(As always, I use other people’s characters and scenarios and make stuff up without permission, and my character gets more air time than is fair. Soz, but I can’t help that 🙂 )
(Oh, had to modify things a bit when I found out more about the MacGuffin. So there are bits that are a trifle contrived. Meh. )
Morality can be a tricky, difficult, elusive thing to pin down, sometimes. Shades of grey, different points of view. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Depends on who you ask, and often on who is doing the asking.
But sometimes, it isn’t so difficult. Sometimes there are people who are simply objectively evil. Not just tryannical; not just selfish and careless of what harm they do; but mad, destructive, a gibbering insanity type of evil.
Oh, but it was worth it. For Tiebreaker it was worth it. Anything was worth it. Dimfuzz kept telling himself so, anyway.
They had left a trail of destruction across the planes. Pointless killing. Mad and unpredictatable. Mere slaughter. But they were the pivot, the pin, the axis. And somehow, Coin owned them. Coin wanted to be free. Coin needed something. And Dimfuzz knew where it was – right next to the device, the Tiebreaker, the Puzzlesolver. And oh, oh, oh it was worth it, worth it, worth kingdoms, worth worlds, but the device was in the museum of Vinculum where the Elohim keep all their stolen treasures, the spoil of civilisations, and so he needed them, the mad ones, no-one else would possibly agree to loot the museum, no-one else was half as mad as they.
So careful, so cautious, he left clues for them, a trail of breadcrumbs. They ignored them, and came straight for him. He negotiated with them at the chasm. They wanted his keys. He would have given then anything, but he must negotiate, must dicker, must make a seeming of strength, of having options. But he had none, and the festival of Vinculum was tomorrow eve. All he had was a little knowledge – the anchor of the Planes was at the Museum of Vinculum, and Coin needed it. Tomorrow the Elohim would sleep, they would dream their dreams, and tomorrow eve – it did not bear thinking of. The things the Elohim would do. But for this one day, they would mostly be asleep, the museum as unguarded as it was ever going to be.
They came to an agreement. Agreements meant nothing to people like this. He joined them, he was among them. No illusions, few defenses, just himself alone and the mad ones, making camp for all the world as though it were just a thing. His heart quailed in terror. They made plans for the morrow. Nothing like a gnome conclave – just the barest outlines of a plan. “No point making a plan”, they said, “because it never works out and you just have to start killing people until you run out anyway”. Until you run out. In the heart of Vinculum – not one or two, not five or seven, but a city full of the Elohim. Dimfuzz noticed his vision growing dim at the edges, and realised that he had stopped breathing.
Yet he was still a gnome, and still had his curiosity.
Will was the odd man out, he and his donkey. He seemed a normal, rather likeable human. Surely – surely he must know, but the knowledge did not seem to bother him. Could anyone really be fool enough to suppose that they could travel with these and simply be collecting verses of a song?
Picklick was what he appeared to be. A nasty, surly, hobgoblin killer, whose main motivation seemed to be simply to have the opportunity to stab someone, preferably several someones, in the kidneys and then wiggle the knife about while they died. Comforting, in a way, that at least one of them was not pretending to be something they were not.
But this hobgoblin killer was not the worst of them.
They has a deep gnome with them. Dour, dark, and twisted. His motivation seemed to be like Picklick’s, but subtler. Not to kill, but to be better able to kill. That is: he cared for his craft. Of course, the only way to perfect that craft was to practise it. He claimed to have wrestled a dragon into submission, and the others simply nodded and shrugged. Yes, he did; and meh – no biggie.
But this deep gnome was not the worst of them.
The huge half orc, Brus, openly bore the sign of Yog-Sothoth. An outer god! The eater of souls! The lurker at the threshold! And this man worshipped him without a qualm. He got to talking. “So this Limen, we went to Tien and it turns out his name means portal! Don’t you get it?” His face grew angry, his eyes flat with fanaticism, “This jumped-up little demigod is calling himself The Door! It’s blasphemy, Dimfuzz, blasphemy is what it is! And I promise you, when I catch up with him I am personally going to kill him to death several times with this.”, he said, indicating his weapon: a massive sword on the end of an equally massive staff. “Unless I find something bigger in the meantime.” Dimfuzz quailed. “Aww, don’t you worry Dimfuzz. You’re all right, aren’t you! You’re trying to help us. Well, I’ll tell you this: no matter how bad things are, eventually all the earth will be destroyed and Yog-Sothoth will consume our souls. An then The First will reawaken and it will all be over. All we can hope for is to be eaten first, so that we don’t have to live through too much of the horror. Have you ever thought about making yourself more the kind of soul that The Key and The Gate would want to pick out of the line-up first?”
Gods! Was this half orc, was he trying to convert him? Trying to proselytise him? He was! He was spruiking the worship of his God with the simple earnestness of a devotee of Moroni. Dimfuzz grinned and nodded, his eyes wide with terror.
But this inquisitor of Yog-Sothoth was not the worst of them.
