that it had been sealed by wax, about thirty feet in! It was then that the three projection appeared, crawling into the tunnel from behind them. There was a flurry of tentacle strikes, eerie slimecraft and unpleasantness. Instead of firing at the creatures, uru focused the Tyrant’s Eye on the wax barrier. It didn’t appear to be working! Gupta concentrated and realised that it was an illusion.

When she announced this fact, Uriel dug deep and invoked a powerful divine symbol. It split into three beams of radiant fire, striking each of the psychic projections and causing all three to vanish once again.

Limping back to the Coaltongue, they were all surprised when Gupta said, “I think we should go back and get to the bottom of all this.”

“She didn’t say that,” Uriel explained.

“No, I didn’t,” said Gupta. “Whatever it was.”

After more exhausted silence, Uriel couldn’t help but say, “I’d like to reiterate my earlier suggestion that we don’t go down there.”
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 235, Part Two - The Plane of Ruin

The Plane of Ruin

Later, while they recovered on the Coaltongue, Korrigan explained his plan of action. “We need to gather information to give us the widest number of options to secure the best possible outcome for Lanjyr. This only thing we have to lose is time, and for that reason, we will chart a path that means we do not have to double back on ourselves. For the moment, we are lacking options for a plane of water. Padyer was unsuitable; Hunlow and Shabboath unsafe. So we must bond with Mavisha.”

“We need a plane of death,” said Uru.


Korrigan acknowledged this fact before he went on: “Mavisha is close by, so I propose we head there. I’d be interested to know what it’s second trait might be.”

Uriel told him it was time.

“I’d really like to advocate strongly for a plane of death,” Uru insisted.

“Yes, we need a plane of death,” said Uriel. “We can’t pick and choose, we need one of each: earth, air, fire, water, space, time, life and death.”

“I just want to make sure we get a good death one,” said Uru.

They discussed Korrigan’s plan further. The only drawback with going to Mavisha next was that, according to his own rules – that they should avoid retracing their steps – doing so left Nem, Av and the Plain of Rice unexplored. Korrigan shrugged. They already had a Golden Icon of Nem; they couldn’t bond with Av without rescuing Thisraldion; they’d already been to Padyer; the plain of rice sounded… well, plain. Uriel reminded Korrigan that because he and Leon had been absent went they visited Padyer, and so there was still the matter of the arcane-locked, alabaster tower. Nem might at least be worth taking a look at; there might be refugees on Av. As for the Plain of Rice… well, they always just fly over that without stopping on their way back.

So the rules of engagement were established and they flew to Nem.

Every surface of Lanjyr’s erstwhile plane of death was a dark grey, except for glowing spirits on their exodus from Nem to Bhoior. They decided to fly down on discs and talk to the spirits, to see if any of them had died recently and could relay any news from Lanjyr. This turned out to be a futile endeavour, like finding a needle in a vague, querulous haystack.

Korrigan asked Kai what the plane’s trait was: “When connected to our world it is dangerous to come here. That’s not happening right now, though. Also, ghosts are stronger.”

Back on board the Coaltongue, Admiral Smith pointed out that the section of Nem they were looking at corresponded to the Avery Coast on Lanjyr: you could see the railway running along the coastline and – look there! – a train abandoned exactly where the unit managed to escape being dragged into Nem. They decided to go down and have a look.

They approached the train from the rear. Uru set foot inside and then picked his way from carriage to carriage. The others made their way along the train outside, or on the roof. Uriel was particularly interested in reaching the front, to see if they could obtain any oil of Nem left over in the shattered Wayfarers’ Lantern.

Three-quarters of the way along the train, Uru saw a glow up ahead. It was coming through the open door of one of the first class cabins (the very one they had occupied, if memory served). Gingerly, he picked his way forward, shuriken-crossbow raised. When he looked inside he saw the ghost of a debonair tiefling gunslinger slumped in one of the plush seats. His wide-brimmed hat was tipped forward over his eyes; his hand, lolling down by his legs, clutched an all-too-real pistol, fashioned in a baroque style. It was Boone.

