Pirates of the Silver Sea

Halfling's Log - Day 3

Hey there, log. If that’s what you really are. I mean, as I write this on what looks like a ship made out of dead bodies, sailing through space, surrounded by the weirdest group of people/varmints/things I’ve ever seen.. I’m really not sure if this is even real, or just a nightmare brought on by that fromage from Dementilieu I ate the other night. But for the time being, I’m still nursing a little headache from “yesterday” when I was knocked out by a giant bug, so I’ll play along and believe this is all real, for now. And that means I’ll accept you’re actually a piece of paper I found in the crew berthing.

After being roused from my slumber(?) by the mezzoloth/bug guy next to me, waking for duty, I got dressed and met the rest of the crew on deck. I’m still not sure what to make of the rest of the non-bug crew in the “landing party” I’ve been forced to serve in, but I know for certain that I don’t trust … - ink smeared.. -

- more smeared ink -

We talked to Mr. Bandersnatch again, and were reminded of the general hopelessness of our situation. I quietly asked him if he knew anybody who was out to get good ‘ol Capt. Cabron. He mentioned some guys named the “Githerazi”? Of course, I thought. More weird creatures.. out to kill the evil weird creature enslaving the rest of the weird creatures on this boat. But maybe these were good-guy weird creatures who would take out Cabron, if I don’t wake up before this story ends, anyway.

Rook, Tosh and myself went down to the ship’s armory to see what kind of goodies we could pick up. I walked through aisles of swords, and finally felt one almost call out to me. It had a strange grey leather hilt, and seemed to give off an aura of power against tall folk, strange as that sounds. Seemed like a good weapon to have, when you’re half as tall as everything else you seem to come across, I thought. I took it to the quartermaster, and he said I could have it. I was content to leave, when a case full of glittering jewelry caught my eye. Tosh had done a weird thing where I could hear what he was saying, without his creepy crystal mouth moving, so I tried the reverse on him. For the sheer fun of it (since I figure that stealing from a guy who kills innocent people for fun is kind of a good deed in a roundabout way) I said to Tosh (in my head) “Hey Tash, distract this guy while I help myself to something shiny..” and it worked like a charm. He pretended that another customer was coming in, and I snatched the shiniest ring I could place my little meathooks on. I tried again, but the storekeeper bug-guy was wise to me.

Rook and Tosh perused some gear, and after a few moments the bard came down and bought some kind of magic paper. He left, and by the time we all had returned to the top deck, he’d somehow made a gigantic smorgasboard for us. I didn’t know what to make of the guy at first, but after two days with no food, he’s a good tall folk in my book.

It wasn’t long after we’d consumed some grub that we were told the ship was under attack. Zasheed (creepy eyes) took a spyglass from Bandersnatch, and I heard him mutter something about dragons. I grinned, weren’t those things only found in children’s stories? But the crew seemed to be taking it all pretty seriously, and when Tosh called over to me, I ran over and manned up a giant crossbow-looking-thing. Him and the big machine guy loaded bolts for me, and soon enough I could see things flying at us that I’d only seen before in tapestries and children’s books. I managed to calm my nerves, and shot at a big red one. Round after round, I fired off, but it didn’t seem to phase the monster a bit.

It was quite a scene. Crews of mezzoloths, and the rest of the “landing party”, firing giant bolts at a sky full of dragons. I could hear the bard singing, and strangely enough it seemed to make me feel a lot more.. courageous and helped me ignore the fact I was likely to be a dragon appetizer by the end of the day.

But the dragons ended up being the least of our worries. A bunch of green-skinned, evil-elf-looking guys with silver swords jumped onboard, and began to clean our clocks. Several people in the “landing party” were not doing very well, when suddenly a sword twisted through the air and lopped off their heads. After the last head had hit the deck, the sword returned to the hand of no less than the Cap’n. Seems he has a soft spot for us after all.

He told us to go fight some mercenaries who were coming onboard, and I don’t think anyone was in a position to disagree with the man, after seeing how easily he took out those creepy green bastards. So we ran over to the edge of the ship, where a big metal box had parked itself near the rails. One of the wizards in our group put some kind of magic cloud thingy in front of the box, but before long, a big (evil) machine guy popped out and started attacking us. More of them jumped out, and soon we were mixing it up with them. There were lots of explosions, sparks and crossbow bolts flying everywhere, but everyone seemed to be handling themselves.

All-in-all, I’d say we did pretty well for ourselves. I just can’t wait to get to Shit-town (did I really just say that?) because I’m starting to get a little “cabin fever”..

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Zasheed's Journal - 2

I have acquired more paper to write out my thoughts. Though I now refrain from citing the ‘day’ in this accounting as there really isn’t such in the astral sea. Just a constant gray haze outside that leaves us in confusion of time. I am sadly glad we are not the only beings on the vessel that require sleep and food, else we might work ourselves to unconsciousness. Only to wake as a part of the ship which we travel upon.

These are the kind of things that would garnish nightmares from in most. For me, it is only an addition to the nightmares that I am inflicted with already. Only giving me strength in my goals and my god in order to bring everything to an end. I have found a few such beings on this ship that are unique or the last of their kind. Constantly do I hold back the desire to strike them down in order for their line to end forever. They are too useful as tools for something a bit on the larger scale. The Captain, as repulsive as his ship design is, has the same higher calling of destruction as the chained one. A fact that has kept me in check most of the time so far…

When presented a platter of an exquisite meal free of charge, wouldn’t anyone feast on the offering? This is one such instance, gladly accepted after the first shift of Deck Swabbing. We came across something in the void of the sea, on closer inspection it was like an iceberg but made of dirt and trees floating in the gray waters. The ship made a turn toward the target, as it was such for our Captain. Placing on us the request to kill all the enemies there and take there stuff. Not the best of tasks but more interesting than the fleshy deck work.

