Orrery

Prologue - The Tower
in which we have our first glimpse of our new surroundings, and perhaps everyone dreams

cracked planet

A gaggle of monstrous creatures awake in a tower, naked, on what appear to be mortuary slabs of some sort. They are: a goblin wizard (Mordicai), a bugbear fighter (Ian), a half-elf cleric (Isana), a revenant paladin (Maggie), a kenku assassin (Erica), and a dolgaunt monk (Edbury). Each has a small puncture wound on the forehead, trickling blood, wearing sortilegio tokens about the necks. None has any memory of where they are or how they came to be there. A telescope of some sort – looking up into the heavens with a burning red sun, and a halved, shattered planet hovering in the sky. The characters are apparently … on another planet? Or plane? Or in the future? Who can say!

The red crystal element in the telescope was connected to some sort of large hypodermic needle-like device, which, by means of a heavy stone tied to the plunger was slowly pulling down, drawing the stopper downwards out of the needle. While half the party descended to a lower level full of masked torturers, one of the remaining characters ripped the plunger out of its housing, out of which flew several fully grown mouthless angelic looking creatures of fire. Fights raged in two locations of the tower, and though half unconscious, the monstrous party stood victorious at the end.

Then the characters were taken to an underground city beneath the tower, populated apparently by the indolent naked wealthy, who asked the characters to taste salt before communicating with them. There was some sort of Babylonian Lottery, and Bogey the goblin wizard was chosen to be the “Doxe”, which apparently meant getting his head chipped off and replaced with that of a robot which was spouting a stream of times and distances? One courtier spoke a language the party recognized as “Common” but that he called “Tower Speak”, and he tried to negotiate on behalf of the vicedoxe, to convince the party to slaughter some inhuman general organizing on the wasteland.

dungeons and domesticity

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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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Episode 2 - The Dry Well
during which everyone grows tireder and tireder, a new companion is gained, and Xul'gos relives an unpleasant family memory

The beast (Maggie) remembered Bogey the goblin wizard from its own dreams, but not the rest of the characters, although they remembered it. It was ghostly, an apparition, lacking its full and unfettered power, and it wanted the party to retrieve its physical body, which it felt nearby, although the beast lied or prevaricated about most of the particulars of this request. It promised to use its powers to revive the dead griffon whelp Morax. Nonplussed and untrusting, our characters nevertheless acquiesced to the beast’s pleas. They followed it several hours journey under a burning reddish sun, over broken ruin and ash to a culvert containing a strange oasis of pine trees around one enormous black and diseased tree, and an empty, long-ruined building. The trees and brush seemed to bear human features and appendages, in a deformed and non-functional way. Within the building was a large well which our characters descended, more or less painfully. It was a long way down, and some were more expert climbers than others. Xul’gos, wearing almost unbearably heavy makeshift armor, landed heavily with the goblin Bogey on top of him, hitting his head and drifting off into a stupor.

erica – teenage T’rissriia james – teenage Xul’gos maggie – little sister of Trissriia & Xul’gos mordicai – jilted suitor of T’rissriia edbury – henpecked father of T’rissriia & Xul’gos emily – imperious sadistic mother of Xul’gos and T’rissriia, ardent in her devotion to Lolth, the spider-goddess

Alerted to the possibility that her son Xul’gos has been skulking off and keeping secrets from the family, the drow family matron had him tortured to loosen his tongue, at the egging on of the snarling suitor of Xul’gos’ sister T’rissriia. The twins’ harried and powerless father offered to accept his son’s suffering, and the mother, sensing with contempt an alliance of wills against her, ordered floggings all around. Except for the quiet younger sister, next in line as heir to the matron’s power after her sister T’Rissriia, who only sat silently during the assaults on her family by her mother, wide-eyed, watchful.

Xul’gos rose dizzily from the bottom of the well as Saleos proceeded down a tunnel the characters discovered there. At the end of it, they found a large metal door behind which they discovered an operating theatre or mortuary of some sort, similar to the one in which they had awoken, but far older and having seen less recent use. The tables and gurneys were laid thick with dust, particularly around a large one bearing up under the mammoth skeleton of Ugarto, the creature that had once been the ghostly beast with which they had been traveling. Genuinely horrified and rattled, the beast was taken aback and forced to wonder how long exactly it had been in this derelict world. Just at this moment, small automata with long eyestalks detected the apparition’s presence and exposed it to colored light of some sort which caused it great pain. A rain of inky black spray erupted from the beast and coursed over the characters’ bodies as the creature died with a howl of rage. Clearly supernatural and non-physical, the ooze sluiced off the characters, leaving them unsettled but undampened.

