Episode 31: 9/11/10
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 6/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/9
Xicar, human cleric/9
Haroldur, human fighter 1/cleric 5/divine knight 3
After a few minutes of interfacing with the Libram control terminal, 31E turns to us. “I have located a… direct route to the Mirror. The Nexus systems should not hinder us further, come, let us waste no more time.” With that the automaton turns and begins walking briskly out of the Libram. His pace quickly increases, until we are nearly sprinting to keep up. Corridor lights brighten at 31E’s approach, doors slide quietly open as he nears them, and nothing seems to oppose us as we follow the tireless construct confidently navigating the featureless corridors. After some time, nearly breathless from the journey, we are finally able to stop running as 31E suddenly halts.
Another double door slides open quietly, “We have reached our destination,” says 31E, “this is the Starry Mirror.” The automaton gestures toward an odd pentagonal mirror set into the far wall of the chamber, from where it casts a dark reflection of the room. The reflection is distorted in an unsettling way, and dotted with shimmering star-like points of white light. A colorful hexagonal diagram is engraved in the floor in front of the mirror.
We ask 31E how it works. He ignores us and steps inside.
Stepping into the mirror after 31E, we find that it is cold, but insubstantial. We have stepped into a pentagonal chamber. Colored light fills the chamber evenly. Each of the five walls features another mirror exactly like the one we’ve just stepped through, save that each is a different color. Every few seconds the light in the chamber flickers and changes hue, the mirrors set into the walls changing at the same time. 31E looks around, apparently puzzled. “This is not normal. We may have been… mistaken in using the Mirror.”
Since the rest of the Nexus has fallen into a state of disrepair, it follows that the Starry Mirror may be malfunctioning as well. Haroldur and Xicar determine that the magical energies within the Mirror are unstable, and that the mirror seems to create a near infinite number of identical temporary pocket planes. These investigations still don’t tell us what’s causing the malfunction or how to fix it, unfortunately. As we’re pretty much out of options, I encourage the party to keep moving through the mirror – maybe we’ll find something that will give us some kind of clue.
We wander around inside the mirror, stepping through numerous mirrors. Growing increasingly desperate, we step into yet another identical pentagonal chamber. Unlike the other chambers, however, there is a stout bronze canister sitting in the middle of the floor. It seems to have seen years of use and abuse, as its corroded sides are pitted, dented and scarred. I pick up the heavy canister and examine it. Then, I shake it experimentally and get horribly nauseated.
It takes us a moment to realize, but the color of this chamber does not seem to be changing like all the rooms we have been in up to this point. According to 31E, this is how the mirror is supposed to work. We suspect it may have something to do with the cylinder.
Intrigued, Nineve tries to pry the cylinder open with her crowbar. A jolt of electricity from the cylinder shocks her and melts her crowbar to slag. She’s upset, but I can’t say I’m sad to see that crowbar go. While we’re expressing our differing opinions on the subject, Haroldur picks up the cylinder and tosses it through the portal and out of our current chamber. The room begins its color-flickering routine, meaning that the mirror is no longer functioning properly, and Haroldur just threw the solution to the problem into a random pocket plane. Genius.
We move through the portals randomly for what feels like forever until we finally come upon the cylinder again. I pick it up and we begin to make progress. As we’re making our way through the mirror’s maze with 31E’s guidance, he stops and says “We shall be within the Terminus shortly. Please surrender the Fragment to me now.” 31E holds out his hand, expectantly. A monumental argument ensues. 31E refuses to go further until we surrender the Rod; Haroldur refuses to relinquish it to a mechanical construct with an obvious screw loose. Things get pretty heated when Haroldur advocates killing 31E or abandoning him here and finding the rest of the way through the mirror ourselves. 31E implies that he will acquire the Rod fragment by force if necessary. Before threats of violence can turn into acts of violence, I remind everyone that we’re ALLIES.
Haroldur makes several excellent points, the most essential of which is that it is irresponsible of us to hand over a powerful artifact to an insane machine. However, I don’t think 31E is insane; I think he’s operating under some very outdated assumptions.
