Parallel LII: That's Why the Lady is a Swan
"Do I know what a swan looks like? Are you serious? It was a giant, colorful swan. A phoenix swan. Am I painting a picture for you here? Stop making that face and just take my word for it. The Lady of Pain was a phoenix swan. I'm not sure what's so complicated about this.
Listen, did you hire me to find the Harvester or was I secretly supposed to be plying the Lady of Pain with stale bread the whole time? Can we move on? Thank you.
It's a remarkably tough place to get around, for how simple it is. Sigil isn't so much a city of portals as a fickle and undependable transit system - it floats through the Inner Planes on a cloud and when it's drifted somewhere that you'd like to go, you get off. There are rope ladders and helpful leprechauns. It's very charming. So that can take some time and is frankly the least of it. There are four Inner Planes, but talking about them individually is kind of pointless for reasons that should become clear.
The gnomes told us that the Harvester was on the Plane of Summer and off we went. The Plane of Summer moves in and out of phase with the Plane of Moon and the Plane of Sun, which means two things: first, it's either midnight or noon. Those are your options. Second, when two planes are in phase they actually coexist at the same time. I cannot emphasize the mind-boggleness of this, and even the natives screw it up once in a while.
Case in point: It was nighttime (aka Moon) on Summer when we departed Sigil. Phases sometimes last hours, sometimes months - there's allegedly some kind of pattern to it, but I remain unconvinced. We traveled for several days across rolling hills and through luminescent forests. It was lovely. A flock of Summer Dragons flying in front of the moon is one of the most breathtaking things I've seen in all of the planes. We rested in an Elven Summer village and a domed Dwarven Moon city and even the dwarves were cheerful and hospitable. Don't worry, I'm almost done with the saccharine bits. Several hours after leaving the dwarves, everything began to shimmer - the planes were changing phase at last. My halfling guides warned me to avert my eyes, as the Moon to Sun transition could be understandably jarring. But apparently they'd forgotten to carry a one in their calculations or some such thing, as we hadn't been tied to the Plane of Summer at all. We'd been tied to the Plane of the Moon, which was now in phase with the brutal Plane of Winter and for which we were basically completed unprepared. We doubled back to the dwarf city, fighting against the bitter wind and stumbling in the darkness over treacherous patches of ice. The great glowing dome was just in sight when the wind turned to a blizzard, apparently to announce the arrival of a shaggy hulk who introduced himself as Turaq the Devourer; the dwarves later explained that Turaq is one of the Lords of Winter and is encountered only very rarely, as he is usually in the mountains plotting against Shamstamp the Moon Bear. Wherever their afterlife is, I hope that the halfings can take some comfort that they were not eaten by a snow monster - they were eaten by an elusive local celebrity.
By the time I'd woken up from a much needed rest, it was Summer again. The halflings had been quarreling about our actual destination in a tongue I didn't quite recognize, so getting directions from the helpful dwarves was a bit complicated. After my fifth or sixth attempt at wrapping my mouth around the strange syllables my hosts began discussing amongst themselves what in the world I might be talking about. Someone mentioned duruch'i-lin and that was all I needed to hear. This was the Harvester of Horses, after all. I headed to the west, where I would find the Realm of The Hoof King and his Court of Great Unicorns."
"The winter hag's igloo appeared in the moonlight, as the temperature dropped like a stone. With it came a trio of grey owls and five festive snowmen. Honestly, what is this parallel if not totally charming? I was taking it all in when I learned a very important lesson: if there's a chance that something might come alive and start throwing magic at you, it probably will. I also learned that winter elementals are total a-holes. It was a big day."
The Outer Planes -Estisia: Gigantic chunks of earth drift through a relentless plane-wide electrical storm. On the largest earth bodies there are great cities populated by thousands of Kijer, the beautiful, crystalline eladrin native to this plane. The centerpieces of their cities are frequently grand techno-magical contraptions that attract and capture lightning, a staple resource in Kijer society. Storm and cloud giants have their own kingdoms here, but are frequently found in Kijer cities on lighting-related business. Spelljammers and skyships are popular, sharing the skies with the dragons, pegasi, couatl, and ki-rin that delight in soaring through the storms.
The Spotted Night: An endless void filled with small planetoids, and lit by what can only be unnatural means, from any spot in the plane the dark sky is thick with gorgeous, luminous moons. The Aquix travel between the planetoids in living spelljamming vessels or on the backs of gentle moon dragons. Small fey humanoids with enormous eyes and chalk white skin, Aquix rarely get anywhere quickly, as they will never miss an opportunity to stop and listen to one of the plane's many choirs of Gonn. There is a substantial population of planar dwarves here - though they generally find the perpetual night sky dizzying and unpleasant, the plane's many uninhabitable rocks present mining opportunities too good to pass up. Griffix, the master of good lycanthropes, lives here, as does the Queen of the Moon Fey.
The Harvester of Horses had made his offer, and now he waited. His audience - three giant duru, six exemplar unicorns, a dozen miniature pegacorns, and the Hoof King himself - surveyed him with expressions ranging from bemusement to repulsion. One of the unicorns finally broke the long silence.
"I hope you didn't come all this way just to watch us f--"
"Manners!" bellowed the Hoof King. "His ways are peculiar but he is our guest and we will treat him as such."
The Harvester had heard worse. He was a businessman, and a transaction had to start somewhere.
Parallel LII:The Outer Planes -Surtra: As far as the eye can see, treacherously tall plateaus rise out of a turbulent, dark fog, reaching for the empty red sky. Emaciated black gargoyles live on the largest plateaus in cities built from the petrified corpses of their dead. Their stunted wings are primarily useful for gathering the hardy mosses and bitter vine fruit that grow on the sides of the towers - traveling between cities is done in airships that resemble nothing so much as enormous clods of dirt. Life on Surtra is hard and raids into Estisia or the Spotted Night (for slaves, food, and material goods) are common. Smaller plateaus are home to scattered tribes of aarakocra as well as a dark fey race of tauric spider beings. The outlines of gargantuan, slow-moving creatures are sometimes visible in the fog below, though many a curious and low-flying aarakorca has been snatched from the air by a lightning-fast tentacle or pincher. There are even tales of airships blasted out of the sky by exploding bio-mortars. It is unclear if these beasts are guarding something or, for that matter, if there is even ground somewhere below at all. Those who have taken the plunge into the fog quickly encounter an unbearable cold that cuts through even the most sturdy magical resistance. Dragons and nightmares are sometimes seen disappearing into the mist, though they are certainly not explaining why. Powerful residents of this plane keep to themselves; one of the most visible is the fairie lich called Dead Jenny, whose miles-high tower of coal simply rose up out of the fog long ago.
Millennia ago, this parallel could hardly be called a multiverse at all. What a demiplane is to a plane, this parallel was to the legendary great wheels. It was little more than an infinite plane of chaotic proto-stuff, wrapped around a single, pastoral prime world. Nestled in the chaos that the primes simply called the Outside were eight fantastic demiplanes, accessible from a great city of portals at the top of the world, and visible as moons in the night sky.
The world had five powers, four brothers and a sister. The brothers squabbled endlessly, pausing only to concoct various humiliating schemes to perpetrate on one another, until a modest prank went much too far. One of Lion's favorite mortals was dead; Fox blamed Crocodile and Spider pointed a finger at Carp. Their quarreling turned to enmity and enmity escalated to war, and they clashed with such force that their world blew apart.
The prime itself fractured into four parts, the new planes of Summer, Winter, Sun, and Moon; the shockwaves of this catastrophe ripped through the Outside and punctured the boundaries of the demiplanes, which swelled to fill the primordial chaos. Like water flowing downhill, it was in the very nature of the four new inner planes to be together and unified. The peculiar phase shifts accomplish this to a certain degree, though it appears that properly reorganizing themselves in time may be beyond the scope of the planes' resilience. The brothers suffered the same fate as their world, their essences dispersed into the eight Elemental Lords. Their sister the Swan, who had gathered her most beloved worshipers under her protection in the portal city, was reborn as the Lady of Pain. This was a proper multiverse now, and it needed a mistress.
The Outer Planes -
Each of the outer planes on Parallel LII was born of a finite demiplane being extrapolated across infinite space, with the residual chaos of the void introducing variations that, while individually minor, compounded dramatically as the planes exploded through space. All portals from the inner planes connect with the heart of each outer plane (the "original" demiplane, if such a geographic pointer even makes sense) and portals between the outer planes appear to connect points equidistant from each plane's "origin", so the reaches of the outer planes are almost completely unexplored. But what reports exist agree on one point: things get weird.