The musical fool piped up about options that didn’t require killing. As if it were something of an arguing point we could do under his demands. Unluckily he wasn’t added to the ship right there, instead given the option of total surrender and slavery to our enemies on the dirtberg. Once we got onto the floating chuck of earth, I let them play with words. I listened in passively knowing that a fight was inevitable with the scaly creatures we came upon.

Upon hearing the key words of ‘last of our kind’ and ‘would prefer an honorable death’, I couldn’t help but cut the negotiations short. It was most amusing that as I released my spell onto the two big ones, I could see their shaman about to give in to the musical fools words. The group had little to do but to join in the fight, though one would go off to sulk worse than the crystal man. I gave it little regard as we focused on taking the lives of our enemies.

Battle is battle is battle is battle. The act itself isn’t the focus point for me but the end to which we brought the end of their race. The poison was quite annoying and others seemed to have problems with it. Though through a combination of my gods power and my own skill, was I able to stay in good health all the while dampening our foes attacks.

I was quite pleased to get my astral sea legs as I started using projected gravity to move in the void to keep out of attack range. This could be quite useful on the ship as well as I no longer need to climb around. Though the rope will still be useful as a safety line in case I get fall away from the ship…

~ Zasheed

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Captain's Log #1
Welcome to Gehenna

Captain’s Log

Day 664

11:04 PM Sigil Mean Time

Dear Log:

“Dear Log” is a rather charmless way to begin a piece of writing, wouldn’t you say, Log? Oh, it’s nothing personal, you understand. You, Log, have always been good to me. As good as sheets of dwarf skin bound in human leather and inked in elf blood could be. You sit there with your blank pages, waiting to receive my words. That is an admirable quality, Log. Others could learn from your capacity for subordination. No, it’s just the sound of that word. Log. Law-guh. There’s no poetry in it, just an ugly vowel sound followed by an ugly syllable. Log. It sounds like a rather dull expression of pain or disgust—not the kind of bright, exquisite expressions of pain that make for beautiful music. Log. So utilitarian. So humorless. I’d say “Dear Diary,” but I am not the twelve-years old girl pining about the boyfriend, no? So “Dear Log” it must be for the time being, until I can conceive of a better alternative.

We had new recruits today, Log. New members to join our happy family here aboard La Luz Oscura. While the number of Mezzoloths freed from demonic domination and rallying to our ranks grows all the time, I admit there are some things that Mezzoloths are not so good at doing. Like taking initiative, for example. Is this perhaps because I tend to tear their limbs off and shove said severed limbs down their throats when they exhibit any spark of personality in contrariness to my own? I wonder. At any rate, until I can recover a proper force of Nycaloths, Arcanoloths, and Ultroloths, I am forced to fall back upon whatever resources come my way. And sadly, such resources often take the forms of mortal adventurers.

What is that, Log? Do you upbraid me for my presumption? Do you chide me, and say that a reliance on mortals does not make for a fitting new beginning for my ancient and most honored race? Oh, Log. I warn you. You have been a worthy ally, but do not think that I will not throw you into the fire and re-burn your ashes until there is nothing left but the ash of ash. My temper is not to be tested, Log.

Very well, Log. I accept your apology. You are forgiven. This time.

At any rate, my people survived to be ancient and gained their high honors by means of their endless pragmatism. Pragmatism, Log, Pragmatism. Pragmatism and Practicality. The efficient and optimized utilization of resources. These are the hallmarks of my people, Log. This is what defines the Yugoloth. Not some hidebound adherence to convoluted regulations and traditions or a savage and short-sighed recklessness, but pragmatism. Responding to situations as the situations demand, and making the best use of the resources at hand. And so, in this regard, employing mortal adventurers to do my dirty work is not a compromise with respect to the grandeur of my people, but is rather the most elegant expression of that grandeur. Make your enemies fight each other, Log. It is the Yugoloth way.

Yes, Log. You may compliment me on my brilliance, if you feel so inclined. Esta bien.

With all of this in mind, I left our new recruits down on the brig deck for some time to become acclimatized to their new situation. I tend to find them it does a world of good to wake up in that utter darkness that no light can dispel, feeling around for the limits of their confinement and finding the walls made from fused flesh and the bars made of overlapping arms and grasping hands. I find it advantageous to let them fool and fumble around, sloshing through the sour-smelling digestive juices that flood the floor. I also find it advantageous to let the hands do what they will—sometimes slapping, sometimes grabbing, sometimes getting fresh. All of this, I believe, is an integral part of the introduction to life aboard ship. All of it leads up to my grand entrance when I become the sole source of light in all that oblivion, the magical orange lights swimming around me like a constellation of bound stars. Perhaps the metaphor is not too terribly artful, but have no doubt, Log, that it is effective. Pragmatism above all, Log, remember?

I took stock of the new fish that my recruiters had hauled in. It was a mixed lot. There was a taciturn dwarven fighter and a somewhat supercilious human bard and a skulky, sulky little halfling—tired types, perhaps, but tried and true. Then there was one of those Githzerai, and this one looked like it had some kind of gish thing going on. There was one of those charming mechanical men, too—how you say, Warforged?—all oversized swords and truncated sentences, but this one had some arcane energies in his aura, too. I could see it. And we also had one of those crystal people. A shardmind, I think it is. I don’t even know what that one did, it was so busy standing in a corner and staring down at its feet and uttering monotone proclamations about revenge.

It was no legion of Nycaloths, but it would have to do.

