Session 247, Part Three
Negotiating the Treacherous Northern Gyre
They flew back to Ascetia. There was no sign of Rock. Calily said that she had seen the Pleasure hit by point defences and lose forward momentum, but had lost sight of the ship in the heat of battle.
Master Chyak told them they had earned the undying loyalty of the monks of Caeloon, and when told of the situation, hoped that they would choose to bind his world with theirs. Uriel requested the opportunity to spar with him, but Chyak declined, having had his fill of violence. Before the monks departed, Calily gave each of them a big, long hug.
Thisraldion also thanked them, and spoke of the reinforced bond between the Dreaming and Risur. “We will return to our shattered world,” he said, “and see you again when you bond with us.” Thisraldion was able to teleport all of the fey with him, though Sly Marbo remained on the Coaltongue, bidding his family farewell.
On Ascetia, William Miller was waiting for them. He had taken Korrigan’s words to heart and would join them in their voyage to – and through – the Gyre. “I will take my own medicine, in other words,” he said. “What you said was true. I must overcome my fear. And besides, it wouldn’t be right to expect you to make the sacrifice alone. This is as much my fight as yours, if not more so.”
Using the gidim vortex array, they scanned the surrounding worlds and charted a path through the rest of the Northern Gyre, but before they set off on the Coaltongue, they had some unfinished business: Until now, they had neglected to establish the planar traits of Ascetia, which turned out to be a heightened awareness of the importance of history. They created a Golden Icon of Ascetia, in case this turned out to be useful in constructing their brave new world. Next, with Leon’s help, they gingerly retraced their steps to examine the traits of Egalitrix and Elofasp:
By now, Egalitrix was a cooling mass of lava. A few hapless windskiffs buzzed around like forlorn wasps, their hive destroyed. Keeping out of sight, if only to avoid complications and delays, Kai and Uriel set about learning the history, and establishing the traits of the plane (while the others looked for Rock, to no avail): Kai said that bonding with Egalitrix would make the world more greedy and factories ‘bigger and better’ – “like Jiese, but you can’t stop it very easily”; Uriel uncovered the story of a world that had destroyed itself in pursuit of gain. The last survivors were wealthy industrialists who watched their planet die from the lap of luxury, atop a volcano that provided an endless supply of power. Eventually, the rest of the world crumbled away, leaving behind just this bastion of avarice and exploitation. It was, of course, ideal for the Golden Legion to claim as its capital in the Gyre. Paelyrion had greatly admired these industrialists, adding many of them to his ranks as horned devils, and modelling Legion Command on their vast ‘boardroom’. Having rid Egalitirix of the Legion, the were able to create an icon, before moving on to Elofasp.
It took several attempts to find a safe spot on the Spawning Hive. Kai then established the trait of the plane: animals would be larger and more obedient. Uriel learned that Elofasp was once a colony of bizarre alien beings of colossal intellect, but one of their elder brains was slain and consumed by an immense telepathic insect. Massive spawn rose up around the world and overwhelmed the original inhabitants. The fate of Elofasp was darker than its trait suggested, and they found that having rid the plane of the Legion, they could create an icon.
These last two planes were revisited by teleportation, while the Coaltongue set off from Ascetia. The next unexplored plane they reached was Apo – a twenty-mile-diameter hoop. Descending on stone discs, they found its edge was a hundred-foot-wide shelf of mortared bones. This surrounded a vast plain of segmented plates with complex repeating patterns that formed a labyrinthine road, fifty feet wide, weaving toward the centre of the plain. It looks like there might be some puzzle to decode. Scattered around the plane’s perimeter were roughly-carved wooden signs that read “Warning: Invisible Lava.” (Leon checked. There was no invisible lava.) Uriel and Kai set about doing the usual. Kai had great difficulty explaining the trait, but it seemed to involved the random appearance of ‘black blobs’ that killed everything they touched. They figured these might be similar to the horrifying spell sphere of annihilation. Uriel then declared that this entire world was a trap set by a god of trapsmithing to defeat heroes as powerful as them. It succeeded, then fell into the Gyre.