It was at this moment that the limp-necked corpse of Morax, Saleos’ dead griffon whelp, awakened. The automata then became quiescent again. Bogey and Xul’gos each took a horn from the skeleton of Ugarto; Bogey the right, Xul’gos the left.

Sanivlize

In a further chamber, the characters discovered an eight-foot-tall tree-woman bearing a sortilegio around her neck and hurling bolts of energy at a gaggle of small creatures seemingly made from underbrush, which were trying to herd her back into an enormous broken glass cylinder from which she apparently had been immured, and which was connected to banks of illuminated glass and crystal along the walls. The party extricated the tree woman, whose name was Sanivlize, from the room, but, being in a greatly diminished state themselves, declined to involve themselves in a fight to reclaim and explore the remainder of the facility. Escape was their one thought. Reaching the bottom of the well once more, they thought to stop and take a rest for the first time since waking in this new world, some twenty hours before – during which time none had had even a mouthful of food or a drop of water. By this point, most all of the characters were holding on by a thread, and had reached such a point of harm and exhaustion that they were almost unable to go forward.

To their great dismay, not one of the characters was able to achieve a restful state. Eyes were closed, heads were laid down, and hours passed, but despite the extremity of tiredness they all felt, no rest was to be had. They felt physically incapable of resting, though the child and infants slept soundly. Discouraged and irritated with sleepiness, they proceeded back up the well to the pine oasis, which they found choked with faceless replicas of Sanivlize and more brush-creatures determined to kill or apprehend them. The enormous diseased tree moved against them as well. With the Sanivlize’s assistance, all opposition was defeated, and they fled the horrible grove back into the ashen wilderness of ember and crushed trees, aiming themselves once more toward the more prominent architectural feature on the horizon – the tower above the palace of the vicedoxe – which appeared to be a fortnight’s journey even under the best circumstances.

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Episode 3 - Modification
A first encounter of the Fetchmen, and (almost) everyone gets to sleep, and Bogey remembers something important, while the party heads undergound

building blocks

ericaT’rissriia (drow warlord) jamesXul’gos (drow paladin) maggieSanivlize (dryad sorcerer) mordicaiBogey (goblin wizard) edburySaleos & Morax (longtooth shifter beastmaster & griffon whelp) emilyRondanina (gorgon swordmage)

While the fickle party was bickering about what their next step should be, a number of figures approached on the horizon. There was a large demoniacal creature and several smaller ones riding human hosts that the larger one identified as “Fetchmen”. They offered some sort of social ritual involving the tasting of salt, and treated about the acquisition of a certain animal horn Bogey had pilfered from the skeleton of Ugarto on a previous occasion—Xul’gos had the other horn, but they appeared to be uninterested in it. They seemed intent to have the party retrieve some other object for them, although the party could not marshal a single authoritative voice to agree or disagree or to perform much of any meaningful communication. A few questions were raised by party members, but immediately glossed over when others made immediate demands without waiting for answers, or simply lied, almost pathologically, to the creatures, frustrating any meaningful parley. Sleeplessness was complained about, that much was certain, and the creatures thought the players might have been πανδὸν, or “punishers”, whatever those are. The drow said at first that they were, others that they weren’t. Some claimed to be pandas. The demons were confused and just wanted their horn.

Partly out of a desire to indebt the characters to themselves, and partly to shut them up, the large demon creature agreed to “modify” the party. Touching each one in turn, the creature put all the characters into a deep, blissful sleep. Before he was half done, however, he attempted to “modify” Bogey, the goblin who is still unable to communicate with the native inhabitants of this world, and Bogey reacted violently, attempting to summon a dretch. With an unpleasant and painful sucking shockwave, Bogey vanished, as the remaining three awake party members, Xul’gos, T’rissriia and Sanivlize, prepared to do battle with the host of demons on their own, Saleos and Rondanina snoring peacefully.

extremely primitive image

Bogey regained his senses in what appeared to be some kind of telephone switchroom full of glass spheres in notched cylindrical enclosures. The lone masked operator addressed Bogey in an unknown language, while spheres of a rusty blob-like material trembled in their containers. The operator tripped an alarm and the large room was filled with klaxons while two glass spheres rolled across the floor at Bogey, cracking at his feet. He touched both blobs of the rusty fecund matter and both immediately became dretch before his very eyes, demanding to be named. He named the first “Suzy”, and immediately reappeared on the battlefield among his friends, with the same painful implosion, “Suzy” in tow.