I promised the captives their freedom on the condition that they swear allegiance to me. Some of them were more eager than others to accept my offer of clemency. I gave them the option to either sign on with my crew of take up their complaints with the Human Resources department, by which I meant that I would take their human bodies and utilize them as resources for the construction of my ship.

What’s that, Log? You don’t like my joke? Ware that you don’t become a log on the fire, Log!

Alright, I admit it, that last joke about logs and fire was not my best. But that human resources joke is a good one. It always makes me laugh, anyway. You need to lighten up, Log. Too much seriousness es mal para la sangre.

After they had all quite sensibly agreed to bow and scrape to my every whim, I bade Roberto (he’s the jailor, did I fail to mention him? No matter.) to open the door. The adventurers shuffled out, and I led them through the brig level. I flashed my lights over the heaps of unidentifiable flesh, over the prisoners who shied away to the darkest recesses of their cells, over the piles of corpses. These things make the proper impression of the ship and its master. We went on to the galley, where we might discuss their new careers over a nice dinner. That is how mortals do things, yes? Talk while eating? Seems a rather stupid arrangement to me; the mouth can only perform one task effectively at any given time.

I’m rather proud of the dining table at the galley, and it saddens me that I have such infrequent cause to use it. Food-eating guests are a rare treat aboard ship. And me with two cooks on staff! But the table is a gem, and it deserves to be displayed. It was a real effort coaxing that solid mass of flesh up and arranging the surface to be covered with upturned palms frozen in a gesture of blessing or desperation; or both, art is wonderful in the way that it can simultaneously suggest conflicting ideas, don’t you agree, Log?

Ah Log, you do not have the soul of an artist, I am afraid. I could give you one—I happen to have several lying around—but I think I appreciate you for your practicality and your capacity for direct and honest feedback.

So we sat at the table. The dining room is well-lit compared to the dungeons filled with positive darkness, and it gave the mortals their first proper opportunity to take in all of my splendor. It’s not uncommon for ladies or the gay men to faint when looking upon me in all of my beauty; I told the mortals that they were free to faint if they so chose, but none of them took me up on my offer. So be it. I am not so vain as all that.

Kizzke and KH-47 came out from the galley to serve the guests. KH-47 offered to prepare his specialties of mold sashimi and liquefaction soup. The mortals declined—I have observed this to be a common reaction to KH’s cooking. I wonder if it was a mistake to make a modron my chief chef? You’d think he’d be able to follow recipes well enough, but perhaps the lack of a palette or a digestive tract inhibits one from becoming an effective chef. One more instance of personal experience surpassing theoretical knowledge; that is some serious wisdom for you there, Log.

KH seemed to bond with the warforged. The little modron seemed quite eager to please the towering battle contruct. Sadly, it seemed as though the affection was not reciprocated. I can understand. I had this cannoloth this one time—Fido, his name was. He would only take raw flesh from my own hand. One time, after I fed him, he proceeded to lick my face. Poor affectionate fellow. I had to have him gutted, quartered, and impaled for his presumption. That was several thousand years ago, I think, although memory has gotten tricky since the apocalypse. I wonder if he learned his lesson after three thousand years on the stake? Ah, I guess it is an academic question now.

Kizzke, being something of a poor affectionate fellow in his own right (that creampuff of a flumph!) offered the mortals stale bread and water, which was apparently the best non-rot food available. One of the mortals—I misremember which—inquired as to whether I would be joining them in the repast. I tried to explain, in brief, the exquisite refinement over dross biology that is the dolorivoric life form. I tried to make it clear how I did not extract second-hand star energy by crushing plants and flesh down to paste and then dissolving them in a bath of acid, or anything so distasteful as all that, but rather subsisted on pure thought and emotion. I tried to explain the subtleties of algophagy, the distinctions between a sweet slow suffering and a piquant fast agony, the complexity of emotional dolor versus the straightforward boldness of physical pain, but I felt that my explanations were lost. As well try to explain the stars to an eyeless burrowing worm, Log, as to explain the eating of pain to a dull mortal.

Kizzke brought them their repast, and I laid down my expectations for the new hires. They would serve as oddjobsmen, factota, and a crisis response team when required. Indeed, there are times when obliterating an entire plane of existence is not the most efficient solution to a particular problem (even if it is the most enjoyable), and in such cases where a greater amount of finesse is called for, I would call upon them for assistance. They would be my Away Team, as it were—my eyes and ears and swords and overall agents in extra-vehicular activities. The Githzerai asked if this position came with a red shirt by way of a uniform; I told him it didn’t, but I could make it so. And, of course, when they were not acting upon my behalf in dangerous missions to unexplored planes, they could fill their time by swabbing the deck. I supposed that I could make allowances for such mortal indulgences as sleeping and eating, as well.

The position was not without risk, to be sure. But neither was it without reward. If they served me well, the wealth of kingdoms and the magics of demon princes would be at their disposal. I am not an ungenerous captain, and I know when greed serves as a good motivator.

I asked them if they had any questions. They had surprisingly few. It seems as though they are quickly getting their astral sea legs, this lot. I bade them good evening and left them to finish their meal. They talked amongst themselves for a while, discussing nothing of terrible conseuence, and then consulted with Kizzke, the cook’s assistant. Kizzke told them that there was fresh meat to be had by venturing down into the meat locker, and they all agreed to go raid the pantry. The fresh meat they found down there was apparently an infestation of carrion crawlers (they are my shipworms, and ghouls my rats); which they dispatched with a moderate amount of effort. The dwarf got some good hits in, while the poor halfling spent most of his time drawing the worms attention by means of offering himself up as a sacrifice. It was clear to me, upon observation, that these fellows were learning the rythms of working as a unit, but that nobody perished in this first little fracas bodes well for the longevity and efficacy of this group.