31E firmly believes that the structure we know as Silverspire Palace in Istivin is in fact an Imperium Grand Terminus. Since the Silverspire is indeed a structure which dates back to the Age of the Imperium, it is plausible that it USED TO BE the Grand Terminus. Also, 31E has not yet accepted the annihilation of the Imperium people and culture, something the rest of us know to be an historical fact. His programming REQUIRES that he return the Rod fragment to his Imperium superiors at the Grand Terminus. It is his entire purpose. He refuses to acknowledge that they may not be there anymore. At length, we get him to agree that if his superiors are actually at the Grand Terminus, we will hand the Rod fragment over to him at that time.
After more than an hour of negotiation, we come to an agreement and are finally ready to proceed. However, we’re all pretty tired at this point, so we decide to rest in the relative safety of the mirror before stepping through the last portal into what might be a very tough fight with Palace security.
As we’re settling down to rest, Zollara appears!
Nineve – The Liar
Ashe – The Marriage
Xicar – The Betrayal
Haroldur – The Unicorn (on the cob)
The Cricket The Queen Mother The Rabbit Prince
The Desert The Empty Throne The Courtesan
The Eclipse The Beating The Unicorn (on the cob)
“The Cricket represents speed and quick passage, a safe journey in other words. The empty waste of The Desert is now behind you, though you will doubtless carry the memory of it with you. The Eclipse is a card of self-doubt and loss of purpose – two trials you have recently overcome.
“The Queen Mother is knowledge personified – though she does not reveal her secrets lightly. The Empty Throne is terrible loss. One of your companions will make a discovery that will cause them to question their very purpose. The Beating aligned as it is warns of an attack from all sides: be ready.
“The Rabbit Prince is a quirky fellow – in this case represents a younger member of royalty. The Courtesan is the card of political intrigue and social grace. Be on your best behavior or the situation may take an unfortunate turn. The Unicorn misaligned warns of a false friend and possible betrayal, although when is not clear.”
We ask Zolara about the cylinder and she tells us it’s called the Ulolok: a legendary item which contains the spawn of a Slaadi and an Inveitable. This somehow leads to a discussion among Xicar and Haroldur about Nineve and me reproducing with 31E to make robot ninja babies. This is followed by a fair bit of lewd commentary, and a great deal of eye-rolling from us ladies. On that note, we go to bed.
After my 4 hour trance, while I’m waiting for the humans to finish hibernating, 31E approaches me and thanks me for diffusing the situation with the Rod fragment earlier. He hands me a collection of metal plates he picked up in the Nexus. It’s some kind of puzzle! Working together, we put it together and end up with a strange dodecahedron. We puzzle over it for a moment and 31E suddenly recognizes it as a Hexametric Folio! Sarek is going to LOVE this!
In the morning, we all feel we have gained from our experiences thus far.
As we follow 31E through the final darkened mirror, we find ourselves standing in a hexagonal chamber, with a faded, but still colorful pattern set into the floor. Dust, rubble and cobwebs litter the room, giving it a run-down and disused feel. Here, unlike within the Nexus, the walls and floor are stone; here and there large cracks mar the stonework. Behind us, the strange pentagonal portal is dull and dusty, a large crack runs diagonally across its surface. 31E explains that important structures in the Imperium were often finished in stone, as it took much longer than metal, and represented more work.
We scarcely have time to notice our surroundings, however, as Haroldur suddenly receives three apparently back-logged sendings from Mossad:
#1: Tamclar returned, brought distressing news. Diamond Lake obliterated. Some refugees survived. I begin to fear the worst the longer I go without word from you.
#2: Marten fears you dead or turned traitor. Now several weeks without report. May the Lady guide you, and keep you, and return you safely.
#3: This will be my last sending if you should not respond. Your fates are in Her hands now. You will be missed. Praise Wee Jas.
Haroldur responds with:
“Rumors of our deaths have been greatly exaggerated. Sorry to make you worry.”
