City of Delusion

Chapter Two: City Living (Pt 1)

The Gates


Uriah


Recognition


An Audience


View
Chapter One: The Long Road Home (Pt 2)

The Forest

Soon, the town is lost behind them as the road leads into a dark forest. Septuos questions the party as the cart rolls along, and the party realizes that none of them can remember any of what has lead them to this strange land. Septuos, frustrated, nevertheless writes down what little the party reveals, hoping to fix his book and his reputation.

The cart rolls along through the forest as the light dims. Past a clearing with a strange white rock and a large tree stump.

Twenty minutes later, the cart rolls by a clearing with a strange white rock and a large tree stump. Booty, recognition dawning, begins to feel something might be wrong. Uriah takes notice as well and, swearing under his breath, whips his team of horses into a gallop.

“Oh no…” Septuos intones, white-faced, “We should have waited until tomorrow. It’s too dark.” He nervously cranes his neck around, searching the dark woods around them as they speed by.

Something spooks the horses, and with a loud whinny the cart swerves, loses balance, and begins tumbling down the road.

The party is thrown clear, and when they come to their senses they look up to find a thick, noxious darkness pressing in from around them. At the limits of their vision, they can barely make out dark shapes circling them. The horses have been dragged off into this darkness, and Uriah lies near the edge of the light, terribly wounded.

Septuos rushes quickly to his friend’s side, and bends down to hear somthing Uriah seems to be whispering. When he hears it his eyes widen and what little color is left in his face drains.

“No. No no no nononononono.” He trails off as the party hears Uriah’s whisper, echoed from all around them.

“Eld Fen,” the forest speaks. In many voices, man and beast and tree, it builds into a pulsing refrain: “Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen…”


Eld Fen

The darkness seems to part, and a bare-chested figure walks slowly out from it. There is a smell of deep things, of earth and soil. A bass thumping like a hearbeat.

Eld Fen.

It is freakishly tall, with bone-white skin. It’s arms are long, ending in long, sharp, knife-like fingers.

It’s head is that of a great stag, antlers towering over it’s already tall frame. The stag’s eyes glisten with decaying motion. The head looks to be sewn on.

It raises a hand out to them and the whispers cease. It gestures:

Come.

The party does not. Gearshift throws several fireballs at the creature. It doesn’t attempt to move, the fire knocking off it’s flesh. As it falls to the ground, it loses coherence and turns into a mass of sizzling beatles, worms, maggots, and other bugs. It is not hurt. It gestures again:

Come.

Gear throws another fireball with similar results. There is a giant, wrenching sound, followed by a collosal thud, and they are suddenly elsewhere.


The Path
Whatever it was, it is gone now. And so is the road. The only thing recognizable is the small clearing with the stone and the stump. A small path leads into the darkening forest behind it.

As they pass it, Booty stoops to inspect the white stone and find that it is a greatly eroded base, maybe of some ancient sculpture. The only thing that can be made out are two words: Eld Fen.

The party marches down the only path available to them. They find their way ahead blocked by numerous ancient traps of varying sophistication. As Marlow disables some of them he recognizes his own sign, placed in secrecy. He does not remember it, but they must have been here before.

An hour later they emerge, intact, into a large forest clearing. They are immediately ambushed by a group of Elven Fen Shaman, worshippers of Eld Fen. One even takes it’s form and rushes at them with a roar.

The party, working together, manages to slay most of their enemies when there is a loud Snap! And suddenly the forest, and it’s inhabitants, are frozen, motionless.

“This is getting boring, isn’t it.” The Man In White sighs. He snaps his fingers once more and a flurry of hovering needles flies out to dispose of the remaining elves.

“Seriously, no thanks? Why you ingrateful…” The Man In White rages. Behind him, a tree jerks into motion and creeps up silently. The tree’s crown looks like antlers. It lifts a large, club like limb, and swats The Man like a fly.

The Man In White recovers and comes to a stop, hovering, in the air. He snaps his finger and is back in the center of the clearing. He looks up plaintively at the tree and his voice takes on a different character.

“Almost all the rest have yielded, but you? You continue to resist. It’s pointless, surely you must know that…” He turns, looks disgustedly at the group, then snaps his fingers once more and is gone.