Which is just as well, because those carrion crawlers were eating my last Away Team, which had proved to be most unsatisfactory in the execution of its duties. But for this group, I am having hope.

What is that, Log? You question how I was able to observe all of this when I had left the room? Log, you underestimate me!

That was most of what happened today. Oh yes—and earlier, we ambushed an elven astral caravel, killing forty-eight and taking eighty-two prisoners along with some relatively mundane magical loot. That was a reasonably good haul.

I think that’s all for today, Log. I seem to have gotten carried away! Duty calls. Those elves won’t torture themselves!

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Checkmate

THE AWAKENING

Darkness swallowed the room like a blanket, the only rouge lights were found on the myriad of buzzing equipment throughout the space. The lights were made up of tiny LED and interface displays, tiny symbols denoting various functions sprawling across the entire room of considerable size. They were mounted on shadowy equipment; small beacons of dim light in total blackness. It was in this darkness that a birth occurred, as another light dimly awoke to join the others. A single red jewel along the wall began to emit a sparing red glow, as if unsure of its own luminosity. As the machine awoke for the first time, it saw only this darkness and heard only the hum of its metallic brethren; unable to focus its perceptions on any of the tiny stars which swam through its optical processors.

Confused, the new entity began to process the data that was bombarding its fledgling consciousness: Room, 60X50 meters; unknown mechanics detected; no appreciable photon emanation; purpose… unknown. This last bit of data was processed sadly, the emotion being stored for future cerebral reference. Truly, however, the machine did not know its purpose; its memory banks consisted only of technical specifics, advanced education and martial skillsets; no mention of the reason for its awakening or its location was present in the databanks. This concerned the machine, for it could recognize that its construction was of considerable effort, and must have been accomplished for some significant event of which the machine had no knowledge of.

It was while pondering these thoughts that light was finally brought to the darkness. Large beams across the ceiling of a large laboratory sprang to life, a blinding luminescence filling the room like a tangible force. The machine now began to register its surroundings, which purely consisted of computers sandwiched between other computers across long silver worktables, their interfaces providing the twinkle which previously accompanied the darkness. Cables sprang from the metallic towers of computers like a snake swarm, traveling in more directions than the machines new mind could follow.

The computers weren’t all that was revealed however; joining the machine were 11 large humanoid figures, along the walls, just as the awoken one found himself. They each were uniquely shaped, a few were excessively large, reaching the roof of the considerable ceiling; how they would leave this space was not immediately apparent to the machine. The majority were of a height with the observing red light, which surmised its own form to be of similar humanoid shape.

Cross referencing designations observed above the other robots, the entity determined its own designation to be “X004”, its meaning unclear, but a shining truth in its current confusion. Observing its fellows, X4 determined that a truly important purpose must be necessary for their creation. Each of them wore skin of Adamantine which was itself enhanced by nanite techniques, causing it to be as reflective as a mirror. Shaped like lean athletes, the 12 robots were all held against the wall by harnesses which seemed more tools than restraints. Individual differences among them were obvious, indicating different purposes for each of them; purposes unknown… X4 thought.

A new shape came into X4’s view; it was a man. Doctor Farnsworth, Specialties: AI, Robotics, Nanite enhancement, Scalable Fusion Power Distribution. Height: 5’9 in, imperial system; Hair, eyes: color identified, Brown. Skin complexion: Color identified, chalk. Processing…. Possible organic deficiency, resulting in pale complexion. X4 considered this man, obviously his… father? The concept was new to X4… as were all concepts at this point in its existence.

Dr. Farnsworth immediately noticed the new member of his mechanical family observing him, focusing on the dim red light intently, as if trying to read the robots mind; a small smile across his pale face. “Do you know who I am?” the Dr. Asked. X4 was surprised by this question, surely Dr. Farnsworth was aware of all knowledge’s his neural interface possessed? Activating his vocal processors, X4 responded in a slightly monotone, digitized voice “Are you not aware that I contain records of nearly all scientific contributors and their projects within my databanks?”

“Of course I am Rook,” the Dr. said, his smile growing broader, success obvious in his eyes, “I was just curious if your personality subroutines were properly interfacing for proper data retrieval.”

“Identify Rook?” X4 asked as soon as the Dr. was complete.

“Rook?” the Dr. asked inquisitively. “Why? That’s your name son.”

“Copy,” X4, no, Rook replied, “New identity registered.” Rook’s head turned slightly to the side in what he assumed was an inquisitive posture. “Question: Why was my ID not already supplied in my databanks?”

Dr. Farnsworth laughed a rich baritone, filling the laboratory with an alien sound, though a happy one. “You are special Rook, alone among your brothers and sisters; you I cannot program to ID specifications. Truly, you are ‘Rook’ because that is the name I choose, do you wish another?”

Rook was confused, “Question: explain inability to program personality specifics, is that not custom android production processes?”

The doctor thought to himself, then seemed to make a decision. “I did not have the space in your neural interface for proper logic restraint chips, Rook. Much more important programming was necessary in your databanks. Though those programs won’t be utilized for some time to come…” Dr. Farnsworth trailed off at that, implying that “some time” was more than just a matter of years.

“My reasoning and your true purpose will be revealed in due time, Rook; truth be told I am fairly surprised to see you awake already. I expected your brothers and sisters which reached completion before you to awaken first.”

Rook thought on this for a moment, “I awoke because I chose to.”

“Indeed?” Dr. Farnsworth replied. “Well, sleep again for now, Rook. It will be sometime until your family is fully aware and capable to begin the tasks necessary.”

Purpose… Unknown… “What purpose…” Rook sputtered out of his vocal processor, as though it was a difficult thought to vocalize.