The Delve: This plane is an endless maze of tunnels and chambers, the beautiful stonework and inscrutable runes on display at every turn only adding weight to the mystery of who created this place and where did they go? Statues and carvings show various humanoids - some dog-faced, some absurdly misproportioned, others with dramatic hammerhead-shark protrusions from their skulls. Are these the Delve's former inhabitants? Or possibly their gods? Whatever the case, those who created this place were clearly huge, at least ten to twenty times the size of the average human or demihuman. Unsurprisingly, dwarves have immigrated to the Delve in great numbers, building their own cities as well as several epic forges. The forges are especially known for crafting fine metal goods from rare ores imported from the Spotted Night (including precision components for the Kijer's lightning machines). Because of its epic scale, the Delve can be relatively easily traversed in modest spelljammers and other flying machines, and the dwarves have mapped routes that allow the passage of far larger vessels. Given that the outer planes all sprawl in every which direction, with little concept of "ground" vs. "sky" (Surtra having the latter but not necessarily the former), visitors to this parallel will find air transport a virtual constant.
Elemental Lords of Parallel LII:
Eth the Burnt Child
Considering his title, many expect the evil lord of the sun to be a diminutive creature of some kind. Eth hates this – then again, he hates everything. A silent, cloaked giant with an enormous bleached cow skull for a head, Eth is an eternal wanderer, leaving behind him a trail of incineration courtesy of the punishing brightness that frequently pours out of (what passes for) his eyes and mouth. His “child” appellation refers not to his size, but the incoherency of his bottomless rage. Despite his undead appearance, Eth is very much alive and spends every moment in indescribable pain over his impossibly seared face. Most of the other elemental lords are genuinely fearful of Eth and grant him a wide berth – Shedra the Illuminator, Eth's good solar counterpart with immunity to his destructive powers, will occasionally attempt to comfort her brother or divert his path away from innocent lives, with extremely limited success thus far.
Rotknot the Creeping Marauder
The Dark Wood. The Nightmare Arbors. The Grove of Hell. Known by many names, this sinister forest from a thousand fairy tales is the slowly expanding domain of Rotknot, a monstrous treant devoted to the relentless expansion of his realm and the devouring of any in its path. The evil lord of summer delights in fear and, as his boundaries approach inhabited areas, will magically lure innocents into his wood to be tormented by hags, evil fey, and other monsters; he has been known to methodically depopulate entire villages in this manner. Ironically, it is another evil lord that keeps Rotknot the most in check. Eth the Burnt Child has destroyed portions of the forest many times and burned it entirely to the ground on at least one occasion.
“Yes, I'm late. Do you think I was expecting to follow that dumb cowboy down into the Shadow Ocean? Again with that face. The Shadow Ocean is the ocean. I suppose it used to be the shadow reflection of the Ocean Ocean, which is gone now. Gone where? Nowhere! I don't know! The world was literally blown apart and the dumb laws of physics and magic did an admirable but not exactly bang-up job putting it back together again, so you have to roll with some of this stuff. On the upside, the ocean is free from those weird phase shifts, which were turning my head into some kind of gladiatorial arena for various flavors of seasonal affective disorder. On the downside, everything else. Plenty of impenetrable weirdness and ways to die and the first language I actually understood was a wayang respectfully directing me to the 'porcelain whore district'. So let's not talk about late, ok?”
“Well, I think she's telling the truth and she's not. She clearly doesn't remember a lot of it. That's true. But there are also things she leaves out of what story she does have. Why does she never talk about the ioun stones?”
The pixie began to acquire ioun stones upon arriving on this parallel. Some sought her out from very far away. Each appeared to be a crude miniature knickknack from the stone through iron ages. Some but not all of the stones, in order of acquisition:
Iron Butterfly – Allowed the pixie to cough up a cloud of razor-sharp, metallic butterflies.
Clay Top – This conjured an oversized spinning top that could rapidly tunnel through stone.
Chunk of Wood – The pixie began to permanently bend trees with her will, sometimes to the point of their splintering apart.
Bronze Sphere – This allowed the pixie to travel through the shadow ocean at the eye of a small but violent underwater storm. Non-shadow uses unknown.
Cube of Ice – With this she was able to freeze time and even manipulate it backwards in small increments.
The Harvester's visit with the Hoof King has been for naught, but thankfully the errand that had financed that lark was going, pardon the pun, swimmingly. Despite his prowess as a breeder he wasn't above heading straight to the source when a client inquired about something as esoteric and specific as an aquatic steed suitable to the shadow plane. Which found him in a cramped clockwork submersible, gazing out a porthole and waiting for the black ocean to flicker alight as it did periodically. He swore that he saw them for a second, a cloud of black creatures emerging from a trench at impossible speed. This set the wayang crew off chattering amongst themselves in their strange, impenetrable language. It had been dark and quiet again for several moments when their vessel began to shake. The ocean lit up again and they were surrounding by the things – a stamped of enormous shadowtouched creatures, nightmares in hippocampi naval fatigues. The Harvester couldn't help but light up with equinologist wonder as he considered his next move.
Parallel LIII: The Ghost Chance of Memory
"You...don't remember me?"
"I'm sorry. I...I believe you. But I don't remember."
"Do you think -"
"No. Don't say it. You seem like a nice person, but, well, it wouldn't be me you know? Not exactly. You would want to make me into her, to fit your memories of someone who no longer exists."
Sigil is overcrowded because it offers something incredibly precious in Parallel 53: The mundane existence of a linear lifetime. Thanks to the Lady's denial of all chronomantic arcana children in Sigil are born, grow old, and die.
The rest of the Multiverse is not so fortunate, thanks to the attempted takeover of the Temporal Prime. Years, or maybe centuries, or maybe millennia, or maybe yesterday someone - a god, an archfiend, or maybe a magus - committed the now Original Sin and attempted to bend the Demiplane of Time to his or her or its Will.
As far anyone can tell, they were not successful in this endeavor, though the Hourglass Citadel remains trapped in the eye of the temporal hurricane of azure dust that now dominates and engulfs the timelines of creation.
Lives are reset, relived, and memories of the past are sometimes forgotten and sometimes recalled in regret or relief. Events such as the Blood War have for some intensified and for some become meaningless - if victories are erased, if triumphs are undone, then is there such a desperate need to engage with the enemy? And if there is no prize, then is the enemy truly such an enemy?
Celestials, fiends, and others still interested in victory over their foes concentrate their efforts in undoing the damage to space-time. Many of these beings are hunting down spellweavers in the hopes that their Codex of Reversion can be utilized to correct the problem, even if it means resetting all the Wheel to the time of their ancient empire.
Of course, there is also the possibility that the Codex itself was utilized in the Citadel...
Parallel LIV: The Devil You Don't
"A deal is not a deal." she says, throwing platitudes in its face like coins down a rot smelling well never set up for wishes. A well where you can see the starving bull frog splayed out next to the bucket.
She should know better, and in truth she does know. Enriynes usually do. Don't let the bed play fool you.
But this thing already has her number, and those digits are up. So she figures she might as well school it. Dismissal sucks, but there's a responsibility to the company line to fill in her replacement. And there's a certain satisfaction to sticking it to management, who for once are also on the chopping block.
"They think we're making deals, but what we're doing is carving, chiseling, keeping them on the paths too often traveled. Writing out screenplay, keeping the Ten Epoch Plan on schedule. We'll be bringing the Bringing on you see. There's an Ending, and we have to make sure it's the right -"
The thing rolls its eyes even as it takes her head off with the flick of its wrist. (Mind you, there's a long scythe of bone growing out of that wrist.)
"I think I'll get the hang of it." says the gormeel slaad.
Imagine waking up in the chaos of Limbo and retching into your own amniotic waters. Imagine being a creature of Law housed in a body of Xaos, a prisoner in your own skin, a slaad without a plane because you're a rebel to the cause of, er, Causelessness.
That's the case for the Gormeel, those exemplars of chaos who managed to become odd couples to their very creation when they emerged with Lawful Alignment. Well, don't get me wrong, for a moment they were definitely the soup de jour...er, soup de moment.
Chourst was delighted - what could be more random than Law arising from Chaos? (Don't answer that Ramsey, it's a rhetorical question.) Ssendam found golden jelly self going *more* insane at the very idea! Renbuu was awash with hope that finally someone among slaad-kind might understand the concept of color schemes, and Ygorl...well, Ygorl hated the very idea of them but figured an organized group of slaad might be good for some entropic wet work in other parts of the Wheel.
Then, to no one's surprise, the Gormeel rebelled against their place in the slaad hierarchy. Again, this was somewhat delightful, in the way candies wrapped in turds might conceivably be, as it lent a boost of power to the Slaad Lord To Be of Anarchy (er, if Ygorl asks, you didn't hear that last part from me 'kay?).