The tree’s motion slows, then stops, and from behind it out it steps: Eld Fen. It motions once more at them:

Come.

Less afraid, the party follows as the figure turns and walks towards the cave entrance. Passing over what appears to be a stone threshold, its figure disintegrates into insects and slumps to the ground, skittering off into the dark inside.

Gathering closer, they see that it isn’t a cave but a massive stone doorway, set into stone walls completely covered by foliage and moss.

They enter to find themselves in another cathedral. It’s design, though cruder and more ancient, mirrors The Sanctum they found themselves in earlier. There are seven alcoves with seven statues, most worn and weathered.

Booty finds herself in front of a statue that bears a striking resemblance to her sister, but this statue is clearly hundreds of years old. Behind the statue she finds a fist sized sphere of polished black glass, warm to the touch.

Marlow stands in front of a statue that matches exactly the picture in Septuos’s book, down to the sword being pulled from a hat. He carefully installs the crystal mechanism from the previous statue and places his hand on it. Several strange minutes later, he wears a hat. Nobody bothers to ask where it came from.

High above them the dark night sky begins to grow lighter, pink. It reveals the broken remains of a stained glass window with the same seven-circle motif.

They proceed through the back of the cathedral and come upon a stone balcony on a cliff side. Outlined against the rising sun, they see The City, glimmering and enormous, at a great distance. There is a flickering of flame at it’s base. The sun catches on the bronze towers and crystal spires and shines brilliantly. The City, outlined against the sunrise, stirs something in Agon and he stands a while on the balcony, staring as though he recognizes something.

Septuos shouts to them from down below and they follow a narrow stone staircase into the forest below. They arrive in a hollow in the forest occupied by a stone henge.

“Well, this will either do nothing, take us to The City immediately, or kill us,” says Septuos grimly.

As the sun begins to break through the leaves to reach the forest floor, they step through.

View
Chapter One: The Long Road Home (Pt 1)

In the Cathedral…

The stillness of the great cathedral feels supernatural. Aside from the sunlight streaming in through the high stained glass windows, not a sound breaches the stone walls and reaches the heroes standing inside, still awestruck and confused.

“Is that… really me?” exclaims Booty, gazing up at the statue. It looks like what she remembers herself to look like, but older by several years.

“Dwarven made, and a shoddy likeness too.” answers Gearshift, but staring back and forth at the statue’s hand and his own, he starts to realize something is different about the way he looks as well.

Marlow, ever the adventurer, is scribbling hastily into his journal, trying to capture a likeness of the place, copying the strange designs of the fourteen stained glass windows set high into the ceiling, and of the seven circle motif in the great rose window behind the altar. This motif, he makes a note, seems to be subtly repeated in almost every structural element of the cathedral.

Agon is gazing ponderously into the light when it starts to dim, almost imperceptibly. Disturbed, he lowers his gaze to peer down one of the cruciform arms of the cathedral. There is the sound of doors slamming shut, ever quickening in pace, and the light dims at the end of the hall until he can see almost nothing.

“We need to leave this place. Now.”

With the speed of an eclipse, the light from behind the stained glass windows dims, plunging the cathedral into complete darkness. The heroes race towards the great doors of the cathedral as the windows behind them shatter one by one and the stones of the ceiling begin to come crashing down. Realizing the great doors are too heavy to open quickly, they force open a smaller side door and find a faintly rippling mirrored surface behind it.

Dala’s companion Umm pushes his bark-covered head through the surface. Library, he communicates back to her. The party takes his word for it and leaps through without a moment to spare.


The Red Room

The party now finds themselves in a Red Room. The details of the room are these:

  1. That the Room is Red.
  2. That it is a Library.
  3. That there is a Gentleman in a leather chair reading quietly in the center of the room.
  4. That there is a Chandelier lighting the room.
  5. That looking at the Chandelier is impossible.
  6. That there is a 20-ft metal ring in the wall behind them.
  7. That there is a plain wooden door in the wall opposite the ring.

The Gentleman doesn’t stir at the party’s entry, nor at first as they attempt to question him.