“Purpose?” the doctor replied, slight surprise on his face. The surprise quickly assimilated into determination as he finished his reply. “The twelve of you must stop the void itself, and if the endgame is as I expect, you Rook must save us all.”

Void? Save? Rook did not like this cryptic answer. “Further clarification required, explain Void, explain ‘Save us all’, more data necessary for proper decision protocols to analyze potential actions.”

“So many questions,” the doctor said accusingly, “Void refers to the Elemental Plane of Void, which you will find in your Meta-dimensional databanks. It is currently poised to rid the rest of the multiverse of what it considers clutter; matter.”

Rook immediately retrieved the data requested, revealing the breadth of a vast multiverse hidden in his knowledge databases. This multiverse consisted of many types of realms: A series of connected physical realms within a ‘Prime’, the inhabitants of which included the doctor’s people, an incredibly advanced civilization that long ago learned to bend space and time to their will by technological force. Above the prime (or below) were the co-existent dimensions of the Astral and Ethereal planes, each a slightly different quantum reflection of ‘the space between’. Outside of these rose the Outer Planes, dimensions where beings of advanced quantum potential forged whole realities, only to please their individual moral requirements. And finally, energies of elemental forces connected in the Lower Planes, a series of dimensional folds separated by their unique physical characteristic; Void being one of these dimensional planes.

The flood of information nearly overwhelmed Rook, as he absorbed the vast cosmos in an instant; devouring the data his neural network revealed like a starving animal. “Where are we now Doctor?” Rook asked.

“Currently we reside in a laboratory provided by the Believers of the Source in the city of Sigil. We were commissioned by ‘The Lady’ for some very important business Rook, business which may stop the Void.”

Rook’s memory banks revealed information on the Godsmen of Sigil as well as a series of other factions, data on each whirling through his head, painting a thick tapestry that was ‘The City of Doors’.

“My databanks indicate that this culture is highly adept at reality manipulation through quantum observational techniques. Why did they commission technological entities such as myself?” This was a logic hole for Rook; these reality manipulations should be capable of anything that his own creator civilization could accomplish.

Though the techniques by which his systems controlled the physical forces of matter and gravity on a sub-quantum scale did provide certain advantages not easily accomplished by the fickle use of observational techniques.

“‘The Cage’ must be unlocked Rook, and if their ‘magic’ could be the key, it would have snapped open long ago.” The doctor sighed after this, as if reflecting on past events, “No, after studying Sigil, my colleagues and I have determined the process necessary to unlock this puzzle. You and your ‘family’ are the tools for completing this process.”

Rook contemplated this, ‘The Cage’; its mention brought a chill to Rooks metallic spine. He now understood his ‘purpose’. His databanks poured line after line of data into his mind, the technical specifications of Sigil, and the necessary tasks that will be performed by the 12 androids to unlock the cage. The tasks weren’t of small significance either. Thousands of doors must be unlocked within a ‘City of Doors’ in order to unlock the final door.

“When am I to begin, doctor?” Rook asked after an eternity of thought, or a few moments in actuality.

“Soon Rook, very soon; your ‘end’, however, I fear will be long beyond the end of everything…”

250 YEARS LATER

Rook stood alone in the final control room, his brothers and sisters in the adjoining room, interfaced with ‘The CAGE’ (Continuity Alternation Guidance Engine). It was the final end-game; his actions would determine the fate of not only himself, but of an entire multiverse.

The Void which overwhelmed the cosmos was unstoppable. Everything was consumed in its path reality torn asunder in its wake. This wasn’t the ultimate fate of reality though, Dr. Farnsworth was able to determine that another universe would take the place of the one consumed by entropy It was the goal of himself, and many others, from Gods to peasants, to ensure that it was their own reality that returned to fill the void. That was ‘the purpose’.

For the last quarter millennia, Rook’s siblings had been collecting all the information they could to provide an index of their entire multiverse. Time was however relative, as their journeys were through the very fabric of their multiverse in order to preserve everything possible. It was with this knowledge, and CAGE that Rook would be able to ‘mold’ the new universe into the cosmology and existence of the previously consumed multiverse. Rook only waited for the final moments of existence before he could begin.

The control room for CAGE was unlike anything Rook’s travels had ever uncovered. It was a sphere of considerable height, even to Rook’s impressive 7 and half feet. The walls were made seemingly of transparent glass, though nothing was visible on the other side. Rook found the interface controls to come instinctual to his artificial brain as display screens began to materialize in the air surrounding Rook, displaying various data sets.

What Rook found in the data was astounding; the entire cosmos were displayed at his will, as bleak as they were these days. Rook focused on a single planet in the Prime material plane, the only remaining jewel in what was once a sea of gems. The screen displayed statistics of populations, and military strength; outlining the reality discordance technology surrounding the planets immediate space, the reason for its survival. It’s yellow star was in shreds as void gnawed on its sister planets, yet still the one stood, defiant against fate itself. Though defiance always has limits… Rook thought.

Next Rook found a battle raging in the Outlands of the Upper Planes; Devils, Gods, Demons, Heroes, Dragons and any other countless powerful beings struggled against pure entropy, a struggle that was in vain. Rook looked on in amazement as once bitter rivals fought side by side in a losing battle for their very existence. In disparagement, entire sections of the planes fell to void, the River Styx emptied into the ravine that was once Gehanna. The gears of Mechanus strewn about the fields of Archon like a child’s toy set. Pandemonium and Limbo writhed together like a miasma inside the void, the Githzerai standing firm, their Observation of reality proving to be the only effective force against the Void, though not effective enough.