“I’m surprised and pleased to hear from you! I await your return, and a thorough explanation. Praise Wee Jas.”
With that taken care of, we look for a way out of our current room. Somewhere in the distance we feel, more than hear, a strange noise like rushing wind or cascading water. It lasts for several moments and is gone with a suddenness that causes us to question hearing it in the first place. The metal double doors leading out of the Mirror chamber do not respond to 31E’s attempts to open them. He suggests they will need to be forced. Nineve and I oblige.
Leaving the Mirror chamber, we enter a familiar Imperium corridor, however, the ceiling panels are dark, and we have to light our own way forward. Fine dust covers the floor, puffing into the air with every step, making our noses and eyes itch. Wispy sheets of cobwebs cling to us as we press forward. Eventually the corridor terminates in another set of the familiar double doors. After a moment of fruitlessly manipulating the controls, 31E suggests that these doors will also need to be forced open.
While Nineve and I are working on that, from beyond the door I hear several loud crashes, and then a cacophonous clatter, as if from a large pile of stuff falling. Curiously, amongst the other noises, I hear a strange croaking, as though from a large toad.
The doors finally slide open with a groan and a reluctant metallic screech. Assorted junk spills into the corridor from the doorway. Cups, battered plates, several rolled tapestries, and various other diverse items clatter to the floor at our feet. There’s so much junk that we have to clear some of it away just to get through the doorway!
After a few minutes, we manage to force a path through the junk. Old chairs, faded paintings, sagging chests and tarnished cutlery make up only a small portion of the assortment. We find ourselves atop a raised platform overlooking a wide chamber. Several dark terminals line the adjacent walls, nearly buried in piles of junk similar to the one we’ve already dug through. Shockingly, the room has several inhabitants: strange stooped creatures, like bipedal toads stare in our direction, croaking to each other. For a moment, even this strange sight is forgotten as our attention is drawn to a swirling vortex in the floor at the far end of the chamber. A roiling soup of the four elements and all their combinations churns inside the vortex in the floor.
Nineve tries to Intimidate the creatures we identify as mud slaadi while Haroldur insults them with random croaking noises. 31E and I skip the pleasantries and just stab them until they stop moving. They die in pretty strange ways, some of them. One turns into a statuette at Xicar’s feet, which he immediately picks up and decides to treasure forever. A few of the slaadi try (and succeed) to call for reinforcements, but we do manage to put them all down. However, there seem to be some chaotic energies which don’t make things easy – at one point, Xicar tries to cast a spell but ends up accidentally creating a blinding rock storm. Eventually we manage to get things under control.
As the last of the strange creatures falls, 31E immediately approaches one of the darkened terminals. After a few moments, he moves to another. This repeats several times, until one of the terminals shows some weak signs of life, lights flickering and clockworks whirring at 31E’s touch. Several silent minutes pass as 31E stands at the terminal.
We decide this would be a good time to check out the portal. Peering in, we see balls of fire, pockets of air, chunks of earth, and waves of water battling for ascendance until they in turn are overcome by yet another chaotic surge. Bits of forest, meadow, ruined castles, and small islands also drift through the chaos, occasionally crashing into each other, or being obliterated by a chaotic blast of the maelstrom on the other side of the portal. It is pretty obvious to us that this is a portal to the Ever Changing Chaos of Limbo. It is where everything and nothing is possible. It is where raw chaos seethes. It is the plane of pure chaos.
Having what appears to be a stable portal to the plane of limbo inside the Imperial Palace of Istivin is probably a very bad thing. It occurs to me that we may not actually be in Istivin – we really have no idea where we are yet. I interrupt 31E long enough to borrow his homing beetle. He hands it to me absent-mindedly and goes back to staring at his terminal. Nineve and I use my ever-handy atlas and the beetle and confirm that we are in fact in Istivin! High-fives are in order. As I go to return the beetle to 31E, he turns to me with a puzzled look.