Marlow draws near to inspect the book that the man is reading. There is something strangely familiar about it. Searching his knowledge he matches the book, bound in obsidian and copper and with silvery metallic pages, to something he had only heard legends about before.

These are the details that Marlow remembers:

  • First, that there was rumored to be a book in which was recorded the details of every plane in existence.
  • Second, that this book contained many spells and powers pertinent to the creation of and travel between these planes.
  • Third, that the name of the book was The Codex of Infinite Planes.
  • Forth, that it was almost certainly an urban legend.

Marlow, entranced, attempts to read over the man’s shoulder. He can make nothing out, but is immediately struck with an intense headache.

Booty, drawing nearer as well, examines the Gentleman closer. She sees nothing remarkable at all in his face, just a scholarly visage wreathed with a pair of thin silver spectacles. In his lap, however, she observes that the man has a strange, coppery, hairless cat.

The Gentleman at this point barely breaks his concentration at his reading and simply points to the wooden door on the opposite side of the room. He is heard to mutter under his breath about the ghastly amount of noise.

Dala, noticing the hairless, scaly cat, is entranced and approaches to pet it. As she steps closer, her druidic senses correctly identify the cat as a poly-morphed copper dragon playing a hilarious prank on them all. Fearless, she pets the dragon anyways. There is a strange echo of laughter in her ears as she does so.

The Gentleman closes his book with an exasperated sigh and acknowledges the heroes for the first time.

“Please leave me be. You really shouldn’t be in here,” he pauses, then adds, “Was it him, did he send you here?”

They know, without thinking, that he means The Man In White.

He sighs again.

“He lies, you know. Every word from his lips. Of course, some are double lies. Sometimes treble. One of the first things he learned was that sometimes the truth lies for you.

“I’m terribly sorry, it’s just that I’m very busy. Please show yourselves out,” he speaks, lifting the large book and again beginning to read. The party takes his advice and proceeds through the wooden door.


The Villa of Ormen

With a disorienting sense of having felt gravity shift on it’s axis, the heroes emerge from a cellar door into a small town. Across the way is a tavern, and gathered around a horse-cart outside it a small throng of people.

One man, Uriah Font, is carefully packing supplies into the cart with the help of a few porters. The party watches as the three of them lift a long wooden box into the back, a casket.

Uriah answers the party’s question, but slowly appears to recognize the party, calling them heroes. (Just as he does, Marlow makes a distraction and disappears.) Agon, confused but unfazed, continues to speak to Uriah. The party is directed by Uriah to look into the nearby stables.

Inside they find a sleeping historian, one Septuos Thracus. He is sleeping on several copies of his book, The World Imperiled. He awakes and believes the party is poking fun of him. He reacts defensively and begins to describe the six heroes described in his book.

His descriptions, and his book, are laughably wrong on what little details the party remembers about themselves. Booty is described as The Harlot of Sarenrae, a bloody and vicious amazon. Agon is described as her full-orc unich-paladin bodyguard, who worships Calistria. Marlowe is described as being a full foot taller, dashingly handsome, and is shown pulling a sword out of a hat.

Gearshift, however, is described almost completely perfectly. After further conversation, it becomes clear that Septuos lifted his story from a series of ancient children’s tale called “The World of Warcraft” and authored by someone known only as The Bard. Septuos, it seems, had filled in what little information he could find on all the heroes with whatever was on hand. Realizing that he has guessed wrong and that his credibility and fortune as a historian is ruined, Septuos is crestfallen.

Outside, Uriah offers the party a ride into The City. The townsfolk of Ormen have gathered, realizing their heroes are amongst them. They cheer, and children chase after the cart as they leave the town, headed into the forest.

Snap.

The Man in White is standing there, among the crowd. A cruel smile on his face, he waves as they leave. The crowd moves in front of him and a second later he is gone.

View
Prologue: Wild Is The Wind
In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah ah, ah ah
In the center of it all, in the center of it all
Your eyes.
On the day of execution, on the day of execution
Only women kneel and smile, ah ah, ah ah
At the center of it all
Your eyes
Your eyes.
— Blackstar by David Bowie

The party awakes to find themselves imprisoned. Stripped of their belongings, some of them clad in irons, they peer through the bars of their cells to see an orc guard napping in a chair. The guard stirs in his sleep, but doesn’t awake, even to their protestations.