John. Such a simple, human name. But he was not human. His eyes moved … wrongly, his wrists and elbows just a tiny bit too flexible. He wore the unholy vestments of the blind idiot god Azahtoth. A mad cult, hounded to oblivion in any civilisation worthy of the name, and this – thing – wore a robe emblazoned with the symbol. He spoke to his God all the time, whispering, sometimes giggling. Out of the corner of his eye, Dimfuzz seemed to see John’s eyesockets replaced with fanged mouths gibbering and giggling, screeching obscenities, drooling promises, secrets and lies, but whenever he turned to look, John was always the same – seemingly a slightly distracted smiling human.
After their meal John stood and addressed himself to the group, pleasantly nodding to each, for all the world like a village priest delivering a homily.
Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?
I can see it in your eyes.
I can see it in your smile.
You’re all I ever wanted, my arms are open wide.
Tell me how to eat your heart, for I haven’t got a clue,
But let me start by saying
And the others bowed their heads and murmured “Cthulhu fhtagn”, he replying “Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” and making some sort of sign. His lips smiled benevolently, but his eyes were vacant with madness.
Then he rested against a tree, his head cocked to the side, listening, his face lit with pure bliss, murmuring
I’ve been alone with you inside my mind
over and over and over for what seemed like an hour, until Dimfuzz wanted to run blindly into the forest, screaming.
The portal in Vinculum opened into someone’s home, a mere 200m away from the museum. The group had decided that, since portals were keyed to a doorway and not to a location, and since they would probably need to escape after lifting the items from the museum, the simplest thing would be to take the entire doorway with them into the museum. Buildings in Vinculum were made of stone, and so a Stone Shape would be the easiest way. Not the way a gnome would normally do things, but the mad ones were doing things their own way. Dimfuzz had built a small wheeled cradle to hold a corner of the one-tonne chunk of stone they would be taking with them.
And it worked perfectly. John used his spell to gouge the entire door frame out of the wall, while the elohim slept in their coffins, the whole effort muffled by a Silence spell. The Deep Gnome, the Half-Orc (equipped with the most serious Belt of Giant Strength Dimfuzz had ever seen) and the Donkey managed to wrestle the entire thing out into the deserted street without breaking it. They checked that their portal key still operated correctly, and it did.
As they walked briskly to the museum, the doorway wheeling along with them, they discussed how they might break in. They agreed that in the first instance John would claim that the door was itself an artifact to be housed in the museum, and if that failed they would start killing people. Dimfuzz giggled, some little corner of his mind horrified at himself for doing so: they had a Plan A, and a Plan B.
Vinculum was a closed pocket plane (a 3-d toroidal manifold with at least one half-twist) and the museum stretched all the way across it, forming a barrier that had to be tunnelled under. The entrance, although open, was heavily guarded and not an option. Instead they reasoned that there would be a goods dock in the tunnel beneath the museum. They came to a huge stone double door. Closed. The hobgoblin reported that it was barred from the inside. And so the mad ones decided that they would simply break it open under cover of a Silence spell. Here, in the heart of Vinculum, in complete silence they made a game of it, the deep gnome, the half orc and the donkey – punding at the door until with a silent snap and a visible shudder the bar gave way and they could swing the door open.
The interior of the Museum of Vinculum awaited.
Of course, there were stairs. And they were dragging about a ton of door. Brus suggested that they should leave it there, because even if it was at the bottom of the stairs it was still closer than it would otherwise have been when it came time to make their escape. The others pointed out that this was actually a very bad idea, and that he should get that doorframe up the stairs and stop complaining. While the same three again got the thing up the steps, Dimfuzz and Picklick scouted ahead, and John hummed quietly to himself. What he was humming, Dimfuzz didn’t want to know.
They eventually got the doorframe up to the main museum corridor. Dimfuzz said to go left, although in this space any direction is as good as any other. They walked and walked. There were doors all along the length of the corridor, but today they were all closed and locked. They encountered one of the guardians – a floating blob, a cross between a rabbit, a sperm, and a unicorn (Brett can’t draw for shit) – but Will enchanted it and sent it on its way. “This blag is going like clockwork”, said Brus, channelling a distant relative on the plane of Eberron. It couldn’t last.
They were accosted by two guards. Attacked – no need for bluffing or fast talking. Three of them attacked charged of them (Faugh scored three crits out of five attacks with his incredibly cheesy Brawler build), and Will put the other into a deep slumber, and thence the others put him into a deeper, more permanent one. The guards each had some sort of device on them, Picklick explaining that it was an odd type of key. Apparently used by “swiping” it through a corresponding lock.
They noticed that the ‘ceiling’ above them was the same as the floor they were on. Piclick climbed the wall, and at the halfway point dropped down onto the ceiling above them. They continued on like this, reasoning that they were covering twice the territory in the same amount of time. After a while further, they passed, on the ceiling above, the site of their previous battle.
Further along still, they came to a large archway. The main hall of treasures was just up ahead. The planar anchor and the puzzlesolver were just beyond.
Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something
I think you’ll understand
When I’ll say that something
I wanna bite your hand
I wanna bite your hand
I wanna bite your hand
Oh please, say to me
You’ll let me be your man
And please, say to me
You’ll let me bite your hand
Oh let me bite your hand
I wanna bite your hand