The two companions, Alias now disguised as a cat, entered the metallic sphere several minutes behind Arah.
The interior of the metallic sphere was illuminated by a ghostly blue sheen that glowed beneath the steel-plastic material of the sphere. It was clearly larger inside than out, defying all physics.
Quin led the way some three hundred feet along a curving, descending spiral passage. Part way along, they passed the scene of combat. A jackal lay dead among three slain korred, there was no sign of the fairy or of the angel – but the sounds of battle could be heard further ahead.
The passage ended in a massive spherical dome. At the end of the passage a landing opened onto a walkway that ran around the interior circumference of the dome. Arah was locked in deadly melee with the elderly fairy. In the center of the dome, hovering, was a great machine of steel, glass and crystal. It appeared to be a great orrery of spinning arms, globes, and strangely shaped fetishes,. Whatever the strange objects purpose, it appeared broken an orbiting cloud of jagged broken steel and glass flashed around this thing and lashed at the pair fighting on the walkway.
Beneath the animated and hostile machine was a sea of runes. At first glance the bottom of the dome appeared to be filled with a thick and multicolored liquid that shimmered and shone like oil on water. A second look revealed that this wasn’t liquid at all, but a collection of millions upon millions of individual runes, or engrams – each as unique as a snowflake.
Alias prayed for Arah to be healed, but was confused and unsure whom to believe. The angel was decrying the fairy as a pagan and a heathen who must be slaughtered; the fairy was accusing the angel of a wicked deception. The alien machine attacked everyone except the Prophet. Alias hesitated and Quin acted.
Quin rushed toward the combat without hesitation. Quin physically acted to prevent the angel from rejoining combat with the fairy, but the angel was too strong and shoved past her. In doing so, the angel lunged at Alias with her spear and stabbed her.
“I have tolerated your pagan ways too long, heathen!” Arah screamed.
Quin responded with her dagger, and, as it had before, the dagger became alive in her grip. In a single strike the dagger took Arah in the heart and slew her. The angel disintegrated into a pile of black ashes and a twisted horse’s skull.
The angel dead, the fairy yelled for a retreat from the attacking machine and everyone retreated into the tunnel. Alias was struggling, his guardian angel had been killed by his friend, had he been betrayed? Who to believe? His faith was rocked.
A hurried conversation took place in the glowing tunnel of this alien sphere. The elderly fairy begged to be heard and this was what she had to say:
A war had erupted in Heaven between two rival factions of angels – none knew what had caused the conflict, but the fairy’s best guess was that a difference in the interpretation of Shoshanna’s will had led to the conflict.
The schism was severe enough for the aloof god Shoshanna to side with one faction and cast the other into Hell forevermore. Those who were thrown from Heaven were to be called The Fallen, those who remained became known as The Vengeful.
In time The Fallen found their way out of Hell and into another world. Once there, they began to preach Shoshanna’s Word without opposition – but it was a twisted, misinterpreted and wicked version of Shoshanna’s Word.
By the time_ The Vengeful_ realized what had happened it was too late and the world’s population had succumbed to their Dark Word. Shoshanna instructed her angels to destroy the planet entirely – and that Vengeful Armageddon is exactly what they did!
Such an event is not without consequence though and the blasted chunks of this dead world have since crossed the cosmos and only now began to pound the World of Llowellen. The first impacts were felt two hundred years ago in these very deserts, but more are still coming and are predicted to continue arriving for the next millennium.
The old fairy revealed herself to be Rhea the Witch. She had predicted the first skyfall two hundred years ago but confided her discoveries with none except her own journal and spellbook – the Book of Stars.
As the time drew close she left her lonely tower in the hills and headed for ground zero. Her forewarning and her magic saved her from the destruction but what she had not predicted was that not all of the rocks falling from the sky were natural.
Engram Arks, metallic extra-dimensional spheres guarded by a memekeeper and various engram guardians, carried the lost souls of the now-dead world. An engram ark was designed to encode the soul of a living being into a magical-psychic rune-engram that would then be reconstituted, somehow, into a living physical being by the memekeeper once it had found a habitable world.
Rhea battled with the engram guardians and slew them – leaving one petrified in what is now Muan Oasis’ main thoroughfare before she gained access inside the Ark and disappeared from the world for two centuries.
In the time since, she has learned all that she knows by studying the memekeeper and doing her best to repair it; but also, by immersing herself in the Sea of Runes and melding with just one of the lost souls. It appears as a writhing runic tattoo, glowing just beneath the surface of her skin.
In the meantime, Rhea’s tower was looted by shepherds fleeing the falling comet. These refugees took her journal, the Book of Stars and it eventually became a hereditary treasure in the shepherd’s family passing to Kahaal, Mage of Muan and then to Quin.
Kahaal was the first to really understand the value of this family heirloom. He communicated about the book with a magister named Aand in the city of Yhakkoth. That was his mistake, Aand was a member of a dark cult that operated in a hidden temple beneath the streets of Yhakkoth. The cult believed that if they took the book to Rhea’s tower they would be able to perform ceremonies to unlock great magics. Aand and his cult were being deceived by a dark angel that pretended to be Aand’s familar – the imp, Talon.
Talon was a lowly soldier of the Fallen, searching for another world to corrupt to the Dark Word of Shoshanna. The book was recovered from the clutches of the imp, but not before the darkness descended upon the world and upon the city that had invited it in: Yhakkoth.
Rhea now believes that only the Vengeful can defeat the Fallen, and despite the harm it will do to her own faith she counseled Alias to fulfill his mission as Prophet and seek the source of the light in Yhakkoth and bring the true angels into the world.
Where is this light? How can it be found? Rhea doesn’t know but she advised Alias and Quin to speak with the Green Wizard of Yhakkoth, because if anyone would know where it could be found it, would be him.
Alias was still confused. He didn’t know what to believe, and grieved the loss of his angel even as he struggled to accept that he had been deceived. He agreed to seek out the Green Wizard and the source of the light but only if Rhea came along too. Reluctantly, for she hadn’t left the cave where the Ark had come to a rest in centuries, she agreed.
Before they left to prepare for their hasty return to the city, Quin paid a visit to the Sea of Souls. Standing on the parapet above the Rune Sea in peace, the Memekeeper also remained peaceful, the souls sang out in a deep and alien basso chant and Quin responded.
She gently lowered herself among the millions of engrams. Rivulets of untethered engrams rolled off Quin’s body, and back into the greater body of engrams before just a single one attached itself to Quin’s neck and shoulder grafting itself beneath the skin like a tattoo.
The process was entirely painless but still a little unsettling. Quin experienced a flashing vision of an alien world, she heard an indecipherable word echo loudly in her head, and she smelled the trace of an odor like nothing she had ever experienced before, and finally she was left with the undeniable impression of a mind seeking desperately wholeness.
It lasted only a moment, and Quin climbed from the Rune Sea, tattooed but apparently unharmed. Unharmed, but strengthened and invigorated by the experience. Her rune was white, about three inches on a side but indecipherable in it’s alien complexity. It is vaguely reminiscent of a face with three eyes and conjures images of martial strength, but that is all that could be learned from an initial examination.
After an physically exhausting and spiritually frustrating day the three collapsed into a brief and broken rest in Rhea’s home.
Written by Ian Hewitt
Game Master (Ian Hewitt)
Played at the tabletop in Laramie, Wyoming