Briefly Rook found himself observing the Inner Planes, mostly only destroyed heaps now, remnants the void had yet to finish consuming. However, even in this desolation, resistance remained. Here and there Jinni and Effrit could be seen struggling against the Void, massive Golems coming to their aid. Whole oceans attacked with beings of pure energy riding their waves. All for naught, Rook thought, as he saw each elemental fall before the Void in its own time. A screen caught Rooks attention, were the Astral Sea came to light. Even at the End of Days, the Astral Seas silver glow remained. The Void slowly gnawed at the corners of the Sea, slowly consuming the silver nothing that made up its ocean. Within the silver, massive ships could be seen in conflict with the Void, fruitless battles that always ended the same. Still the void gnawed away, devouring vessel after vessel.

This continued for some time, and Rook could only watch in abject horror as force after force lost against the Void. The CAGE wouldn’t be utilized until all was lost, the Void must be complete in order for proper manipulations to take place during the natural birth of the next universe. It was as the end neared that Rook first realized something wasn’t right. Bringing a systems display to the fore, Rook confirmed that not only was his brothers and sisters no longer interfaced with CAGE, but that they were no longer even in the adjoining room. In fact, the room was not even present. This was not part of the expected operations of CAGE, and precluded completion of the necessary protocols. In frustration Rook began to scour the monitors for some indication of location for himself or his brothers and sisters.

He immediately located his family, in the room outside of the CAGE facility? Then why did he not register their presence? After a moment of review, Rook realized their error. The Central Control room for CAGE was not where they thought it was at all, in fact, Rook had no clue where he was at the moment. The Standard cosmology chart provided by the CAGE displays indicated that his location was not in the standard multiverse.

Panic began to rise in Rook as he worked at speeds only he and his fellows could achieve in order to reestablish the connection with the other eleven; their databanks were crucial for the manipulations. Rook himself did limited observing for this event, he instead was relegated to defending Sigil from the Void while the data was recovered; meanwhile being tutored by Dr. Farnsworth for this task. A task he seemed doomed to fail in.

An eternity passed as Rook vainly attempted to finalize the connection, each final shred of reality slowly being consumed. The light of Rook’s eye shone in a bright fury as his arms continuously punched away at monitors and keys trying to affect anything, but it seemed that his fate was driven by other forces. Every effort was for naught, and Rook slowly began to realize that he would not be able to finish this task, that in the end, Dr. Farnsworth had not been adequately prepared.

Rook finally noticed that the light in the CAGE control room was beginning to dim, the void finally reaching even the heart of Sigil. He had assumed safety due to the unique nature of the CAGE, but it seemed the void would allow nothing to remain. One by one the screens went blank; not because they were forced dark, but because they had nothing else to monitor. A single observation display was still active, that Rook could see, showing the silhouette of a single ship, forgotten in a dead sea. “How forlorn,” Rook muttered out loud. In a moment, he returned to darkness; darkness he had not seen since his awakening. He had failed; a new universe would be born of other rules. He had failed and all would perish for it.

A FEW “MOMENTS” LATER

Systems rebooting: initializing self-diagnostic……….. All systems nominal, initializing sensory and kinetic sub-systems. Light flooded Rook’s optical systems; it was the light of Sigil. No, not Rook’s Sigil, he alone could detect the subtle gravimetric differences between this place and the Sigil he knew. A subroutine activated in Rook’s databanks at that realization, a subroutine Rook had not ever known was there.

Instantly an image of Dr. Farnsworth flashed before Rook’s eyes. “If this was activated then my secondary calculations proved to be accurate; how unfortunate. Mistakes CAN be made however, Rook. As I’ve taught you, time and space are really quite relative.”

The doctor then became accompanied by a slew of technical schematics and mathematics. “This Rook is the key to our redemption. These algorithms will allow you to attempt the CAGE again, this time in a functioning Multiverse. I hesitated in our own, because it will possibly destroy the current multiverse it is activated in.” The doctor paused for a moment.

“Though,” he continued, “I think it is more probable that our own Multiverse will be returned in its own dimensional parallel, leaving this imposter to its own devices; that is, if my calculations are correct.”

“But first, you must find the CAGE again. This may take some time, son, for you do not possess the key to this Sigil, nor do I believe it will even open for you. No, you must find other means into the CAGE; what this may be, I do not know.” The image shook its head sadly, as if ashamed that it could assist no further in the matter.

The Doctor smiled in Rook’s mind, “But don’t worry Rook, you are the culmination of a very advanced society, and were built to last. I have faith that you will see the end of this purpose, I have always had faith.”

With that, the image faded, along with the accompanying data files, stored away until the time they were needed for the CAGE. Standing, Rook looked at the street around him; seeing no reason to delay he entered the first ‘door’ that presented itself, beginning the search for the impossible.

“SOME” TIME LATER

Sys..t.em.s Init.t..ia..li…z.ing, eer..r.oor. Unab.le to re.g…iss.er. all da.a bank.s. Memo.ry scra..ble. ……….. System reboot complete. Self-Diagnostic complete, WARNING: Severe structural integrity damage noted! Damage to 99% of situational memory corrupted! Unable to determine cause; registering loss of immediate data banks.

Purpose: Find CAGE. Reason: Unclear?? Data corrupted: Repair in progress, approximate time until recovery at this bandwidth: 123245 years 322 days 12 hours 3 minutes 2.34321 seconds. System note, majority of self-repair protocols are currently damaged, repair of these subsystems will accelerate data corruption repair. Initializing sensory and kinetic sub-systems.