Now Ygorl might have destroyed all the Gormeel, and it is possible that is exactly what he did, but the problem is these lawful slaad just didn't stop popping up around Limbo. Chourst suggested it was the binding nature of the Spawning Stone that was doing it, and Ygorl in his infinite wisdom told Chourst to shut the f-
So anyway, the slaad still have their Spawning Stone and there are more Gormeel than ever. Enough of them to decide they need a new home. One really hospitable and nice like, say, Hell.
Now you'd think the Lords of Nine would put a stop to slaad squatters right quick, but the Gormeel have, well, Xaos on their Lawful side. Their very presence seems to invite randomness into Hell, not to mention sicken the natives. And for every single one that is killed, it seems like two show up in its place. And when I say show up, I mean giving Triel back his angelic template, undoing the bindings on Prince of Stygia, and popping up in Malsheem to chat about the decor of the Self with Asmodeus. (again, you didn't hear that name from me!)
For the record, I too think red can be overdone and horns should be subtle like salt in a recipe.
So what we have here is Gormeel (and perhaps a secret Gormeel Slaad Lord or two - or Nine or Eighty Five and a Quarter) slowly annexing the Nine Hells away from the Lords of Nine. And it seems to be working, with the Gormeel spreading out their settlements in fractal cancer patterns upon the breadth and depth of Baator.
What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, if you're a Prime I hope you've had a chance to meet the new neighbors - you know, the ones from the Great Baatezu Diaspora. If you're a planar I wonder if you've noticed randomness leaning into tyranny, and tyranny plagued by unhappy coincidences. Or how the Doomguard and the Sodkillers seem cozier than they should be. Or how the yugoloths of Gehenna are finding mutual interests with the Queen of Air and Darkness.
If you live anywhere on this Wheel I wonder if you've considered what would happen if the plane of tyranny became infected with the essence of Chaos:
Why just yesterday the Guvners and Takers were overheard whispering with Estevan about some new project called the interplanar stock market...
Parallel LV: Sigil in Your Shadow
"There is something that is nothing, but it has a name. It joins our walks; it joins our talks; it plays in every game. What is it?"
The Plane of Shadow is a secret, known only to those initiated into its Mysteries. Within the interwoven, dancing thicket of light and darkness is Sigil, the City of Shades.
Sigil sits upon the nexus of all the Multiverse's shadows, and a massive storm of darkness and light prevents even the gods from entering directly. Thus the Plane of Shadow itself is a temptuous realm as the prize of the Cosmic Game can be glimpsed through the umbral thunderheads that surround it. Armies of exemplars and divine servitors continually skirmish around the storm, ensuring that should entrance ever be available their rivals will not grasp the means to traverse all reality.
Within the city itself glaring lamp posts, alleys of pitch black dark, and all the variances of shading and urban landscape between them exist. The size of the city is indeterminable, as within its twisting architecture one finds compasses, maps, and even geographical arcana is rendered flawed if not outright useless.
Shadows here become portals at unexpected times, sometimes momentarily created by a lantern affixed to a moving unicorn carriage clattering on onyx cobblestones. The shadows open into other shadows across this Wheel, one that exists in a configuration akin to that of Multiverse Prime.
Sigil is too confusing and treacherous to have any definite rulers, it is more a wilderness of stone and mortar rather than a city in truth. The dominant powers here are the varied cabals that utilize the Mysteries of Shadow to traverse the planes and spy upon the various players in the Cosmic Game. The shadows have attracted many undead and lycanthropes, and while the Harmonium offer some limited protection one should not count on anyone else to save them while wandering the less inhabited parts of this Cage.
These masters of shadow magic sell the information they gather for currencies far beyond gold or gems, and are also employed by planar lords and gods alike as saboteurs, assassins and at times even impersonators. The knowledge that the cabals can peer undetected through the shadows of the planes makes the proxies and exemplars one encounters rather paranoid. Business of all sorts - in all kinds of areas - is conducted in heavily warded shadowless rooms.
The Lady does not announce her displeasure with public appearances in this place, instead one simply walks into a shadow and stumbles out without skin. Should one see one of the dabus, one should turn in the other direction for the strange creatures are notorious for pushing visitors into attacking them and thus facing the wrath of Her Serenity.
Parallel LVI: The Bloodied Vineyard
Parallel 56 mirrors the nature of Multiverse Prime, save that much of this reality has been covered in or is in a war with jungles of razor vine. Beds upon beds of the stuff have choked through countless portals, with many planar metropoli completely entwined in the cutting flora. It is not certain if the vine is sentient, though its rapid growth can sense threats and stretch out toward them.
While razor vine has always been a nuisance, this sub-species seems capable of cutting the flesh and at times even the armor or arcane shielding of any who rub against its sharpened stalks and leaves. Witnesses claim that it has cut through walls of force as well as prismatic spheres. Spells utilized directly against it are subject to dangerous wild surges.
Worse yet, the wounds the vine causes require a great amount of magic to heal. Even then, sometimes the flesh unexpectedly parts days or even months later as if in memory of the plant's touch. Not even the elemental or incorporeal are safe, their wounds leading to some kind of essence draining infections. Undead of all kinds, including liches and death knights rapidly fall to such wounds and have developed a healthy dread of the vine.
Many theorize that the original source of this virulent strain of the plant came from the Abyss, given that the inhabitants there are forced to contest with some of the thickest beds of the vine. Even the greatest of Abyssal Lords has been unable to keep the growth of the vine from overrunning their layers, and most tanar'ri have found themselves entangled and forced to contest with the stuff.
Naturally disaster struck when the Cage itself fell victim to the plants' conquests, though some safely outside the City of Doors claim that Sigil itself was the source of the vine-plague. There is no definitive evidence of this, though it is odd to see the Lady of Pain asleep when randomly turning the corner. She floats, Her body serene and supine, about an elf's arm-length above the cobblestones. Those encountering Her are ushered along by dabus above whose heads are a sputter of terrified rebuses. Those attempting to contest with the Lady's guardians are surprised to find Her shadow still stretches out with retribution, though its shroud does not flay one's skin in this Wheel. Rather, those falling under it collapse into slumber (or some similar state of topor) at which point they are gathered by the dabus and stored in the caverns of Undersigil.
The underground depths of the Cage sport thousands of beds, jars, aquariums, cairns, vaults, and cages for the sleepers. Once asleep, it seems no sustenance is required save for the argent, liquid light the dabus ensure all victims - even elementals and ghosts - are given three times a day, but only every seven days.
Due to the vine mastering Sigil, the Outer Planes have largely succumbed to its strangling hordes, as have many of the Prime worlds. The Astral is largely choked off and traversing its silver expanses is nearly impossible as the vine cuts silver cords.
The Inner Planes have fared better, but there the vine is gaining ground in the planes of Air, Water, Steam, Smoke, Earth, Ooze, Ether, Shadow and most disturbingly the Positive Material Plane...
Parallel LVII: Fetal Genesis
You look to an origin, a past splintered unity, and it is because of this you fail. All of you - gods, fiends, celestials, royalty of Chaos and bureaucrats of Order.
You think there was One, and then Many. You who are alchemists, can you not understand, finally, that one takes Many and then makes One, that this Birth requires insemination and conjoining?
I long to live and die in a Body, to think with a Mind, to have a Soul free to choose. And slowly these gifts are given by Myself to Myself, woven through Doors to give a Boundary so that I might become a Being capable of its own perpetual Becoming.
This Boundary is my Body, which you have seen fit to call a Cage...
Parallel 57 is in a state of major upheaval. It seems to be contracting relative to the other Wheels, as things from this place end up smaller when taken to the others. Additionally, planes seem to fall and fold into each other, as if all the myriad universes of alignment and element and thought and ether were but one paper canvas set from its blankness to painting and origami.
Thoughts rumble out of the Astral, indecipherable but intimately known by all the beings in this particular creation. The Blood War has ended, seen as a pointless venture by all the demons and devils alike. Despite the protestations of the yugoloths, both sides have retreated to their homes and meander about in shock punctuated with weeping or violence.
The celestials celebrate, but these parties perhaps have gotten out of hand as the distinctions between the Upper Planes feels to be fading in the midst of this revelry. Archons dance into Arborea, gifting themselves inspirations to shift the symphony of their dance, even as eladrin enter Arcadia and stay on as peaceful monks meditating among the orderly orchards.