While they absorbed this information, seven spots on the labyrinthine road begin to glow with red light. The nearest was right where the bone shelf touches the patterned floor. Would this be enough to whet their curiosity? No, as it turned out:
“Let’s get out of here,” someone said.
“If we can…” said another.
They could and they did.
On to Ringes, a barren moor, where they established the trait of murderous violence, and an equally troubling history: a plague wizard, who died and passed her power on to her evil, feline familiar. This familiar, Ystis, was out there somewhere even now, having brought about the demise of the rest of the world’s inhabitants. From a great distance, Korrigan saw a throne of bones, with feline dander scattered all about it. Again, the unit feared that their departure might be prevented; again, they were able to leave without incident and thus avoided a second, but this time all-too-literal cat.
And so to Guay, the Grove of Dreams. This world was a pleasure plane created by a god of artists as a gift to his beloved, a mortal painter. Trees of countless variety seemed were perpetually lit by a non-existent, setting sun, and every surface was unreal, its shape and texture either cloudy like watercolour or stiff and layered as if painted in oils. Uriel looked into the past and saw it unfold even more vividly than on other worlds:
The artist enjoyed her time here, but the god kept making excuses why she could not leave, so she painted a mural on the inside of her villa, showing the god as he slept, with a doorway beside him. When next the god slept, indeed this door appeared, and she stepped into her lover’s dreams, discovering that he had killed everyone else who had ever seen her work, so that he alone could enjoy it. Still inside his dream, she painted another mural, this showing the god finding the artist dead by hanging. Then she left his dream and hid, and when the god awoke he was convinced the artist was dead. In despair he hung himself.
The foolish painter, though, thought she could paint a portal back home, but she was trapped. She eventually went mad and hung herself too, but not before desperately painting every surface she could: her home, boulders, tree trunks, and even the withered corpse of the god. A recurring motif was windows within windows, and beautiful women whose eyes were hidden by flowing hair desperately trying to smash their way free. Often it seemed like the women are trapped inside the painting, trying to get out.
While Kai tried to establish the trait, a figure approached through the painted trees. It was Leone Quital! The Steelshaper cursed them bitterly, said that Gupta’s newfound divinity was tainted by her curse, and that Rumdoom would betray them. They were about to respond, when they all awoke, having not realised that they had fallen asleep.
Gupta stood in wonder, and realised that this would happen again, before Kai could establish the trait of the plane. Leon experimented by casting daydream on Gupta (with her permission) to see if the dream he imposed was in any way altered. Though it played out as he intended, he got the feeling that he could enter the dream and interact with it, as if it were a demi-plane. Unsure of the consequences of doing so, he left it alone.
Shortly after Gupta ‘awoke’, they were approached again, this time by Rush Muchhausen, who – in equally bitter but more colourful language than Quital – hurled imprecations upon them: Their group was falling apart; Korrigan’s leadership was failing; the Ob would defeat them because the Ob was unified.
Again, they awoke, without having realised they had slept, unsure of exactly when the dream began, or if they were actually still in it (a thought which prompted them to examine the phenomenon; they weren’t – for now.)
So Gupta used her ability to impart an ideal to her listeners, again with their permission. She told them that their next dream would reveal the ‘secret’ of this world – the means of their escape from the dreams, to successfully discover the trait of Guay and possibly bond with it. Uriel prophesied that this attempt of Gupta’s would work.
At once, they became aware of an enormous presence. A vast serpentine form slithered and crashed through forest, keeping largely out of sight (though they caught glimpses of it through the trees). Now the Voice of Rot addressed them: It could see all the deaths they had caused in the past, and knew which ones caused them the greatest regret. It took particular delight in knowing that the demise of Jenny Greenteeth had troubled Korrigan. Then it crashed out of the treeline and swallowed Kai in an instant, followed by Korrigan, Leon, Uru, Uriel, Rumdoom, Gupta, Quratulain, all of them. …
When they awoke – with an initial start, followed by huge relief – the dream was over, and they were not troubled by another. Kai established the planar trait – dreams became real, and could be affected, added to, stolen from; even ideas and memories could be added and removed. Uncertain of what benefits this might bring, they created a golden icon, and left Guay behind.
There weren’t many planes to go now. Reida was close. Their confrontation with the Voice of Rot was at hand.
End of Session