“It’s no use, I’m afraid.”

One minute the party hears just a voice out of nothingness, and then with the sound of a snapping of fingers he is there, The Man In White.

“He’s fallen quite permanently asleep. He won’t hear you, of that you can be certain.”

Before the party stands a tall and slender man. His clothing is regally adorned, brilliant, spotless, white as his gleaming perfect teeth. He’s smiling, but it’s not a comfort to behold. A specter of vanity and cold cunning, right before your eyes.

“He won’t hear anything. Ever again. Heh.”

The man removes a gleaming top hat and produces from within a long, sharp pin. Too long to have been inside his hat, it seems. He places the needle to the temple of the sleeping guard. As he removes his hands, the pin stays in place. With a gleeful twinkle in his eyes he rubs his hands together, takes a dancing step backwards, then spins around lightning quick. His open palm sends the pin through the orc’s skull with a snickkt and sinks with a soft thud into the door behind him. The orc falls from his chair, dead.

“Oh, I haven’t gotten any on me now, have I?” he asks, gingerly peeling open his coat and reaching inside for a handkerchief. He hasn't. Though there is blood aplenty on the ground he is still spotless, gleaming white. He dabs at his forehead anyways.

“Oh please don’t be impatient. I’m here for no-body else. I’m here for you. Each one of you," he pauses, counting the cells below his breath. "Oh, but you aren’t all here, are you? Tut-tut. Such a sad gang of nobodies. Just foggy recollections of who you were. Hehehehehehe.”

He snaps his fingers. A small cloth-wrapped bundle falls out of nowhere onto the floor in front of each of the prisoners.

“Well then, I’ll see you on the outside, heroes.”

Once more he snaps his fingers and is gone, leaving the party to formulate an escape plan.


The party, still weary of each other, reach an unspoken agreement to cooperate in order to find their way to safety. Using the implements found in the cloth packages given to them by The Man In White, they fight their way into the next room, discovering a mess hall for a group of kobolds.

The kobolds fall easily, even with the paltry equipment the party had been given, and the party sets their minds to escaping. After talking their way past a sinister and toadish cook, they open the last door in the room and proceed up a long dark stairway.


The stone sarcophagus grinds slowly back upon the altar and the party emerges from the stairway beneath. They find themselves in a grand cathedral, The Sanctum of the Seven. The light shining in columns from great stained glass windows is blinding at first, but as the party's eyes adjust, they stare at their surroundings in awe.

They stand in a great open hall. The vaulted ceiling, supported by six enormous pillars, disappears into darkness at dizzying heights above them. In the alcoves between the pillars are plinths, upon which stand six very strange sculptures.

It's the party. Each of them, carved seemingly from white marble, yet wearing familiar gear. As the party inspects these, they press their palms against gems set into the plinths and find their equipment transferred magically onto them.

Snap.

He is suddenly at the altar, standing the hunk of stone carved to look like a sarcophagus. He wears a priest's stole and hat, and his arms are outstretched into a gleeful mockery of blessing.

"Seven heroes rode out. The best of the best, with the quest of quests set upon them. And they never returned, no. Had to be buried in effigy. Sculptures instead of caskets.

"How excited they'll be to find that you're all home again!" he laughs. "Heroes is what they’ll call you, the ones who don’t really know, the ones who live on the bard’s song and the gossip of housewives. Oh! Beyond those doors there will be parades, flower petals, statues of you in every house from here to the wastes. They already set down at night and pray with your names upon their lips."

He snaps his fingers, and is suddenly behind them, standing in the shadows of the cathedral near the great iron doors.

"And all the while, you’ll know what’s coming. Destruction. Death. Every last one of them.

“You were the best the world had to offer, weren’t you?  Sent to be it’s final guardians at the hour of it's utmost need. But you didn’t save the world, did you? No, no, you sold it. Cheap." He bows his head and cackles with glee, a rictus smile on his face.

"And if they ever figure that out, they’ll rip you apart. Hehehehe!"

He pauses for a minute, twinkling eyes lost in the shadows of the great cathedral.

"See you soon, heroes."

Snap. And he is gone.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.