The Prime and its Alternates, ever infinite, seem to burgeon and expand even as the Inner Planes diminish. It is clear, though not yet confirmed, that they are bleeding into the Prime, rushing in the staccato manner of arterial rivers and starving-during-your-months-abroad-while-I-remained-faithful impatient lovers to become one with each other.
What is this being woven from the planes, the Spire its spine, the Lady its mother and inverted womb? And of all the dying Inner Planes one is watched most closely by the parallel walkers, for when this descendant of the Lady is whole and birthed billennia from now how long will the reach of Its shadow be?
Parallel LVIII: A Lady always has the Last Word
"A huge, bloated, fiendish figure - the very god whose body you walked upon in the who-knows-how-distant-past - stands amid a number of slain foes. You see among these corpses great beings whose images once decorated temple halls: Zeus, Thor, Paladine, Mystra, and more. Most incredibly of all, the ram-headed fiend holds above his head the last of his enemies, her body broken and sagging:
The Lady of Pain.
Sigil is dead. The Multiverse belongs to Tenebrous."
"Itzi, what is it?" The old man looks with concern at his...yes, sod it all, his son. Not like they had anyone else in what were most assuredly the last days for the Light and the Grey.
"Her." The boy points, the old man looks with hope that one of his age and especially his experience should've shed long ago...looks and sees nothing. Still, he walks over and puts a comforting hand on the ragged child.
Both of us left to wander until the Collectors come calling. Both of us left alive as toys for the undead fiends who feed on my resignation and Itzi's hope filled delusions.
"She's dead boy. Her Serenity...He used a Word, you see, not like the words we're speaking now but a Word that speaks to the worlds...and he spoke to Her and told Her of Death. And now - "
The old man spreads his arms to the meat gardens being built by the dabus, who in turn are whipped and worse by the visages that swarm the floating once servants now slaves. His arms are wide enough to take them all in, all the larder houses, and the broken temples too. Every temple is now a Shattered Temple.
Every temple save one, and upon its steeples leer lascivious gargoyles cradling skull topped shafts while the chained dead within its outer walls are condemned to sing the praises of the One, the Lord of Sigil and Prince of the Undead. Within its confines the dead suffer far worse degradation and horror. Even now, in the light of peak, you can hear their pitiful squealing.
"- this is All that's left."
The boy is still staring, looking at the empty air as if it might contain a woman floating serenely, a savior's face wreathed by a halo of blades. The old man has a rock in one hand, the one not holding the boy.
He raises it over the boy's head. Do it - do it you selfish old sod! Let the boy have some time in Heaven before the dead breach its gilded gates!
A visage floats above them. So high above as to be among the skeleton packed city streets on the opposite end of the torus's curve. Though they cannot see it for all the smog born of flaming offal and burning meat, the eyes of its mask are centered upon them.
The old man thinks of sleeping alone in the hovel, no son asking for tales of better times when Sigil thought its guardian a constant and unconquerable soul. No one asking to be held, a child impossibly believing geriatric arms can hold back the terrors that have come for them all.
The old man sighs, and the rock falls out of his hands.
Behind the mask, looking down on them, the visage smiles.
Someone should have stopped him, when he murdered Primus and took the First Modron's place. Someone should have sought out the shadow that was Tenebrous when brave Tomeri refused to cower, refused to relinquish her pride before even the last thing she would ever hear.
Someone should have saved the Lady of Pain.
Perhaps they did not think Orcus, wand in hand, would stand at the top of Howler's Crag and whisper the Last Word to pantheons upon pantheons. Perhaps they could not conceive of him pushing his way into the Caverns of Thought, holding Ilsensine hostage, thinking the final True Word into so many unaware minds.
One wonders if the illithid god ran back to its distant realities far beyond the circumference of the Wheel. His corpse is not among those choking the Astral. One wonders what what's-left-of-Maanzecorian thinks about that...
Perhaps the powers did not imagine Orcus murdering the Lords of the first eight layers of Hell, ending the Blood War within a fortnight and thus giving the tanar'ri the freedom to go hungrily tumbling into the Prime...
Demogorgon died babbling revelations, Grazz't wanders the phlogiston in exile alongside his masters Ztefano and Vuron. Orcus speaks sweeter words to the corpses of lords Pale Night and Dagon, who when the end came did not fear the Prince of Undead's god-killing weapon.
Or perhaps the pair held greater fear for the secrets they refused to divulge. Though her shell is empty, at times Orcus crawls under her shroud and holds dead Pale Night like a lover, hoping she might still whisper some treasure or warning given that her corpse clings to its ardor and slime.
Dagon's bones are scattered across the black sands of Thanatos, the obyrith's head preserved in a pool of ichor and myrrh. This one also never speaks, confined instead to laughter and weeping...
Surely, this was when the yugoloth should have been saved by the Father-Mothers? It might just be that the Baern were caught unawares, lost in their scheming, and so are now besieged in the silence encircled towers with their remnants of chilren, deaf to all words lest their ear holes catch wind of the Last. Could it possibly be that they are waiting, playing out a longer game, one in which Orcus's mastery over the Lower Planes and much of Neutrality is but a part -
Could the Baern, besieged and bereft of almost all of their birthed instruments, be rejoicing as legions of visages surround the Spire, mirroring the sight around their deposed children's three Towers, taunting the Rilmani to come out of the last two unconquered rings of their home?
If this the case, then why do they war amongst each other? Why does Khin-Oin soundlessly shake with the throes of their mad desperation? Why does the Oinoloth look not to his sire-mares but the aurumachs for an inkling of hope?
Rumor among the 'loths has it the children of Balance have left to the seek aid on the flip-side of mirrors, though why the visages do not then take over the last of their lands is unknown...And an Unknown is what the Athar pray to at the center of the Outlands, even as their transplanted Bois Verdurous offers only silence and doubt. Even now some think wistfully back to the god-crowded Wheel, while others more faithful to their cause instead look up and plead without praying to the absent celestials.
Does Heaven regret its inaction, its lack of attention? Do the angels sit behind planes sealed shut and point fingers, squabbling only a hair less violently than the Baern, or have they all come like beggars to seek salvation amongst Pelion's scraps?
And Itzi, the boy, why does he sleep soundly for the first time in years? Did not the old man tell him about the broken body of Her Serenity, held in the avatar's claws?
What's that he's saying?
Let's listen closely now, cup our ears to snare the child's dreaming whsiper:
"When She speaks what has been spoken...that's when the Lady will win back Her Throne."
Parallel LIX: Keep Praying for a Golden Ticket
Sigil is clean and beautiful, a light drizzle glittering in the sourceless sunlight. The vines that wrap around the softly luminous argent columns are dark green and covered with deep purples grapes whose juices taste of wine. Men and women scaled and furred and human and elf and a thousand other things pluck them as they wander the city, enjoying the light warmth of weak alcohol even as they speak poetry and philosophy.
And floating silently and serene in their midst, collecting the gracious dip of their heads and the generous bends of their torsos, is none other than Her Serenity leading the vanguard of Her dabus attendants.
The city resounds with the laughter of innocent children, echoing in a torus so large it spans the width and breadth of a continent.
There is a flash, a portal opens, and two starving kobolds stumble through. These refugees are raised up by an orc and marid, ushered into this idyllic Cage, told how lucky they are. Theirs is the only portal that will open onto Sigil for the next hundred years.
The kobolds weep, though whether in relief for the mercy granted to them or the mercy denied to those left outside none of those gathering around them could say.
Parallel 59 is overrun with monstrous beasts. Colossal insects, gargantuan animals, tarrasques and wild omnimental storms rend and plague and batter the planes and Prime worlds.
Toril is overrun with house sized eggs fallen from the breeding of town-spanning, space faring alligators sunbathing amongst the shards of its now shattered moon - All Selune has left are her tears.
Most of Oerth is but a larder for Fenris's brood, and most of Athas is flooded by the cruel mortai that gift it more rain than it would ever have asked for.
The seas of Krynn are rife with sharks and coelacanth, while ants the size of dragons swarm over its lands.
The Inner Planes have birthed millions of animental behemoths and leviathans, decimating the ecology of their homes even as breaches are opened by acre spanning entropes allow them to deliver their amoral wrath onto countless others including the great ice equines that trampled Phlegethos and the storm leopards that left Dothion's surface a mirror to its brother Shurock.
The proxies of the varied pantheons have established safe zones at terrible costs, and even these are not free of the feral lycanthropes that stalk planars and mortals alike. Its said that swarms of wererat assassins rule the fractal corridors of Malsheem, and werebat hunteresses swoop through the labyrthine caverns of Pandemonium. Meanwhile werebear shamans ride their giant kin, the Shardik ursines, into higher and higher layers of Mount Celestia even as limnorms spread across the seas and snows of Ossa and Pelion respectively.