Even with the dretch, the fight went badly for the group, and with Xul’gos and Bogey dying on the ground T’rissriia implored mercy, for the creatures to just take what they came for and leave. They agreed, and put her to sleep with their modification and took their leave. Meanwhile, the party’s only healer (T’rissriia) sound asleep, Sanivlize the sorcerer assassin with no particular distinction as a healer was left to try to save the lives of her dying companions. It went down to the last death saving throw for both of them, but she saved both lives, although was not herself “modified”, and remained incapable of rest.

In Bogey’s slumber, he dreamed back to a time in which he and his companions Irkalla and the demon cat Pooker had been apprehended and interrogated by marauders regarding an artifact Bogey had pilfered from a tomb. Bogey refused to give it up, and the marauders cut off his ears.

When Bogey awoke, it was with a certainty of the location of this object he had been dreaming about, and he and the party set off across the wasteland to retrieve it, scrounging like animals for sustenance and shelter, and leading them further from the tower that had been their ultimate goal previously. After eight days trudging through ash and charred brush, in and out of craters, they came to a cave populated with some kind of post-apocalyptic insects, which they defeated handily and were left staring down at a lava-filled crevasse which Bogey determined contained the object he had come for.

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Episode 4 - Meeting Manufacterie
wherein our party is divided and nearly killed in a cave-in, Bogey reclaims his orb, a confusion persists about what exactly a drow is, and Xul'gos defeats a foe many times larger than he is

drow

Only moments after their defeat of the insects nesting in the cave, a hideous rotting fleshy construct frankencreature burst through the cave wall from some sort of facility adjacent to the cave, pursued by a gaggle of robots and a long-necked humanoid wearing what looked like an astronaut’s jumpsuit. Confronted by the party, the robots appeared confused about whom, precisely, they were supposed to apprehend, as did the long-necked grey. It was around this point that the cave ceiling, destabilized by the thrashings of the makeshift amateur frankenstein, began to fall on the party members, and trapping two out in the corridor (T’rissriia and Saleos). Most of the robots were destroyed in the cave-ins, as was Morax, the griffon whelp.

The party – nearly annihilated themselves – managed to bloody the enormous and powerful semi-man, who fled back through the destroyed facility from which he had emerged. The long-necked gray healed the party enough to where they weren’t all unconscious any more, and grieved when he saw the dead Morax, which he mourned as “the last of the gorgons”, as Morax and Rondanina – whom the grey, named Manufacterie, recognized as a common griffon – had switched sortilegios at an earlier point. Rondanina subsequently switched them back. Adding to Manufacturie’s confusion was the strange behavior of Bogey the goblin wizard, whom he addressed as “Technician” (which he also used to describe the goblin language), and the fact that the sortilegio of Xul’gos identified him as a drow, when that was what Manufacterie also claimed to be – the resemblance between them was virtually nonexistent.

Manufacterie somewhat passively pleaded for the party’s help in apprehending the rampaging semi-man – “The Failure” – that had, through as yet unexplained circumstances, become loose in the facility, but was largely ignored as the party poked around his rooms, and looted the uniform of Manufacterie’s dead, presumably slain companion. There was an aviary, in which Bogey the goblin wizard sought out and consumed a pigeon (he remains the only party member who has adequately eaten since their arrival several days ago – the rest have only managed to snack on bugs and small dino eggs).

Manufacterie at first seemed keen on “preserving” some element of the dead, putative “last gorgon” Morax, although this became more procedural and hesitant after its identity was re-established as “simple griffon”. He asked “Technician”, Bogey, to modify and preserve the creature, which Bogey did, putting a Pylon console into a random configuration that caused Morax to leak some of the otherworldly motor oil that had permeated it prior to its last resurrection, as the demonic bull spirit had been eradicated in the party’s presence. Bogey’s next configuration raised Morax to a semblance of life, although it seemed undead and zombie-like (while not recognizably “undead”, insofar as Xul’gos could discern).

Xul’gos sought out the Failure in the tunnels and faced him down in seemingly doomed single combat, but by repeatedly blinding it and hiding and striking stealthily at the howling creature in its confused fury, he managed to bring it down mere moments before nearly dropping dead himself.