“He was a very bad man, if I recall,” said Korrigan. “A murderer of defenceless women. We must take care.”

They approached with caution. When Boone became aware of their presence, all he did was turn his eyes in their direction and tilt his head sufficiently that the brim of his hat raised up so he could see them. He curled his lip slightly in apathetic disdain, then looked away again. Uriel at once sensed the danger the weapon posed and tried to prise it telekinetically from Boone’s grasp. Boone’s fingers tightened on the grip and raised up with it, but in the end he did not seem to have the energy of the will to hold on. His fingers slipped free and his hand fell back into his lap.

“This weapon is possessed by a demon,” Uriel announced. “It demands to be fed with innocent blood.” So Boone’s actions had been unwilling, had they? He looked back at the tiefling and said, “Do you desire peace?”

Without even looking at him, Boone replied, “I had it, until a moment ago.”

So they left him to dwindle, repent, or linger. Uriel brought the pistol along, keeping at it telekinetic arm’s length until had had time to conduct a ritual of banishment.

When went back to the ship they found that their ghostly passengers had manifested more strongly. Leon awoke to a gentle touch on his cheek. He opened his eyes to see that it was not Ayesha, who had been tending him, but Lavanya. Gupta was able to talk to Helandra, and learn more about Jenny Greenteeth; Uru sat down with El Perro and reminisced about the old days; Korrigan was overjoyed to be able to speak with and embrace Elizabeth for the first time in many years. Once they had shared a few words, he introduced Kai to his mother. What might have been a strange, eerie encounter was made easy by Kai’s disarming manner – he was not in the least concerned about Elizabeth’s ghostly form, and chatted with her happily. Because here on Nem, ghosts took s stronger, physical form, he was able to sit on her lap and give her a hug. Then he thanked her for giving her life to protect him – a tale Korrigan had told him many times.

Everyone received a mental message from Korrigan: “We will stay here on Nem for another day.”

And so we leave the unit for a while, enjoying a rare respite from their adventures, and from the depredations of the Gyre…

End of Session

PS. The only thing to disturb this peace was a cry of pain and alarm, and the sound of splintering wood and shearing metal, as Uriel’s attempt to banish the demon in Boone’s pistol drew a rebuke from the Gyre: The same misty gear-teeth that accompanied the banishments invoked by the priests of Hunlow tore through Uriel’s cabin and ripped at his flesh until he ended the spell. The crew gathered in alarm, then went to fetch materials to repair the damage. Uriel, meanwhile, repaired himself.

End of Zeitgeist Season 6
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I'm glad I got that last post in, just before the big upgrade, as it was the final session report before our six-week summer break. Would have been weird to have left it hanging. However, as I was behind posting these reports, the next session isn't all that far away now - less than three weeks until the final season of our Continuing Adventures.

It would appear that we will be taking our time over adventure #12, though. The party (well, Korrigan) has come up with a rationale for exploring every crevice of the Gyre, having decided (given their vision of the future) that time is not of the essence. I'm glad about this, but their determination to check out everything the campaign has to offer led to some odd behaviour on Shabboath. It was the first and only time that I as DM couldn't grok their justification for exploring. Obviously, groups coming to Shabboath from Mavisha haver every reason to poke their noses around; my group just wanted to and came up with some pretty queasy reasoning. But I quite enjoyed the serendipity that this happened on a plane where strange voices and psychic energies draw the unwary into the sunless sea, so that's how I wrote it up.

A nice, cathartic finale came about at random. I couldn't plan for anything dramatic, not knowing where the players would go. As it was, we left them in the relative calm of Nem, speaking with the empowered ghosts they had rescued from the Bleak Gate. We've handled these conversations on-line, and I'll report them in a prologue to 'Season 7'...
 

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