Orrery

Episode 1 - Awakening

It's like when you wake up, and aren't sure whether or not you are still dreaming, and three hours later, you're still not sure

the lion and the hart

We begin with a shared dream (continuing the dream of two of the characters) in which six strangers find themselves in an icy hellscape of ruined towers and magic circles, locked in mortal combat with two enormous monsters: a ram-headed humanoid, and a giant scaled and winged creature. The strangers are: a tiny goblin wizard, a thug with a bull’s head, a tiny pack-rat humanoid laden with tchochkes, an animated corpse, a vicious armed orc, and a dog-headed thing wielding a bow. All are hopelessly outclassed by the great beasts. While the goblin wizard avoids combat altogether and tries to loot the ruins, discovering some small skeleton with two sortilegio tokens around its neck, the horned thug enters a magic circle on which the dog-head is standing. He hears in his bullish head an unearthly voice that says “Choose”, and he chooses himself. Liquid fire boils up out of the dog-head and snarls across the frozen field, consuming them all.

Six strangers awake, naked, in mortuary or operating theater of some sort, a bead-shaped glass room covered in grime. Two were as they were in the dream, the goblin (Bogey) and the zombie (Irkalla), and the other four wake as their true selves, a gorgon swordmage (Rondanina), a drow warlord (T’rissriia), a drow paladin (Xul’gos), and a half-orc beast master (Saleos). Each awakes with a sortilegio token bound around their neck. The four who had changed form from dream to waking arise to find a single tiny bleeding pinprick of some sort on their foreheads. Bogey and Irkalla are whole, although have memories of a dream in which they woke up with such a wound. Bogey is clutching the pair of sortilegio tokens he found in the dream. No one knows where they are or how they came to be there. The sound and vibration of explosive force rattles the room around them. Some of the party clothes themselves in filthy rags, some remain nude.

Exploring the room a bit and wiping the grime from the window, they discover they are far underwater, part of a grape cluster arcology of some sort, made of myriad bead-shaped glass enclosures. One – that is close enough to them to see in it humanoids screaming for help – detaches violently from the connecting system of brass tubes, and falls away, down towards a black and abyssal trench, disappearing. The structure continues to be shaken with explosions. Exiting the room, the party comes across another operating theatre, this one lined with the cages of animals containing various species’ young. Saleos frees and befriends a griffon whelp (Morax), to which the gorgon bestows her own sortilegio. A young boy in rags beckons the party forward to one of the tables where a young girl lies in labor; both speak a language no one in the party recognizes. The party intervenes through means magical and mundane and are able to preserve the life of the girl and her two infants. Bogey, for horrible reasons of his own, consumes the afterbirth of the first child. He also gives his two spare sortilegio to the infants. T’rissriia takes one infant with her, Rondanina the other, as the players arm themselves with junk and make their way towards some kind of exit, which appears to be a luminescent triangle.

All the party disappears as they step into it, except the two carrying the infants, T’rissriia and Rondanina. As they step on the triangle, klaxons sound and tiny robots with meters-long eyestalks accost them and demand they choose, in a language the party understands. Rondanina says “This one,” and the robots strangle the baby in her arms with their eyestalks. She puts its sortilegio on her neck (one of the sortilegios Bogey woke up with) and the robots retreat with the newborn corpse and the three are allowed to proceed after their companions.

the surface

On the surface, they find a barren landscape of ash and fire and flattened forest as far as their eyes can see. A strange half moon or half planet fills the sky – half as in, appears to have been cleaved in two. Meteor showers and fire line the horizon. The young boy drags the girl off in one direction; the party does not follow, and instead tramps towards some architectural feature in the distance, a tower. As they approach, they find it is a shantytown nestled in an enormous crater. The rim of the crater is dotted with enormous trees from which dozens of bodies are hung. Xul’gos collects seven sortilegios from the bodies, and they descend into the town. It appears to have been hastily and shoddily built from the rubble of an older, much finer city. The party can make out mosaics on the road to the tower; a common theme is adults separating pairs of children. The shanty town appears to be populated exclusively with preadolescent identical twins, virtually feral children, wearing rags and pecking in the dust for food, roasting vermin on spits. Some of the children appear to have been grievously injured—but no more than one per pair. None speak a language the party recognizes or understands.

They approach and enter the tower, which is locked from the outside, as if to keep a things in, rather than out. The children in the vicinity of the tower flee as fast as they can. Inside, the party discovers the entire length of the tower is a hollow stone cylinder topped by some sort of glass element radiating light. There is also a single young boy on the stone floor, with a large and odd birthmark on his face, who seems to know at least some of the words of the party’s most common language. He asks if they are there to take him to “Ova”. Then tentacles explode out of his eyes and mouth and he attacks the travelers, moving about the tower leaving voids of time, space and consciousness in his wake. The party comes close to slaying it – in the process of which the griffon whelp Morax is slain – but winged mouthless creatures of radiance and flame descend from the glowing element in the tower and take the birth-marked boy-creature up and through it.

One of the winged creatures is carrying under its arm a small metal head that bleeps and blurps and the party hears it saying “Zero miles, seven minutes.” The goblin wizard Bogey recognizes this as a countdown of some urgency, and the party flees the tower as quickly as they can, heading towards the lip of the crater.

They almost but not quite escape the blast radius as a small comet impacts the tower and annihilates the town and its inhabitants. Their semi-competent flight also saved the lives of a pair of one-year-old boys, which the Xul’gos names Unus and Duos and bestows on them two of his spare sortilegio. The party realizes that those of them who were struck by the tentacled boy-creature are now able to comprehend and speak the language the children speak.

As they stand around trying to comprehend the horrible place to which they have come, with Saleos cradling his newfound and newly dead companion, Xul’gos and T’rissriia holding their new young charges, Rondanina in a confusion of sortilegio (whose is she wearing now? Answer; Morax’s), and Bogey the goblin wizard resolving to find the Grand Doxe he met in his dreams, the zombie among them changes form like liquid fire to that of the giant horned beast the party fought in their dreams and implores them for their help.

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