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Episode 5 - Memories and Hallucinations

The party resumed in the company of Manufacterie. Xul’gos returned from his epic battle with The Failure in which Xul’gos triumphed and returned with a portion of the Failure’s rib cage and breastplate to use as a shield. As Xul’gos pried his treasure off the Failure’s corpse he found the red crystalline body of a creature gestating within the Failure. The creature stood up and demanded to go with Xul’gos. The creature was named Lutros, and was identified as a πανδὸν. Manufacterie told the story of how he came to create the Failure, and how the Failure came to rebel against him. Goblin wizard and embalmer Bogey Noodleswrigger entered the pylon control area to make goblin-like experiments and generally mess around. He and Xul’gos experimented with the controls for some time and eventually fused some control gems together in an attempt to produce life itself. Improbably, they were successful, and a small glowing geological formation was produced that to all observers appeared to be completely sentient. Bogey gave the immobile gem-creature to Manufacterie, to keep him company, and Manufacterie was grateful.

Afterwards, the party attempted to reanimate the severed head of the Failure, and generally failed at this task, although they were able to pose several questions to it before its consciousness fled its crude shell: They asked what they could expect in the bowels of the facility – the tunnels that they had to traverse before they could exit to the surface once more – and whether or not it had ever loved Manufacterie. To the first question the Failure answered that fungus and myriad fire creatures awaited below, and to the second he essentially admitted that when he was unable to choose otherwise, he had loved Manufacterie, and when he was given the choice, he did not.

The party voyaged into the depths of the ruined & otherworldly factory encountered spores and hallucinations. During one hallucination, the amnesiac Rondanina encountered repressed memories of her childhood and her past. She remembered her past as a beautiful and virginal but vain and capricious human female magically bound to be the defender of the unicorns, who was cursed by gods to wear the hideous and poisonous visage of the gorgon. After recovering, Rondanina and the party fought a whole gaggle of animate mushroom men, which they defeated handily.

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Episode 6 - First Farewells

LUTROS :: Self-diagnostic procedure :: Resultant diagnostic—from functions Lavendis, Fendulo, Bursaris and Omoro ::

1. Ova holds a sickle in its 7th hand. 2. The function of the πανδὸν is not to destroy the Halfworld in the sky but, as with all things, to recycle. 3. The greatest offense a πανδὸν can make is wastefulness. 4. Orrery archives are kept by Uphlos 06. (inconclusive diagnostic)] 5. There is no record missing from the archives of Orrery. Incompleteness is inconsistent with perfection. 6. Origin of monstruum is unknown to πανδὸν. Primary objective of πανδὸν is to discover the origin of Monstruum. Secondary objective is to discover its purpose. 7. Monstruum reservoir release Y/N? Y 8. There are no eras in Orrery. Distinction between chronological sectors is illusory and false.

Other diagnostic assertions that were obvious system errors were discarded, and the relevant functions disabled.

Lutros having revived from his diagnostic stupor, the characters continued on, en route to find a second exit from the cave after the primary exit had been collapsed by the patchwork creation of Manufacterie known as the Failure. They still had yet to reunite with two of their number, the beastmaster Saleos, and T’rissriia, drow warlord and sister of Xul’gos, who had been caught outside by the cave-in. They proceeded to the lower level of the cavern, an infernal and fiery chamber where they were confronted by a pack of doll-eyed dinosaur creatures bouncing on their tails and breathing fire. Shafts of light through the cavern floor seemed to infuse the creatures with renewed power, and they decimated the party, leaving two dead and baking on the hot stone—the goblin wizard Bogey Noodleswrigger and the πανδὸν Lutros. During the melee, a weird robot clockface professor appeared and took a tissue sample from Rondanina the gorgon swordmage and gave her a mysterious illuminated sphere to hold that she proved unable to put down of her own free will. He vanished for a time, reappeared to retrieve the sphere, and then teleported away again, leaving the party with a final, enigmatic “Data collected.”

At the end of the battle, Xul’gos found what he expertly recognized as a profoundly ancient and possibly mythical symbol of Drow history—the “first Underdark”. It turned out to be an operating mechanism of some sort of elevator, which he descended alone, to an unknown destiny. Meanwhile, a humanoid riding a dinosaur entered the cavern, observed the terrible lizard bodies lying all over the cavern, observed the two remaining live party members, Sanivlize and Rondanina.