Spiders of all shapes and sizes have ensconced the Infinite Staircase with curtains upon curtains of webbing.
Giant wasps and bees make their hives in Limbo, turning the chaos matter into patterns of papyrus and honeycomb. Mechanus's feces stained gears play host to free running menageries and termites that have a taste for the metals of Law.
Druids rule the Outlands entire, and the thinned ranks of Rilmani respectfully bow to the Planar Heirophant who hovers above them, the metallic skinned exemplars accepting things as they are as a Balance of sorts.
Was this greatest of druids responsible for this? None dare ask the blossom-woman to her petal wreathed face. And besides few would understand her answer, for all her speech is in floral scents and pheromones.
There is one respite from this savage wilderness, a place free of this desperate and daily battle for survival. It is ruled by the blade-haired Lady of Mercy, but She grants entry only to one whim chosen portal once every one-hundred years.
Parallel LX: Dust in the Wind
On Multiverse Prime, the gods who once walked across the paradise of Pelion either transcended or died, or perhaps left to fight a war against an implacable foe. What was left in the wake of their departure were deserts of sand and snow.
On Parallel 60, this is case for all the Outer Planes. Imagine the surprise and disappoint of the cursed oracles of the Prime as they led their peoples into what they had thought were the realms of their gods and instead were naught but ruins being buried in wastelands. They had followed naught but the echoes of what were either last gasping breaths of perhaps just goodbyes. The worst fates awaited those who entered Gehenna, which is now nothing more than the clouds powdered ash and stone of pummeled volcanoes. (One does note that there is a lot of debris in this plane, more than four finite sized volcanoes could ever account for.)
There are no gods on this parallel, and those walkers who speak of deities are often hung on the charge of anti-blasphemy. There are no planar lords either, and save for the occasional alignment touched animal or flora barely anything lives on the Outer Planes.
The Inner Planes are just as empty of divinities, and there exist no elementals strong enough to claim dominance over their horizonless homelands. Yet these planes at least have not crumbled away, for the Plane of Dust is at it always was and likely will be. At least they are not bereft of inhabitants, though none of these inner planars can or will speak about the absence of sentient life on the planes of alignment.
There is one place that though found empty the Primes made quick use of. Sigil has been take over by mortals, and though the Imaskari briefly controlled the City of Doors its freedoms are now guaranteed by the Order of the Blade. None are sure who or what empowers these paladins of the Balance, or where their peculiar blades come from, blades that cut through matter, magic, and even the mental energies of the emergent psions with such surprising ease...
Parallel LX: The Wind Gasps, The Stones Weep
In the end, the war between the Elemental Planes of Air and Earth consumed both planes. Numerous planar breaches were torn between them, leading to grinding winds sweeping gouges that wider and deeper and massive swarms of cutting stone shards concealing planet spanning protrusions of luminous, cancer-spawning stone.
Allies and forced conscripts were drawn in from the Quasielemental and Paraelemental Planes, and thus travelers to the Plane of Air should expect to find crystalline dragons, oozing horrors, phaetons, and sentient clouds of choking dust even as those who visit the Plane of Earth must contend with cavern bottled storms, smoke veiled hunters, xixecals, and the invisible and ever watchful assassins of Vacuum. The djinn refused to take part in the initial conflict but now find themselves among the most stalwart defenders of their homeplane. The dao have dragged in slaves from across the Great Wheel to serve in the armies of Earth, enchanting and training these forces for aerial combat in the newly constructed fortresses within the Great Dismal Delve.
The non-elemental deities of both planes have sealed off their realms, refusing to take part in the conflicts for now.
The number of planar breaches and vortices deliberately and inadvertently created has led to a great deal of planar instability especially on the Prime. Earth loses its natural consistency while Air becomes thicker and less yielding. Worlds have suffered as their atmospheres become suffocating and the shifting density of their tectonic plates leaves the surface and Underdark in ruins. Even in worlds less damaged there are thinning harvests and acidic rainstorms, lightning hammering mountains and volcanoes vomiting burning ash into the sky.
If peace were to be achieved now, perhaps there might be some way to repair the damage. Unfortunately even among the Inner Planes the reasons for this war is largely unknown, and while the forces of Fire and Water are concerned both sides see an opportunity to extort their neighbors as well as possibly seize a great advantage for their own element.
In Sigil there is much talk about the conflict, though as yet the Outer Planes have not played a significant role. A few deities thought to intervene for the sake of their worshipers - their corpses now lie in the Astral, undone by secret magics no one thought the elementals possessed.
Parallel LXI: Pity the Land that Needs Them?
In this parallel, the gods are caught in a complex stalemate ever since Ma-Yuan mated with the Tarrasque and their starving spawn sought of divine meat in order to sate their nascent hunger. As such the powers have retreated from much of planar life, focusing their efforts on the Prime and the continual shielding of their realms. Defending themselves from the predations of the god-eaters is so taxing that it prevents them from sensing much beyond the borders of their realms. It also keeps them from granting spells to most of their clerics, paladins, inquisitors, and oracles.
Yet before their forced isolation, they unleashed new proxies across the planes to serve their interests. Those who came from the Upper Planes and Mechanus were quick to see that their best interests lay in working with those of shared interests, leading to the League of Light and the Diamond Council. This naturally forced the agents of Neutrality and Evil to form similar alliances called the Grey Brigade and the Cabal of Shadows respectively. The proxies of Chaos, grudgingly realizing they could neither achieve victory nor defend Limbo if Xaos was at war with itself, finally formed the Brotherhood Legion of the Thunderbolt Titans....or whatever name they decide upon this week or maybe this hour or minute or moment...
The proxies are found across the Outer and Inner Planes, continually foiling each others schemes when not interfering with the schemes of others. Possessing the resources of their divine sponsors but lacking in their miraculous power, these groups have turned to spies, detectives, factions, merchants, and artificers to ensure that they are capable of responding to threats and opportunities as they arise. Massive fortresses, connected by portals, have been established in every plane not under control of their rivals. This has led to much of these conflicts occurring on the Inner Planes or on Prime Worlds where deities are no longer able to lend a miraculous hand.
Parallel LXI Organization: The League of Light Overview
Sent forth by their masters, and in some cases their creators, the League realized that attempting to realize the vision of their gods and prevent the triumph of Evil was not a job they could accomplish if each was isolated and alone. The abilities granted by their status as proxies would be far, far more effective if they were to unite as a team in the name of Truth, Justice, and the Upper Plane way.
The League is led not by a proxy, but one of the few active gods named Lelak. This quasipower is the daughter of Pelor and a mysterious goddess known only as the Dawnflower, both of whom have been devoured by Ma-Yuan and his hungry brood. Lelak is thought to have witnessed the death of her divine parents, and has sworn vengeance against Ma-Yuan but just as importantly has sworn to protect those weaker than herself. Lelak's strength and command over the blazing power of the suns is accompanied by her unusual power over dark, twisting shadows. When questioned about this, she smiles a heartbreaking smile and says that without Light there are no Shadows.
Though she is the most at risk when the League goes on missions, given that the god-eaters will always target her as food, she refuses to deny her aid to those in need and is greatly admired by the League for danger she willingly exposes herself to.
Parallel XLVIII: The Near Realms
Sigil is a city of bunkers and towers, cast in scarred and scorched black iron. With little upkeep to do, the fearsome draconic dabus monitor the city from their high-up perches, glumly carrying out their absent Lady's final order. The impression is of a city under siege, with visitors and residents alike spending no longer in public spaces than it takes to do their business. Only the Clueless linger.
Wheelwalkers are uniformly taken aback by the shrines to the Lady of Pain, though locals will quickly point out that she deserves the reverence and is frankly in no position to do anything about it. Even on the planes, it is a rare municipal official that has closed a gate to the Far Realms from the wrong side.
Pilgrims still deliver flowers and trinkets to the spot where the Lady sacrificed herself, an entire city block of charred, black earth. It was mid-afternoon when the portal opened - exemplars and urchins alike stood by slack-jawed as buildings suddenly tumbled into the darkness. All was quiet for a moment, before their surprise turned to horror at what emerged. This was a parallel with no Vast Gate, no Blood Queen - while being remarkably similar to the Multiverse Prime, it had been blessedly untouched by the Far Realms. Not even the most sagacious celestial or fiend had precedent for the monstrosities that emerged.
