25 February 2006

Mindsgate: Genesis

Three lost souls with no memories prior to their waking awoke to the drip of moisture on their face, a dimly illuminated pool with ponderous shapes wriggling through its heavy contents hung suspended in the dimness above them. The three figures stirred, gazing in the foggy light at the large wet rough stone slab that had been their bed chamber. Above them, above the menacing tank, a black stone tower floated unattached to the pedestal below it. At each end flat floating rock formed steps climbing into the gloom next to the faintly glowing orb full of beings unknown. In the grey leagues across a great dull, flat, unidentifiable sea other black towers loomed. So gone were their residual memories that the concept of a liquid was beyond their comprehension let alone the maddening magic that must support such a structure did not phase the trio in the least.
Naked, cold and shivering the three began to scrounge for rocks as weapons just as their minds searched for memories of their past. One, the female, remember life on a farm long ago and of aiding others, but no such feelings entered her heart now. They ascended the stairs and more memories returned, skills unknown leapt to their command. At the top of the stairs they peeked into a room, dominated by the dim illuminated pool, the opening to the aquarium orb they had seen below. As they peered into the chamber a horrific collection of men's bones assembled itself from the floor and started lurching at them across the floor, a rusty yet still dangerous longsword raised menacingly. A thrown rock did nothing to dissuade the undead and in their haste to flee the party tumbled from the narrow floating stair, one a stout half-elf to the slab below with acrobatic grace, the other a olive-skinned man with sharp features into the steel-colored sea.
The animate bones came creaking after them down the steps, and the female seeing her companion swimming safely dived in after him. The skeleton turned its attention to the half-elf and cut him with the rusty blade. The sharp-featured man suddenly let loose a bolt of energy blowing away half the skeletons skull and left shoulder. Meanwhile, the wound in the half-elf' side rekindled memories in the martial arts and he unleashed a savage kick breaking the skeleton in two.
The two men salvaged the femurs and the rusty blade as the woman swam under the platform where she found a stale empty cave, bereft of life or treasure. The party resumed their journey and and continued to the pool, where they threw one of the bones into the pool, it began to bubble and churn while flashing through a spectrum of sickening colors. Flesh began to grow of the bone and soon a man rose from the waters, a man with ebon skin, purple eyes and dark blue hair. When questioned by the woman, he knew not where or who he was only that he had awoke much as they had on the platform below and had then come to this pool looking for his ancestor's sword. The last he remembered was that he had been struck from behind. He asked the woman who she was, and she remembered a name, Kai. Then the midnight man's flesh began to quiver and shake, bubbling pustules and bursting vesicles erupting across his bare flesh. The half-elf thrust him back in the pool, but to no avail, the living corpse disintegrated with an unholy scream.
The half-elf, for reasons unknown, swung his femur club at the shadows in the room and the shadows struck back. They coalesced into a thing, a dark shape that clawed and crawled toward the naked wanderer, wounding him lightly. Suddenly a holy might sprung from his hands burning back the shadows which fled before his flames. The shadows resumed their normal state, but he could still feel them churning and roiling under the dark surface.
The three ascended to the next level, noticing the stone getting darker yet drier. They also felt, as more memories returned, that sound and scent were muted. Sound was cut off and fell silent too soon, and the smell was of nothing, of dust that had been left for a thousand years. This room had not exits in the center in a 10' x 10' area were 8 glyphs inlaid silver in the rough granite. These were no magic writing and yet they sat above two mechanisms one of which the half-elf was fairly sure was a trap. After much rumination the party solved the puzzle and inscribed the final symbol in the empty slot, the slab rose slowly and ponderously from the floor, going toward the ceiling above, as they reached the ceiling it opened and they rose through to the room above.
This room had weak torches set about every 10' with windows showing a dull blackness beyond. In the shadows at the wall many figures were stirring. Groggily and stupidly they rose from their ramshackle and worn pallets, they were poorly dressed and worse equipped, a pot for a helmet here, a table leg a prized weapon. These folk were dark olive-skinned folk with white hair and eyes blue to brown. Their chieftain an older man
asked spoke, "Drakkar, Kai, and the Hand, where are your friends?"
The two men of the party on hearing their names, knew them to be their own. They told them their troubles with their memories and the chieftain told them that they had twice been seen by the tribe in the past, the first time arriving from the levels above, the second arriving as they had via the lift. This was a long time ago, the exact time being difficult to tell as the days were approximately 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of dark without variation. There were no moons and no seasons. The chieftan, Weemag, identified his people as the Sprayspawn, the raiders from the seas. They had attacked the the Greatlands looking for women and plunder only to face the Emperor himself, the next thing they knew they were on the great grey sea outside. Without provisions they rapidly had taken shelter in this tower.
As the horror of their plight overwhelmed them, the Hand remarked, "We are trapped in the Midnight's Hunger."
"No, the Eye is but a gateway to this land," responded Weemag. As they spoke a strange dark tattoo began to form on the Hand's left breast, appearing to be an intricate form of Infernal. Unsure as how to continue, the party asked Weemag what their mission had been previously. He told them that they had been seeking the wizard, Daerrus or "the First" as Weemag knew him in order to free all the peoples trapped in this prison. The three decided to seek out Daerrus and complete their twice or thrice begun quest. With that they were supplied with some simple garments and provisions before beginning to scale the rope ladders along the wall.