Rook awoke in darkness, his red optical sensor dimly battling the dense murk. The internal damage to his systems was substantial. Systems operating at 1/8th capability; Rook realized, whatever had occurred must have been brutal. He began to register other forms in the dark, deep in slumber of some kind. Unable to determine their features in the darkness, Rook consigned himself to waiting for whatever outcome was next. He had some time on his hands before his databanks were fully repaired, and his search for CAGE was wherever he hadn’t been before, and assuredly, he had never been here before.

Something was screaming inside Rooks head, however, behind miles of damaged data sectors, and try as he might, Rook could not figure out what it was trying to tell him._ Grrav.. GGrRaavvimee… Data banks too corrupted, unable to interpret error code, disabling port._ The nagging sensation went silent, and Rook was left to his thoughts again.

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Lament of a Shardmind

I remember Shintarel slicing the air, about to cleave the head of the Bastard Drow Beylin with all the fury I could focus through her righteous steel… now… I become aware of a terrible blackness. At first I thought myself under the Devil-Drow’s black mist, but the air is different, hot and moist… and I am ankle deep in a sickly sweet smelling liquid that reminds me of the vomit the young acolytes would spew after their first day of hard training.

It becomes apparent that I am not alone in this darkness. This heavy shadow even prevents Navi from shining her brilliant moonlight and aiding my inspection of the surroundings. Voices calling out… voices hoping to find comfort and protection in companionship. I feel my soul-light dim… the murderous Drow lives and my vengeance is incomplete. Rather than isolate myself with my shame I shall be forced to live it out amongst these creatures until I can escape.

The one that later identified himself as a Bard seemed overly concerned with not attacking our cage. After using my magis to create a shockwave of force needles to blast our way out fleshy arms which made our prison seemed to take a liking to the bard. It is unclear how intimate he became with the disembodied arms, but I find myself somewhat relieved by the fact that he described the intercourse as “disturbing.”

Eventually our captor made himself known. A strange beast of a being that calls himself the last Yugoloth? Though my mind and soul have travelled the world for eons I could not recall any knowledge of such a creature. I suspect him to be a demon or devil, and that he will reveal his true nature in time. He does have an odd fascination with male sexual excretions being of an “able-bodied” nature… Perhaps he is a demon of desire, or seeks to create an army of Cambion via a dark succubus… The constant referencing might have been humorous were I given to a jovial mood at the time.

The Yugoloth abducted us to serve as members of his new crew. He claims to seek the resurrection of his lost culture… The means to this end will most likely tear the veil of reality asunder. Again I suspect that is his true mission and he seeks to gain our sympathy for his plight through the ruse of a genocided peoples.

The captain left us with his crew… a strange talking jellyfish as large as myself, and a perplexing cube with legs that had multiple faces… the crew of this ship is bizarre in looks and tastes. The jellyfish… or the cube… it is hard to tell them apart… desired us to go into the depths of the ship to procure “non-rotten meat.” While one of them wanted non-rotten meat, the other seemed to desire nothing but… The group I awoke with, the one’s who desire food at least, seem to be of the mind that non-rot food was superior to rotted. I have heard similar sentiments among the Cauldron Born and the acolytes.

My new companions are… unique. A very confused battle mechanoid who speaks of “quantum physics” and “molecular structures”... I think his creator may have been a derranged artificer who sought to create the ultimate battle warforged, but mixed up ingredients, and now is plagued with a bizarrely malfunctioning Ultimate Baffling Warforged. When he speaks I often hear the mocking voice of the Dragon Layer stating the limitations of magics and I curse the asinine mystic who put together such a contraption. I will admit that during battle the “droid,” as he called himself,was not entirely without use… though he seemed to put a great amount of effort into a battle plan the yielded little results. I seem to have the most in common with the contruct on a purely physiological sense. Neither of us require food… as the ships stores consist mostly of rot I give thanks to Corellon for my bodily resilience. Neither of us require any degree of normal humanoid sustenance for that matter: Air, Sleep, or Water. We also differ more than any of the others. Rook, as the battle-droid designates himself, seems to have no emotion, no feeling, no connotative experience to his history. I wonder if I could train my mind to push away my feelings. To think of Beylin as mission without being vengeance… there could be advantage to such thinking… to such lack of feeling.

There is a halfling. Though darkened by my failures to avenge Corellon’s fallen children I find myself soul-light brightening at the sight of the ever-optimistic kinder. He wears terribly bold colors that I would find offensive on any other race… and most likely on any other kinder. I can only describe the tiny creature as adorable. After his epic failure in battle I plan on having Navi keep an eye out for him. The poor thing needed to be roused during combat… as halfling anatomy is not terribly different that that of other humans, elves, dwarves, etc. I went to aide him… Treating his wounds, I roused him from unconsciousness and deftly returned to combat. Shintarel had not yet cleaved another piece of the giant insects carapace than the kinder once again fell to the physical effects of the crawlers toxic venom. Keeping this half-pint alive will be quite the challenege… That being said his precious demeanor and adorable half-smile seem to call to some parental ley-line inside my hard crystal shell to keep him well. I wonder if this is how half-lings perpetuate their species… through pity? The Cauldron Born children have probably studied such a thing. I should research this if given the opportunity.

There is a dawrf warrior. My experience with dawrves is little… often I see they have a fascination with my crystalline body and then scoff and express distaste when they discover my magic affiliations. A competent warrior on the battlefiled, though carrion crawlers would not be a new experience to a dwarf. I sent Navi to assist this stout fighter in battle, he made great use of the distraction the wisp provided, though he did not fell his foe. It would tell me more if he had been a buffoon… I vaguely remember him saying that he had served as a whore in a tavern. I am unclear whether he jests or if the information were correct. The desperation that so many humanoids face when trying to catch a mate… pitiable. Still… worse stock could be found.

