Unnatural 20

Aberrance in Midgard
The yawning void and its place outside all things.

Aberrance in Midgard (and beyond)
- Annotations to the journal of Baron Tellefue Harrowdale

“There are gaps between the stars that are too big. If the sky went on forever, like we are told, then the whole thing should be nothing but light. It is not. There are gaps, and there is a darkness in them. There are places that our stories do not go, but they are not empty. There are things in them that do not understand distance, or time. There is a cold wind. There is a piping. There is a hunger and a will that snaps at a man’s soul. I know these things, because I have reached into the gaps in the sky and I have met them all.”

Planar travel from Midgard is a risky proposition. Not because of where you might end up, but because of the places that one must go through. Many routes exist, and none of them are safe. The most dangerous, however, are places that are both beyond and between. Those brave few who peer from one world to the next across the gulfs of night, across gnarls in time or space, tend to blink reflexively on the crossing, and it is that action that spares their minds. The small subset who stare willingly into the chasm rarely, if ever, come back sane.

“My experiments continue. After all this time there are new things to be learnt. Initially I believed that there were songs, of a sort, that would call out to them. Certain vagaries of harm. Now though, I am not so sure. The old orchestration is not as effective as it once was. I have been compelled to new verses, and each one works, but only for a while…”

The void itself is enough to break a mage’s will. At first there is nothing but darkness and the faintest howl of an interstitial wind. This appearance of endless nothing is often danger enough. With time, however, one can become accustomed to the spiraling gap. Within there is, and are, a world, or many, that enjoy permanent eclipse. There are creatures who live, after a fashion, in cities on its shadowed face. And there are things like gods. There are ancient, unfathomable, gods.

“I have the eye now, it gazes back at me as I gaze at it. A the edges of what I see, in the dark that vanishes when I turn my head, there is the piping and the drum. Nothing is silent now, there is only relief in drowning it out with intervals of strain. If I turn fast enough, I can catch it. If I can turn faster than those heavy angles allow, it will hide from me no longer. I will have it, and know what it is that lives beyond.”

Haïta, the King in Yellow, lives within and with the lake of Hali, upon the shores of whom rests Dim Carcosa. He is a world in the Hyades, and a long forgotten protector of shepherds, playwrights, and politicians. Every story that he touches becomes his story. Every life that he grasps lives his script.

Yajī’u ash-shudhdhādh is the key, the gate, the opener of the way. It is the departure and the destination, and appears as only the silhouette of a thing. All voyeurs of the abyss catch its attention and all paths through it are dictated by its whim. It has at times been approached by astronomers, architects, and mathematicians. It’s symbol is simply two short and parallel lines.

The name that no lips dare speak aloud gnaws hungrily in the dark amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin whine of mindless flutes. No one worships it, and yet it rests at the centre of all things. It is blind and idiotic. It is blasphemy writ large, and yet no truth can kill it. It has given birth to every star in the sky, and at the end of time, will consume them all. It is the thing beyond ignorance. It is where chaos comes from.

“The answer was simple, in the end. All I had to do was face my own shadow. Everything I have searched for, everywhere I have gone… it was all there, all along. Now I face the light, and I see it at my feet. I have forgotten if I have turned toward it, or if it has toward me, but the results are all the same. The distance is meaningless. Everything is the same point. Everytime is the same moment. I can see through it now, and the Kings Without Faces are all there, wavering in the overwhelming dark. We look at the sky, and all we see are points of light. But we do not even have to turn to see that we are wrong. That there is very nearly no light at all.”

The Kings embody the Aberrant. Their themes are all in misconception and error brought on by self-awareness: that there are not many stories, but one; that space is an illusion; that we have no concept that adequately describes what comes before conception. Aberrant powers are all a small kind of truth imposed on a world that cloaks itself in comfortable fictions. Aberrant mages and scholars are those that must reconcile what they now know as fact with the world around them. Aberrant sorcerers simply express those facts, and must come to recognise the truths that underwrite them.

“It is, I feel, time to go now, as it ever has been. I am not sure I will survive in the abyss, or that the very idea of me has meaning there, but I know that I cannot live here, with this burning weight in my head, in my heart, in my hands. I am told that I have visitors who await my pleasure, the first to come to this tower willingly in years. I will tend to them, tell them things they do not want to hear, tell them of things that I have done and then, finally, I will step outside.”


Trappings

Aberrant traits: meta-fiction, failures of perspective, geometry, time, and colour, stars as a means of navigating vast distances, unearthly music produced by pipes and drums, cold winds, oil as a symptom of compression and age.

Powers re-invisioned:
  • Acidic ray acid is a simple corollary for the disassociative nature of the Aberrant beyond. Direct exposure to its fundamental nature breaks down the bonds between things in terms of distance, causation, and frequency, much like a burn might. The ray produced this way is raw, unrefined, and uncontrolled.
  • Long Limbs one does not have to stretch across the distance between yourself and a target, just realise that in reality there is no distance. As experience increases, the amount of time it is possible to effectively maintain this mindset before a lapse of concentration occurs also increases. That amount of time is, however, essentially outside of the normal realm, so observers see only an increase in effective reach.
  • Unusual anatomy after habitual use of Long Limbs, this is not so much a violation of biology (although such things are possible), as a violation of location. Folds in the fabric of what is, makes pinpointing vital areas awkward at best. In some cases, sorcerers might actually see a backstab coming without turning to look.
  • Alien Resistance All stories are one. All spaces are one. This story, this space, is closer to that perfect ideal than those around it, it shucks lesser magic like a solid thing resists fluid.
  • Aberrant form all of your anatomy in this realm is just an analogy of that in one that supersedes it, if it exists at all. Some sorcerers of this level are just shells, or silhouettes, or smudges. Others appear as horrific collections of tentacles, but all of these symptoms fail to capture the underlying condition.