Mindsgate: Introduction

Many years ago the Empire of Mellas was faced by devastation and collapse, enemies both internal and external worried its borders with war, ravaged the city-states deep within its territories, and allowed monstrous denizens to maraud its lands. The good but young Emperor was beside himself and knew not what to do, until one day a bent cloaked figure was admitted to the Imperial court. The mysterious being told the king that it had a gift that would rid the Empire of its woes, but only one of the ancient blood of Mellas could use it to do so. With that it drew out a large sepulcher black opal, the Midnight’s Hunger. The Emperor was greatly intrigued and asked that this gift be bestowed on him. The cowled enigma responded saying that although the Midnight’s Hunger was a great and powerful gift, these powers came at great cost to the wielder: The Midnight’s Hunger could consume the evils of the land, but these evils would be trapped in the heart of the Emperor. Despite his loyal council’s dismay how little was known about the gift or the giver, the desperate Emperor said he would accept the gift.
The stooped shadow mounted the stairs growing taller and more menacing as it approached the Emperor the Midnight’s Hunger thrust before it in a claw-like hand. Now towering over the Emperor, it retracted its hand and then plunged the ebon gem deep into the Emperor’s left eye. With an unearthly scream the Emperor fell, clutching his eye from which a foul ember smoldered to the accompaniment of the cloaked figures cackles of mad glee. The Emperor’s bodyguards struck the figure down, only to find the remnants of a dark and tattered cloak on their blades. The Emperor lay pale and senseless on the ornate floor, bloody tears falling from under his quivering lids.
The Emperor was brought to the Imperial chambers where he lay senseless and feverish for many days. Finally, the Imperial Magus, Daerrus, and the Imperial chirgeons could wait no longer declaring they would examine the left eye of the Emperor entered his chambers and were never seen again. The Imperial Vice-Magus, Hasjan, sealed the Emperor’s left eye with spells and instructed the new physicians to tend their liege with care. For many weeks, the Emperor was delirious but with time came healing. Finally, he rose from his sickbed, pale and worn but ready to face the invasion by a small goblin kingdom to the North.
Riding to the North, the Emperor surveyed the goblin encampment pried off his eye patch, and the despicable horde vanished in a maelstrom within his left eye. With time more enemies fell to the Emperor’s dark devouring eye; the wyrm Grimspyne among others, the Sprayspawn barbarians and brethren tribes, the rebel lord Nolduran and his allies, as well as other criminals both enemies of state and ordinary murderers, thugs, and the like. Peace began to return to the Empire of Mellas as disquiet was sown in the mind of its Emperor.
Ever since receiving the “gift” of the Midnight’s Hunger the Emperor had increasingly intense and frequent headaches along with dark visions. His mood changed along with the fading joy and prosperity of the Empire. Now the source of the Empire’s despair came not from without but from the Mellian Throne itself in the form of increasingly heavier taxation, foul edicts, and brutal reprisals to perceived threats. Increasingly the disintegrating gaze of the Emperor was cast upon the unjustly accused. The Emperor was rumored to be mad.
Meanwhile Hasjan had been questing the Empire and beyond, gathering lore about the Midnight’s Hunger. What he revealed horrified him, the Midnight’s Hunger was not simply a magical pearl but the bitter, pitch black heart of the demon prince, Naberaxus. The Empire of Mellas had been established by a pact with this very demon but the Emperor’s ancestor had tricked Naberaxus and slain him. With his dying breath the demon had cursed his own heart to be used as a weapon against the Mellian Throne. The demon’s vile essence had survived within that opal prison for millennia. Naberaxus’ vile heart would devour the Empire at the willing hand of it’s own Emperor. Hasjan returned to the Mellian Throne only to provoke the wrath of the Emperor with this grave news. The Emperor tore his eye patch from his face, but before he could cast his ravenous orb on his faithful wizard, the Emperor’s sister, Larassa, leapt between the two and was consumed.
The Emperor went near mad with grief but felt his control over the essence of Naberaxus slipping further along with a shattering pain within his skull. A pain that he could only relieve by opening his left eye and absorbing more lives within its dusky confines. Hasjan knew not how to remove the Midnight’s Hunger but devised a plan to split the essence of Naberaxus that rode the Emperor’s shoulders and store it within several loyal retainers of the Emperor.
As Hasjan placed the arcane mirror before the Emperor and his valiant vassals to perform the ritual that would split the essence of Naberaxus, the demon prince struck, forcing the hungry eye of the Emperor to open…