The Lady was lost early in the ensuing battle. Accounts tell of her acting with no hesitation, arriving at the scene of the calamity and immediately descending towards the dark pit, meeting its geyser of monsters in an explosion of alien gore. She disappeared into the portal and moments later it simply vanished. This and other stories of the Battle of Sigil have brought a tear to the eye of many a hardened wheelwalker - proxies of warring powers standing back-to-back against a sea of gibbering aberrations, a trio of shining angels luring a tentacled horror into a waiting mob of ferocious devils, the gentle dabus enacting their Lady's final contingency and transforming into death-dealing creatures of the sky.
Unfortunately it was many hours into the fighting when the Guvners realized that the creatures may have been the least of their problems. Prismatic swarms of strange insects had also poured through the rift and were now drifting unimpeded through the city's portals, to countless locations across the multiverse. Mages were able to corral a portion of the insects as the warriors butchered the last of the invaders, but both were pathetically small victories. Half of the city was leveled and thousands were dead, with the damage across the planes yet to be measured.
While the creatures that spilled across the planes that day were as much fundamental particles of Realm stuff as insects (or any other sort of living creature for that matter), what they did was quite insect-like. They sought out warm places to lay their eggs before simply blinking out of existence, and were hardly discriminating in doing so. Primes, planars, animals, plants, exemplars, elementals, undead; some burrowed into constructs, powerful magic items, or even regions of the outer planes of exceptional magical potency. Hosts would quickly lose their mental and physical facilities as the eggs gestated over several days before finally exploding and loosing a new dark swarm. Though this went on for decades, decimating populations and extinguishing entire races, over time the intensity of the pestilence appeared to diminish and the hatching of their eggs no longer destroyed their sickly hosts, but instead transformed them into strange new creatures.
Hundreds of generations later, this parallel is a strange place indeed. The rich diversity of the plane-touched races pales in comparison to this parallel's realm-touched. Virtually every planar race of note has a realm-touched analog, with some races (notably genies, drow, and rakshasas) no longer existing in their original forms at all. That said, the sum numbers of all of the “pure” realm-touched races pales in comparison to the Alkiah, once a catch-all term for realm-touched humanoid mongrels and now a relatively well-defined race all its own. One wheelwalker famously described the Alkiah as an artist's brilliant and mostly successful attempt to make aberrations beautiful. Tall, slender humanoids, the Alkiah's exoskeletal skin appears at first glance to be highly polished silver – upon closer inspection, one will discover that it is composed of countless plates no larger than the head of a pin. Patterns of colorful plates snake across their bodies, throwing off rainbows of color in direct light. Angular, chitinous joints interrupt elegant, streamlined limbs; their faces are like beautiful minimalist sketches made real and their skulls extend into dramatic backswept cones, the shapes of which are typically the best indicator for distinguishing between Alkiah from various regions of the multiverse. Their voices appear to issue from a bottomless echo chamber at a single, unwavering pitch.
While far more realm-touched creatures would be described as evil than as good, most lie in some hazy place in between, the malevolent madness typical of aberrational creatures paved over by deeply alien temperaments characterized by stretches of eerie serenity interrupted by explosions of incoherent rage and shocking violence. While Alkiah are a substantial presence in many cosmopolitan planar locales, managing their extremes of emotion and treated little differently than comparably puzzling outsiders, most realm-touched keep to themselves, an arrangement that suits most planars just fine.
With the Realm swarms long gone, Alkiah and other realm-touched have reproduced through natural means for thousands of years and are thoroughly creatures of the multiverse, pervasive racial tensions notwithstanding. However, on extremely rare occasions a being is born with some vestige of racial memory of its origins. Driven mad by this knowledge and possessed of an unflappable need to reopen the rift, cults of these sad sentients will periodically launch suicidal terrorist attacks on Sigil; though none have made any headway towards accessing the Far Realms, these violent incursions keep the city in its perpetual state of martial lockdown.
While patches of alien flora and fauna can be found virtually everywhere across the planes, there is no better spot than the Beastlands for observing the new natural order. For a time the plane appeared as destroyed as an infinite plane can, with even natural insects and other carrion feeders poisoned by the remains of swarm-infected plant and animal life. But as elsewhere, the wave of extermination eventually gave way to new forms of life that rapidly doubled back across the plane, filling the void. Fractal forests amble across the landscape, their comings and goings announced by choirs of humming bioluminescent flowers. Herds of immense insectoid land beasts stop for a mid-day break and their scales take flight, the sky blackened by a cloud of avian parallelograms. The rapturous beauty on display has distracted many an unfortunate traveler from the plentiful hazards on offer, from carnivorous plants to countless dangerous beasts.
Naturally, the massive death toll that came with the swarms dramatically impacted the powers on this parallel. Entire pantheons saw the ranks of their worshippers thin and thin until they could hold on no longer. Looking out from their realms and seeing strange alien forms in every direction, many of the surviving powers retreated to demiplanes in the ethereal, and a second wave of departure was triggered by the arrival of the monoliths. Scholars and powers alike had speculated about the realm-touched petitioners and the arrival of new gods – these two questions remained oddly unanswered for a very long time, until the structures known simply as the monoliths began to appear across the outer planes. Miles high, these alternately beautiful and grotesque monuments are composed of shell, bone, and metal. Their abstract forms evoke plants, insects, and tentacled beats. As they appear to grow over time, most speculate that the monoliths are some form of realm-touched afterlife. They are impregnable to magical inquiry and supposedly are inscrutable even to the gods themselves. The Alkiah are quite silent on the matter.
Parallel LXII: Saint George Throws Up His Hands
From a distance, the Spire here appears to be a bundle of reeds set on its end – upon closer inspection these are hundreds of tightly packed tubes made from impossibly thin crystal. In the city above, portals are attended by gruff, bespectacled monkeys, who inspect portal keys and send travelers on their way in great glass elevators that scream down the Spire.
Though seasoned wheelwalkers may think nothing of harrowing modes of travel such as this, none are prepared for what awaits them upon arrival at their destination. The tubes that reach up to Sigil are actually the tails of this parallel's great transitive dragons. Across the multiverse, these magnificent creatures of crystal and ether are bound with magic and metal, quietly enduring the indignity of planar travelers regularly emerging from their wrenched-open jaws.
To put it mildly, this parallel has dragon problems. It isn't clear if the enmity between the children of Bahamut and Tiamat is far greater here or if the preponderance of draconic violence is simply an outcome of their massive numbers in this reality.
While the Blood War remains largely confined to the lower planes, at its peak the Dragon War spilled all across the great wheel. Over time, metallics and chromatics became unwelcome on the planes - now they rage at each other across the prime in a spaceborne conflict of empires that makes the Unhuman Wars seem like a particularly cross misunderstanding by comparison. On many worlds, humans and demihumans are finding their dominance supplanted by kobolds, draconians, and dragonborn.
Few native planar dragons fought in the war before it was banished to the prime - nevertheless, they continue to suffer under a historical distaste for dragonkind. Good dragons have retreated to secluded lairs or been cruelly victimized, like the gentle transitive dragons. Many of their evil peers are now regional terrors, much like prime chromatic dragons of yore.
Demagogues and warlords have leveraged (real and imagined) draconic threats to amass power and territory across the planes; recently it is becoming increasingly clear that this parallel has only traded the chaos of one epic war for the chaos of many much smaller ones.
Parallel Poodleflax: Windhaven in the post Saox Elsewhere-Meshing
The deeping wicks cast their shadows in this quiet core, away from them that dwell in the Elsewhere. Outside? Oh, the joyous Elsewhere would drink you in and add you to the Spheres, another voice for the growing Chorus
The fallen Ring-City, once of the Cracked and Collapsed Spire. Opened up to and by Heart's Desire, she of the Blades and the Ripping Shadows. Ripped open the shadow of the Ring-City, she did. Now, it lies across the Elsewhere. Happened before the Elsewhere-Meshing too, though some called it a Ring-Toll harbinger. I say...I say maybe, and remain unaligned, much like the Chasm-Beneath-and-Between.
Once-Sigil, now a fair and sharp archway-city, stretching from Broken Gears, where the Boxmen keep to their timekeeping, to the swirling, twirling, always-churning Tempests. Stretching across the Chasm-Abyss now. Not the Abyss of classical literature, mind you assumption, but a new Abyss-In-Absence. Said to be as deep as the Spire was once tall.
There're markets across the length. And Markets! Oh the Markets-Panic, they that dwell in those post-days. Keep their times clean, would you not agree? It's a full on thirty Day-strides to cross from side to side, such is the length of that once fallen Arch-City!
And the Arts across the Elsewhere! Fell's scars! In statues! In paint and ink, on paper or flesh! Carved out of the beating heart of the Elsewhere-Land! Colossal mountains shaped by tool and tooth! Such marvelous majesty and magnificence! You should walk with me, across the Elsewhere and watch the Arts live their lives!