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Episode 6.2 - Interlude: Where Xul'gos went
Down, down, down

Volcanic fires burned around him and the ground oozed infernally as two of Xul’gos’s companions whom he was unable to protect lie burned and dead on the smoking rock. He have failed them. He had been separated from his sister for over a day, and for all he knew she may have been killed as well. The eye device set into the shiny ground beckoned to him and he either possessed no will to resist or no will to live, for he approached it without fear or concern for his own safety. Conflicting impulses warred within him – drow bodies are accustomed to their kingdom deep, deep within the earth, they love the dark and chill of the catacomb and abhor light and roaring flame. There is a part of Xul’gos that sits opposite this, a small flame of his own that he has tended, the part of him that loves Moradin the just, the part that, despite every reason his civilization exists, finds goodness and dignity and decency in the forge and the hammer, in the making urge, in the stoked fires and the will that presses the bellows that bids the flames higher, fierce and white hot, the clean light of creation. Moradin, the patron of miners, finds treasures deep, deep within the earth, and raises them up into the light. He laid his hands on the eye insignia and the platform of polished glass slid and sunk on a mechanism of timeless smooth function, down, down, down to a depth at which he could no longer tell how far from the cave he was, or if the cave yet still existed. He passed through layers of the most hellish heat, and then beyond, to a deadness, an emptiness, a hollowness devoid of energy. The platform halted in a vast unlighted chamber rimmed with a smelting trough and six furnaces named for the six legs of Lolth, all cold and dark. The coal within the hearths had long since collapsed into dust. There was a mammoth statue or shrine at the far end of the chamber over what appeared to be a simple mausoleum. In the gloom he saw the shrine was that of a mammoth, helmed Moradin – hammer in one hand, torch in the other, magnificent armor, enormous holy symbol about his neck on a steel chain thick as a man’s waist, a look of serene calm protection on his face and – and – His face. His face.

Under the horn and curved hollows of the great helm the statue was wearing, Xul’gos clearly saw it was no dwarf’s face. The nose too slender, eyes long and thin, bones too prominent. It was a familiar face, horribly familiar, yet older, wiser, satisfied and grateful. It is the face of a drow who in the final moment stood true and did not falter. He knew that without understanding how he could possibly know that. Approaching the mausoleum, he saw there was an ancient and patina-covered plaque. On it was written in flowing common calligraphy: Here lies the one true Xul’gos. There are many who would have died in suffering and despair without him. And beneath that, carved by a less expert hand in broken and slightly ungrammatical Drow: I will see you again, but I doubt if you will be as fine. Still I will always be your friend.

Xul’gos proceeded forward, pausing only to read the inscriptions. His destination: The mausoleum. Striding past the plaques, he attempts to gain entry to the mausoleum—and, once within, to take hold of the lid of the tomb inside and pull it off to peer inside.

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Episode 7 - Doubles
wherein Xul'gos visits his own tomb and explains what that hair necklace is about, Rondanina becomes subcomandante, two new consciousnesses are created in two ways, a ship to visit the stars is mentioned, and Bogey is still dead

Xul gos sarcophagus

As Xul’gos approached the mausoleum, there was a shuffling in the corner of the chamber and a creature sleeping there on rags rose. It was a drow, long-necked and spider-fingered like Manufacterie, but bent with age. The Caretaker shuffled about the chamber, lighting torches in sconces with little bursts of darkfire from his fingertips. When Xul’gos asked the Caretaker who was interred there, he replied “Xul’gos”. When Xul’gos asserted that he was, in fact, Xul’gos, the Caretaker sniffed at the assertion, saying the tomb was of the One True Xul’gos, the primitive progenitor of the entire drow race.

Xul’gos entered the tomb undaunted and there met with a host of shades presided over by a tomb guardian. The guardian did not permit the shades to give Xul’gos any factual information about their lives, only to tell him the details and sensations and feelings they felt in their last moments. Some of the shades were deceitful, some were tricks. Xul’gos had to choose which shade knew his head, and which his heart. They described how they met their end, their last moments, and Xul’gos interrogated each in turn to try to discover which shades spoke truly. He determined that one knew his head, the shade that spoke of the burdens he bore that no one else could possibly understand, who met his end peacefully, knowing that what “she” had told him was, in the end, right. And there was one other who knew his heart, the shade that spoke of almost limitless despair in the end, yet who felt almost nothing when his companions Bogey and Lutros met their own fate. After he chose, the other spirits, the lying deceitful spirits inhabiting the tomb like parasites, writhed and spat.