Miscellenia

Folding Blades Aberrant mages and sorcerors are rare, those who have the coherence to craft any kind of item, rarer still. Nevertheless, at least one Folding Blade exists in Midgard, a falchion of Orcish origin that possesses an oil-like sheen on the blade. They are almost universally chaotically aligned (a pre-requisite to manufacture), but once fully empowered, can be stretched, bent, and billowed through an opponents anatomy like yards and yards of razor sharp ribbon. They, of course, barely move, but a skilled and knowledgeable devotee of the Kings can warp space around them as if it were putty.

Folding is a +2 (rare) quality, which must be added to blades which are already at least +1 and aligned (chaotic).

UnFolding costs a move action in which you make a Knowledge: Arcana roll opposed by [10 plus your target’s Perception], if successful you deny your opponent their dex bonus to ac against your next attack, if it happens before the end of your next round. UnFolding doesn’t provide attacks of opportunity but is at -4 against outsiders, -8 against undead, and has no useful function vs. constructs or creatures with no discrete anatomy. For every point of dex bonus denied in this fashion, the blade gains an additional point of damage. Successfully UnFolding a blade against a target with a + 1 dex bonus effectively turns the weapon into a + 2 / + 2 blade. If you fumble with an UnFolded attack roll, damage is done to the wielder of the blade instead. Criting with an attack roll occurs only on a 20, but does x3 damage instead of a weapon’s normal modifier.

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Leaving Lutetia

Having inherited a house in the wealthy townships surrounding Lutetia, our merry band of adventurers have set off to recover the missing contents, a treasure trove supposedly carried off by orcs some weeks ago. The motivation behind such a southerly incursion, and the purpose in looting only the one household have both so far remained a mystery, but as the party track the offenders further and further north it is clear that something other than ambition is directing the Goblinoids of Norga. A black and angering madness has slowly descended upon the greenskin tribes and in its wake lies the threat of war.

Now well within the icy grasp of the North, our explorers have found themselves as witnesses to the burning remains of Goodland. The town has been utterly over-run by orcs, its holy icon stolen, its residents slain almost to a man, and as daylight creeps into the streets, the invaders have begun to sing a twisted and backward chant. Once in the service of Arghurosh, a brutally savage Orog tactician, they have been claimed by a deeper darkness, as Goodland itself has been.

Somewhere amongst the wreckage stalks Arena, pinned to the shadows by both the coming dawn and her own memory, a spirit of murderous vengeance upon her. In time the orcs will inevitably discover this little death. It is the only time Arena has unless Elowen can yet again evade the Maw of the Wolf.

On the hill above Goodland, Kafu keeps his own dangerous company. Arghurosh himself remains clear of lunacy, for now, and may hold essential information on his kin, a place to hide, and the loot that is rightfully theirs. Largely devoid of sorcerous might or mystical healing, Kafu can only hope that his charm is enough to keep him alive.

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Worgton

With the ashes of Goodland and the corpse of Argurosh left behind them, our brave travelers traipse further north. They encounter streams of fire, bridges of ice, and an unpleasantly verdant forest, all before reaching their most northerly destination in Norga- Worgton, the settlement formerly known as Harrowdale.

After a confrontation with Kafu’s past, the discovery of a glacial cathedral, and the maiming of Elowen, an enormously abberant creature is eventually defeated. The party gather their forces in its wake, now aided by Talia’s strange replacement and the orcs of the Worg tribe, to halt a war that seems almost inevitable. Rapid travel across Norga brings them into contact with further Ogres, bands of damaged and amnesiac orcs, a host of eagles, Sala’s demented witch, and their old friends from Elorhim, the Skull tribe. This time, the party are prepared, and the goblins they face are almost entirely dispatched. Only one survives to flee.

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Three Days To Kill

Kafu, Elowen, Arena, Ekring and Vian enter Eslen with the expectation that their Orcish companion, Kadgrale, will help broker some kind of lasting peace between Orcs and Men. However, Kafu’s ability to bargain with Kadgrale becomes strained while forces are afoot in the city that clearly have their own agenda. Three days of diplomatic discussion between the Thane and his closest rivals are interrupted by poisonings, murders, and an Ogrish emissary. While Arena helps to keep the diplomatic process on track Elowen forms a lasting friendship with the Dwarves of Norga and Kafu slowly reveals that the Corruption of the North may be linked to happenings overseas. Sadly, Katharta, Kafu’s main lead, commits suicide in broad daylight. On further investigation, the Thane’s Shaman inadvertently demonstrates that the taint in Norga has not been completely expunged, and pays for the mistake with his life. Events come to a climax during the last night of the Moot, with the assassination of Thane Hesha at the hands of the Skull Tribe and a highly tactical response to their actions by Glodurin (the Dwarven Governor of the city). During the following two weeks, Arena and Kafu ensure that the selection of a new Thane is appropriately handled, and in the process acquire no small amount of political power over the North. Elowen, meanwhile, cements her relationship with Glodurin.

With passage expedited by the new Thane (Asker) and his new Shaman (Sthenet), the party leave for Dalriada to follow up on their only two leads, a mysterious messenger called Cairns, and the figure known only as Urizen.

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