“I do not understand” he says. “This facility is barely functioning. It is 97.538% non-functional. Power reserves are depleted 98.972%. What records I can access indicate this facility was last accessed 3.78683112 × 10^10 seconds ago. This is the same time as the Nexus at Kadastrey, accounting for an error factor of .127%. I have no choice but to conclude that this Terminus is … abandoned. I do not understand. I … believe I … will remain here. I see no point in … continuing until I can determine the validity of this … data.” If a machine could look bleak and emo, 31E was doing it now.
None of us are shocked by this news – we never expected to find a still-functioning pocket of Imperial overlords in the middle of Istivin. 31E is taking it pretty hard, though. We all try to cheer him up. Haroldur, a.k.a. “Mr. Empathy”, almost blows it by saying “I told you so!”, but the rest of us somehow manage to convince 31E that there’s still a big world out there. I still don’t think he’s completely accepted the disappearance of his creators, but at least he agrees to come with us, if for no other reason than to continue his search for a functioning beacon or portal back to the Imperium.
We’re pretty torn up after the slaad fight, so we heal up before moving on. We also run a few experiments on the Ulolok and determine that it causes some pretty random spell effects in the area around it, but the Rod of Lawsome seems to mitigate this effect.
We press on. The metal doors into the adjoining corridor have been ripped free with great force and lie on the floor several feet away. The dark corridor arches to a height of 40 feet. Delicate stone columns line the wide corridor. Several of the columns have fallen and lie broken on the cracked and dusty stone floor. Wide doorways are set into the walls at regular intervals on either side of the hall. Piles of rubble and debris litter the floor and continue the overall impression of neglect and decay. For a moment, I catch a glimpse of a stooped, hulking shape as it vanishes into one of the doorways.
Out of curiosity, I Sift the ruined doors and witness a blue slaad ripping them down less than half an hour before.
Knowing what we’re in for is always better than being totally surprised. We move deeper into the cathedral-like corridor and are attacked by more mud slaad. Then, a giant blue slaad (Xicar calls them “Battletoads”) lumbers into view. These slaad die in some strange ways, too. As Haroldur Death Knells a mud slaad, it’s skeleton rips out of its skin, takes 3 steps away, and then crumbles to dust quite comically. When I finish off the blue slaad, a rent opens up in the fabric of space and time, sucking the slaad through before vanishing entirely. Nineve kills one that turns into a writhing pile of snakes before evaporating into thin air. Apparently, Nineve really hates snakes.
We heal up and move on. The first thing we notice upon entering the next chamber is the sharp stink of chlorine that fills the air. The room itself has numerous alcoves and doorways leading off in various directions. Directly ahead is an open pit, a noxious green sludge bubbling away at the bottom. At the center of the pit is a raised platform surmounted by a strange silver obelisk. Faintly glowing and shifting runes cover the sides of this bizarre feature at the center of a rather unusual chamber. Dust, debris and cobwebs conspire to give this chamber the feeling of centuries of disuse and negelect. And boy, does it stink!
Standing near the back of the chamber next to the obelisk is a green slaad, which is kind of like a blue slaad but uglier. It immediately tries to fireball us, but Xicar contemptuously counters the spell, negating it entirely with a wave of his hand. Nineve charges forward towards the green slaad as two blue battletoads close in on us. They seem determined to wrest the strange canister from us, repeating the word “Ulolok” over and over. Perhaps fueled by angst at his sudden unfortunate discovery, 31E is a robot ninja whirlwind in this battle. Dog is also epically heroic, taking a blue slaad down just as it makes a charge for the strange canister that we left at the back of the chamber.
Once 31E the Murder Machine has run out of targets, we rifle through the debris. On the green slaad’s body we find a strange key. Consulting with Zolara reveals that it is a portal key, and we can use it to close that stable portal to Limbo. Of course, doing that requires that we throw the key into the portal, losing it forever. Haroldur is reluctant, but we eventually convince him to let it go. We compose an exceptionally rude note, complete with lewd illustrations, which ends in “Wee Jas 4EVA!!!”. We tie the note securely to the key, and toss the bundle through the portal. The portal collapses with a sucking sound.