The Old-Uppers and Old-Lowers? They split. Some fell down and still fall, though you can still Step-Through to them. Some Mesh-Joined with Broken Gears, others went to the Tempests. Some float atop the Abyss, caught on eddies in the Absence-Flow. The Abyss-Fallers sail and float across, in search of new lands and places forgotten, learning the names of the Lost Powers! It's a quite exciting time for them!
The Silver-Void that once connected the Classical Elsewhere? Can't say for certain, though I suppose it should still be there. Not much call for going Outside in these days of Powers-Forgotten post-Meshing.
Of course, the Inners are as turbulant as ever. They experienced their own Meshing, though of Opposites-Forms, not neighbors like across the Elsewhere. Imagine the wonders of Earth-Air, or Ooze-Smoke or Lightning-Dust! Oddly, there is no Positive-Negative, though I can't imagine what they might have wrought for the Deep-Inners. There are wonders down there, and to hear of the Abyss-Fallers speak their creeds, they share our Abyss-Chasm, though from the other side. Oh, imagine dropping down into Vacuum-Mineral from the Once-Sigil! Such poetry!
Basically. And I see Sigil as existing as a great bridge-city across this new Abyss and between the lawful and chaotic sides of the Outer Planes. Some of planes were mostly untouched: Mechanus (Broken Gears) and Limbo (Tempest). Some merged: Acheron/Arcadia, Arborea/Pandemonium, and I have this vague notion of a strange checkerboard landscaped Elysium/Grey Wastes, though I'm not sure where it would connect. Maybe it cycles around from one side of creation to the other.Others just kinda broke loose and drift and float in the new Chasm-Abyss: Ysgard and Carceri (the earth rivers of Ysgard and the spheres of Carceri mix and mingle now, and there are probably a few cubes from Acheron out there too, for good measure). I envision the Abyss itself as spiraling all the way down to the Inner Planes.I also liked the notion of having the natives refer to the time prior to the breaking as the Classical period. And I have a strong suspicion that the Primes either disintegrated or access to them is practically barred. Any references to the Astral and Ethereal go back to the Classical period when all access to them was abruptly cut off.
Inverted Moral Wheel
In the beginning it was lawful void not Chaos! The Abyss was a seed of life in the void.
So, from Chaos life was born, and Obiryts were the life seeder; Than Law resented life and tried to put an end on it! The Dukes of Aqua beated the Demons; Mishka, The Wolf-Spider (C/G) was imprisoned and his Queen retired in the Abyss of Life.
Eladrins exterminated Obiryths out of jealousy and spite, But their heirs, born from the souls of generous, creative and freedom loving mortals, the Tanar'ri remained! To fight the Demons, harbinger of chaotic life the gods of laws created the Angels. But Asmodeus greater of the Angels grow many doubts. Why were them to exterminate life? Why couldn't they bring order in a more peaceful way? Why there was punishment for disobedience but not reward for conformity? He made the gods sign the primal pact, allowing him to reward the souls of the worthy; The gods than casted him out the heavens, but than they discovered the truth! The Fallen Angels, now knew as Baatezu were actually spreading good along with order, driving mortals to redemption and purification.
In this Multiverse what was Good is Evil and what was Evil is Good.
The lower planes changed in this way:
Pandemonium is a place of freedom, eccentricity and loud cheerfulness.
The Abyss of Life is an endless triumph of wonders.
Tartarus is the refuge of the dissidents and of the revolutionary! Who oppose tyrants often ends here, along the Titans.
Hades is a peaceful land of the Dead, devoid of pain and tribulation. It house part of the ultimate altruists, the Yugoloths.
The Geheenna, is a bastion of good, way more militant than the other planes of good! His Yugoloths are the more interventist inferic race.
Baator is the land of the good order, the land of justice, honor and duty, the Baatezu being active agents of redemption and salvation.
Acheront is the paradise of the soldiers, a land of orderly batterfields, clever strategies and honorable battles won by the smartest, not by the strongest.
Mirrorly, we have:
Arcadia, a land of bigots, prejudiced traditionalist.
Celestia, the ultimate empire, ran by ruthless Archonts who wants crush free spirit from the wheel.
Bytopia, the twin hells; One a slave based countryside the other an unforgiving savage land ridden by cannibals.
Elysium is a land of hypocrisy and appearance, were racist Guardinals build the prosperity of the élite on the suffering of many.
The Beatlands are brutal an unforgiving hunting lands.
Arborea is a land of whims and unrestricted passions, ruled by petty and jealous Eladrins.
Ysgard is a land of brutal, never ending conflict, fought on an extreme unforgiving land.
On the Inner planes Good elemental forces are stronger than the evil ones.
On the Astral Planes, noble crusaders, the Githyanki, rules an empire prosperous and righteous.
On the Prime, many worlds identify sky and light with evil, while earth and darkness are associated with hope. Undeath is also seen as a rightful rebellion to the tyrannical order imposed by tyrannical gods.
For sure there is! It come along with the inversion of moral axe. All powers which normally are evil are good and the opposite; Some neutral power have some slightly alteration too!
As I said, a lot of what is normally associated with evil, like darkness, poisonous creatures, undeath, death and the underground now is associated with good, while sun, light, flying creatures, the surface of the world and the natural harmony are now associated with evil.
Wow - thanks for porting this over!
Parallel LXV: Blossoms in the Aftermath
"you think, 'that orchard inside is nothing but ash'
- but -
it's just soil that's fallow and some day, month, year, epoch later a fragile green thing with a little blossom (pregnant promise of fruit) pushes out for a gasping breath of sun lit air. you blink again, struck, and a humming bird thought blurts across the Mind:
'when was the world this Colorful'? you ask yourself.
and you Smile at the memory of forgotten Newness."
-Blade of Innocence
Kinoa was born on the Naglfar, in the husk-hull of this ship that spans continents and sailed over the planes of the Wheel. Her first cries echoed faintly in this cavernous bulk, our fledgling nation earned with blood spilled over the finger and toe nails of the dead.
It is amazing to see what a child raised in a certain environment can be inured to. A miracle of sorts that she can look out sleepily, with only politeness to combat her boredom, as we sit and stare out at the bones of giants and wolves and dragons strewn across the red soaked marshes born of the flooding of the Ma'at with blood. Willows rising over the corpses of colossi, hurricanes of raven flocks wailing overhead, and she points to a line of ants, demands that I give the gatherers deserved and proper attention.
That she can feel only hunger, rather than a touch of reverence, as we pluck the apples shining because they have grown from rotting godflesh, with no shadow of tragedy stretching over her soul...yes, what word can I use to describe her laughter, her innocence, other than miracle?
To watch her peaceful slumber, that is a wonder amongst the broken wonders.
Ragnarok took most of the Multiverse by surprise. Among the gods it was Tharizdun, the Far Realms, Erebus who made many fear for the future. Loki was one of them, a fellow god playing the game, and when one does expect such a schemer to end up staying true to the hate that wrote prophecies into the futures glimpsed in the well of the Norns?
Ysgard was an Upper Plane, for the sakes of saints and proxies! That it was a Plane of War, that it existed as a frozen moment poised over a cliff, was something that was either unnoticed or disregarded in the political calculations of too many players in the Cosmic Game.
Yet when the Plane of War unfolds, expands, stains like indigo dropped into water it touches Ares, touches the Blood War, touches echoes of marching legions of Wind Dukes diving into hordes and hordes of obyrith.
Fire giants call upon salamanders and efreet mercenaries and allies, frost giants upon xixecals and trade words for the seed craft of the immoth. Naturally the djinn and Cryonax feel they must become involved.
Alfheim draws the elven gods, the death toll forces the fey of the Seelie and Unseelie courts to take notice.
And above the screaming, the dying, the mountains broken and seas boiled into deserts the shadow of a ship, its approach marked by the scent of grave soil cutting through the sweat and blood scent of battle.
Yet with Ysgard soaked into creation, dawn and its equivalents see warriors rise again and again until the Reapers of varied pantheons cannot help but intervene.
Death comes, but not before a single crack runs up the Spire and expands, it's innards opening to reveal three burning spheres of light...three orbs of Concordant Opposition.
Three seeds for a new creation, three eggs that now hatch too early.
Now, even as the old Multiverse wars a new one grows over it, into it, within it.
Imagine, if you will, a song being rewritten before its performance is done.