Xul’gos strode forward and lifted the lid of the sarcophagus. Inside, there was almost nothing left of the corpse or its raiment: only dust. And yet, among that dust, miraculously preserved as if no time at all had passed, was a whole and still-warm gall bladder. Xul’gos swallowed it, reclaiming a memory of his childhood, of the times he would secretly observe his wicked and vicious drow mother while she bathed, and afterward, from her water, he would collect her fallen hairs and cherish them and weave them into a slender thread and then a rope. This is the origin of the braided hair necklace so dear to him that he wears around his neck at all times. In the midst of this reverie, Xul’gos was taken unawares by unknown assailants, and blindfolded and bound.

In the encampment where Sanivlize and Rondanina had been summoned before General Rondanina, the general thanked Sanivlize for disposing of the mummy Bogey, as Rondanina could not, but before she could ask for the sword artifact back, there was a violent commotion at the back of the camp where two teams from the College of Scrutinators were holding some sort of competition or ceremony in two separate, adjacent shanty tents. Amid whoops and hollers and hurrahs, in one tent the gaggle of Scrutinators had managed to “create existence” by diverting a portion of the Transverse spark. The spark infused life into a rough-hewn and primitive manufactured body. The entity, covered all over in Ova code, was unable or unwilling to name itself and was identified only by the quantity X. General Rondanina, completely gobsmacked, immediately and hastily began packing a bag for her escape from the encampment. When asked why, she said that when the doxe had sent her these men, she had no idea the imbeciles could possibly have achieved what the doxe said they would, and now it was only a matter of time before a πανδὸν finds them. She would have to abandon the camp to reunite with her larger forces. General Rondanina asked Rondanina if she would assume stewardship of the camp as her subcomandante and the gorgon agreed, after which the general fled as quickly as possible.

Virtually moments afterward, there was a crowing from the adjacent shanty tent, and another crowd of Scrutinators claimed success in their endeavor, which was to produce fully grown and battle-ready biological material with monstruum, which each Scrutinator carries around in his syringe of office, the Glister:

Monstruum syringe

The Scrutinators squirted out the shape of a humanoid, and called form and consciousness to it in … some unknown though doubtless unsavory fashion. Through the ether, an entity interrogated by hallucinations Bursaris, Lavendis, Fendulo and Omoro, was drawn into the fluid and animated: a tiefling wizard named Vecclin. The hallucinations appeared to Vecclin as the high regent’s court, and discerned a number of truths:

  1. That Vecclin was not born as he is, and has no mother.
  2. That the sign of travel to exit time-frame is two hands held above the head.
  3. That he had deciphered the ancient runes of Sinlabel through his researches in the Great Book of Flame.
  4. That he had personally traveled to the lost city of Hrosz-Ko.
  5. That his star ship was some place near to him.
  6. That the time stream can be accessed through the following sigil:

Sign

Called out of this hallucination and into physical being, Vecclin arose, completely nude and bleeding profusely from a pinprick in his forehead, but mostly in possession of himself and not fearful or panic-stricken. Of all the recent arrivals on the world of Orrery, Vecclin appeared to be the least disoriented or surprised. He was a relation to the lords of the young empire of Bael Turath, a sailor among the stars, and a wizard. He had glimpsed stranger things.

After a brief parley with Rondanina and Sanivlize, the camp was attacked by a raider force of drow led by an eladrin claiming to have been dispatched by General Xul’gos to retrieve the unblemished skin of Rondanina, known to be in that camp and traveling without escort. This eladrin held captive Xul’gos, what he called a “lesser copy”, which through careful questioning Rondanina established was indeed the person she knew as “Xul’gos”. The two factions fought, Xul’gos freeing himself, and X and Vecclin joining the fray.

After most of their number had been cut down by the newly minted party, several of the drow ceased attacking and descended on Rondanina with thieving hands, and stole the artifact from her, handing it off from one drow to the next. The last in the line, about to sprint towards the wasteland, was cut down by Xul’gos mid-flight, and Vecclin used his wizard tricks to turn the artifact invisible. Almost immediately afterward, a strange but familiar robot clockface professor teleported onto the battlefield and searched in vain for the artifact. When the remaining drow were unable to hand him the artifact they were supposed to have stolen, or to show him where it might have gone, he abandoned them to their fate, but not before mocking Vecclin, thanking him for the gift of his spelljamming ship. The strange professor teleported away once more, leaving the party in the disarrayed camp, with a gaggle of cowardly bellowing Scrutinators hiding under tent beds, along with an unspecified number of folk who are decidedly not warriors, leaving the party looking around at their new companions and thinking, Who are these people?

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