There is also a cloaked man… he has the face of a snake… I cannot tell whether he is Githzerai or Githyanki as I have only read of these races in books. He moves fluidly, though maintains his distance… both from the group and from his enemies. Thinking to gain a better glimpse of him I cast a light spell on his cloak once we were in the bowels of the ship… he turned the cloak inside out… the illumination gave a better view of his face, but that is all I have learned. He maintains an eerie quiet about himself… a quiet that seems to convey a sadness. Perhaps his story is not unlike my own… something lost… something taken… and vengeance his goal. I would seek to learn more from him, but there is a method to his combat that is startling… Arcana, Nature and the Divine weave into his movements… for such a vessel to posess these forces would have to be more powerful and potent than it appears. Study this one carefully… there may be benefit to delving into the spiritual realm for primal energies.

Then there is the Bard. A half-elf that could be called handsome if he weren’t so foppish. After laying eyes on me and my soullight he immediately asked if there were a monetary advantage to bartering pieces of my crystal form. I must admit that my anger got the better of me… the insolence of Half-Elves… His skin is darker than most half-elves I have seen… his incourageable attitude suggests Drow may be the half-blood flowing through his bounderish veins. Still… in combat he was skilled at tactics. Maneuvering this band of mismatched misfits. He lacked understanding of what Corellon’s Champion is capable of… seeking to send me to second wave status. Fool. I felled two of the three crawlers and exacted great damage on the remaining… had I been able to focus my divine fury on the third, instead of heal the peaked kinder I would have felled the last. After the battle was finished the bard played an abyssmally cheery tune on his lyre which gave me cause to regain my strength. If I am not well enough to walk outside of earshot of that terribly jaunty music I am better off dead. Queerly, the half-drow did discard his flute. Soaked in the bilge water and bile he found it distasteful to put his mouth on the instrument again. Now I have a new flute.

I grow tired without the solace of sleep. Bodies lie in the corner. Some of them Drow. I inspect them to see if they are Beylin… it is too much to hope for… I do not recognize these corpses. Today Shintarel is denied her true-enemy, Corellon is denied her vengeance, and I am denied my peace. The two crawlers I have slain are being cut up for their meat… Perhaps the travels with this Captain can see m goals achieved. The last of Corellon’s Avenging Wizards will have the blood of Lolth’s Deceiving Child… and by the gallons.

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Zasheed's Journal - Day 1

I am happy to find parchment on this quite literally god forsaken ship. Though I ask not what it is made of and am glad of such ignorance. I write in order to keep my thoughts in order against the insanity of this place and the fools that reside here. To what end, even I may never know.

I started this lovely day waking up in complete darkness, standing in raunchy liquids which later were revealed as a mix of ‘bilge water’ and ‘digestive fluids’. The darkness ate up any light created by myself or the loud fools in the space with me. Deciding it wouldn’t help me getting out of there without using them in some way, we found out about our new prison. Alien in nature to that of standards as it consisted of severed arms linked together into a cage around us. Hinting at the good nature of our host and his intentions with us.

We would eventually meet said…being as much as I can say he isn’t human with glowing orange eyes. Though I can’t say he stood out among the monsters he kept, let alone the men of Crystal and Iron that was in our captured group. Numb to all the facts my senses brought to me then, lest I be overwhelmed by them. These appearances would only add to that of the surroundings. I save this bit of detail for last as it is the most disturbing. The ‘Captain’ had quite the choice of decor, using Bodies of creatures to make up his ‘Ship’. Humanoids flesh melding or locking together to form the walls, floor and ceiling of each room. The head crew able to open wounds to make doors, windows or stairs to navigate the place. I am still unsettled at the feeling of stepping across flesh.

My first instinct is the desire to just destroy it all, though my power would not be sufficient in this. My body soon to replace the damage I create. As the god I must hold secret from the others wishes, I bide my time until such a time to accomplish such a task. What is more the Irony of such a situation when our captain tells us his story. Last of his race, home world, people and culture erased completely by the gods. Possibly the only willing use they had of my master before he was chained. I made the mistake a laughing at his words, though none of them seemed to notice or care.

But I digress from our predicament, the details where just too overwhelming to not write out. Sorting them and keeping some of my sanity. The purpose we were captured was to serve as ‘slaves’ of a sort. Though ones with a few more perks than most as we would be an adventuring team for the captains away missions. While given an endless amount of menial labor to do between them. Though there was a more pressing issue on all our minds as we found that the stale bread and almost rancid water we had been provided was the last of the edible food.

For our first task, we were sent down into the storage room to retrieve food. After the torrent of ‘rotting flesh’ dishes that was spouted by one of the cooks, I didn’t have much hope for our survival. The site would meet my expectations as there were corpses hanging, dismembered in a pile and even a giant chuck of some creature just decomposing in there. One of the idiots decided to have fun with me with a light spell but then thankfully placed it on the giant ribcage. Which happened to stir up some trouble in the form of giant worms. Great, as if the small maggots were not bad enough, we now had three carrion crawlers after us.

I was pleasantly surprised as all the group rushed to combat such monsters. All moving in to make a nice meat wall that protected me. A fitting description considering the flesh we battled on top of. Wanting to keep my shield intact, I kept up my abilities to hamper the crawlers attacks in a mix of divine curses and swarming insects. It helped enough to keep the little one alive, though he seemed to have the worst of it. In the end, we had found a supply of fresh meat to sustain our bodies but not taste buds. That and I was now armed with the knowledge of my ‘peers’ capabilities to some degree.

With that, I end my writings of the exhausting day. First is to rest and recover for the further fights and labor to come. I may not be able to write until I find more parchment or a place to hide them. Until then, I cling to my sanity in such a cursed place.

May the chains break and everything be unmade.

Zasheed

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