Another Facet of Parallel LXV (Blossoms in the Aftermath)
"If Lord Ilil will not assist you, she said, go to Ur, to the temple of Sin, and weep before my father. If he will not assist you, go to Eridu, to temple, weep before the god of wisdom. Enki knows the food of life; he knows the water of life; he knows the secrets. I am sure he will not let me die." -Duncan, Hal (2011-08-11). Vellum
It is the kind of story that we call myth, the kind that you recognize even in the first telling. The kind you recognize yourself in, though never having heard it before.
Ishtar descends to the House of Death, stands naked before the throne of the Underworld upon which her sister (shadow) rests in the manner of slavering lions.
(Yes, you think without wanting to, I know that feeling.I know what it is like to be naked in the Shadowed House of the West, someone in my circle of beloved looking down at me.I know what it is like to be judged in that House, defenseless as I grasp, desperately, for my innermost heart.)
There was peace when Tammuz, whom some credit as the first Resurrectionist, was hostage-surrogate between the two sisters Inanna and Ereshkigal.
Then Tammuz died - his death vengeance for the murder of Enki - outside of the Underworld, outside the seven gates of the House. His corpse faded into the Astral, a dead god that would not rise.
Yet Tammuz stood in place on Ishtar herself, and now the fiends of Ereshkigal came from the lands of Hades, crawling over the stones of Olympus and the wood of Yggdrasil to steal the goddess from her City of Stars.
Yet Ishtar does not go willingly, and a war is fought that leaves Elysium cracked enough for the evils bound in its swamps to escape. For the work of Enki exists beyond his death, and thus Gala-tura and Kur-jara - made from dirt found under the fingernails of the gods - stand fast in defense of the Star Crowned Whore of Babylon.
The horrors of Ereshkigal slowly, across the span of eons, drag Ishtar down a path of wood and stone, and both Tree and Mountain bear wounds and leave artifacts of bark and shattered rock strewn across planes and world.
Some of her pantheon choose to come to her aid, while others seek to ensure the ancient laws of the Underworld are upheld.
Finally, think the gods of the Sumerian pantheon, the Babylonian gods can be put in the dead book. Inanna rallies her devils in Hell, and marches forth from the Inferno.
So begins a facet of another Ending, but amidst the carnage the astral dragons note that the corpses of Enki of the Waters and Tammuz of Resurrection draw closer together, ice bergs edging toward collision...and perhaps creation....
Note: Murder of Enki is referenced in Planescape's On Hallowed Ground, wherein it is noted that there is a split Babylonian and Sumerian pantheon - where the former seek to overthrow their elders who are the latter.
The whole thing gets kinda twisted when you have Inanna and Ishtar as separate goddesses, along with a divergence in the rest of the pantheon.
Parallel LXV: Blossoms in the Aftermath is inspired partially by Mieville's Kraken, partially by Hal Duncan's Vellum, and a healthy mix of D&D material.
If anyone wants to throw in some mythic mayhem, definitely do so, the theme here is Genesis happening in the midst of Apocalypse...
The water changes color like the sky does when overcast with the tattered remnants of a dissolving thunderstorm. There are times when its indigo dark and clotting and even as she blinks she can see the change that comes in the opening of her eyes - water cerulean blue and so softly translucent she swears she can see the smoothed stones on the bottom.
Perhaps one day it will always be clear, when all the fiends' blood divorced from flesh is redeemed.
Today is not that day, the fire-genasi thinks, looking over at the hooded passenger who requested she and her crew undertake this voyage. Hinah shudders. Today is certainly not that day.
The passenger waits patiently as they dock, the crew - almost entirely made up of mortals touched by the elemental - eye those awaiting them warily. Once these waters would have burned the fiends, but now there are piscoloths calmly staring up at them.
No, not at them. At him. The passenger, the arcanoloth, who even now is removing his hood. What they see in his eyes causes the yugoloths of the Beastlands to start - never before have they seen penitence or devotion in the eyes of their own kind.
Burned into the jackal headed fiend's forehead is a furless set of scars tracing the shape of a child's severed hand. Who or what this god is unknown to Hinah, unknown to any of her crew, and yet for every week of this too long journey all of them have dreamt of that hand, on a table of cloying rosewood, those toddler fingers grasping for something, someone.
Right before the titans broke their chains and stormed Olympus, prior to the sailing of the Naglfar and the unleashing of Fenris, before the deluge and rains of fire and the dances of Kali and Shiva, there came a call to the fiends of the Lower Planes.
Most did not answer, but some exiles among Hell's nobility, wandering tanar'ri, ambassadors of Apomps and yugoloth spies followed the Voice into the dark Void beyond Gehenna's four volcanic mountains, between the spaces of Carceri's pearls.
When they returned, they were clergy, demondand lying with daemon, demon and devil bonded by faith.
They spoke of the Black Hearted Messiah, the Deliverer who could offer a communion with evil unfettered by flesh or even spirit. The yugoloths even claimed that this Savior could offer what the Baernoloths had long promised but never delivered - true understanding of that gem of infinite facets, that black lotus of uncountable petals.
Then the Multiverse began to die and be born all at once, and the worlds of the fiends were shattered. Apomps went silent, and the collective memory of the demodands crumbled into fragments. The Lords of Nine found Hell a battleground of prophetic fulfillment, and the Abyss was cursed by a powerful ravage that even now threatens to purify the Misshapen Lands.
The Baernoloths were unprepared for this ending, unprepared for the wasting of their flesh to be cured, unprepared to be helplessly beautiful before their children. Unwilling to look upon their now gorgeous Father-Mothers, the 'loths locked them away in the pits of their Three Towers.
Most of the daemons, however, remain faithless to this day among the broken dawns of twilight.
Theory on Parallel LXV (Blossoms in the Aftermath)
What if Parallel LXV isn't exactly a place but a crossing point? A sort of ordinal wheel for the Metaverse's mythologies.
I mean, it might have been a Wheel like any other before the Death-Rebirth, Ragnarok/Revelation Singularity but now it is a canvas transitive with all kinds of ideas on destruction and creation bleeding together:
"Izzi: This is an actual Mayan book. It explains the Creation myth. You see that's first father. He's the very first human.
Tom Creo: Hum. Is he dead?
Izzi: He sacrificed himself to make the world.
Izzi: That's the tree of life bursting out of his stomach.
Tom Creo: Hey come.
Izzi: Listen. His body became the trees' roots. They spread and formed the earth. His soul became the branches rising up forming the sky. All the remained is first father's head. His children hung in in the heavens creating Xibalba.
Tom Creo: Xibalba. The star, eh,
Tom Creo: nebula
Izzi: So what do you think?
Izzi: That idea. Death as an act of creation.
Tom Creo: [looks away, withdrawing] I'll pull out the car and meet you out front."
-IMDB, The Fountain
Digressions from Parallel LXV (Blossoms in the Aftermath)
"Biforst fragments raining down across the worlds and planes, gateways opening like the jaws of smiling wolves, and the iron boot heel of Hell on the march. Worlds upon worlds taken, broken, assimilated.
We'd drown them all in blood for the treaty we got from Heaven.
He came to us, you see, Zaphkiel. Let us nail him to Yggdrasil's roots, let us bleed him out with a wound from the side.
We laughed when he died....and now, look at us. I'm soddin' crying, fighting, clenching my teeth so hard my fangs are threatening to crack.
Where the Hell is his corpse? And why am I being redeemed?"
"Of course I felt it. Every Sinker did. A Cadence of our own, a drumbeat in the darkness, made from the footsteps of the many handed Destroyer.
Blacklight pours out, floods the quasi, even our Citadels turn to dust.
Somewhere I hear Skall is screaming in triumph, that the bag of bones is celebrating his nearness to freedom. Maybe he's right, all the dead seem caught up in the beat, in the dance, in the performance art of entropic disintegration that seems so utterly imminent.
Me, I'm just going to take it all in stride, sip my drink here and let the End come to me - and the Beginning too, if the rumors of Brahma in the Positive have any basis. Oh yeah, they say he's sitting in a silver lotus, whose argent stem stretches beyond the Astral, a silver cord that slides into someplace mysterious and golden...
But hey, if it's a new beginning, that's somebody else's problem.
Whatever comes, we Sinkers won. We beat them all in this Eternal Round we played.
And for whatever time is left to you, don't you ever forget it."
The City On the Edge of Creation and Destruction
Gone is the line between Inner and Outer, between Law and Chaos, between Good and Evil. In their place lies Creation and Destruction. And in an endless, ever changing circle lies the City, caught in Balance and its bladed Queen is the Keeper and Decider of what and who passes from below to above, and what and who passes from above to below.
Creation is a place where the Pious find relief in the Lower Planes. At its Heart lies the Eversource, from which all Creation bubbles into existence. The Powers of Creation revel in the Eversource, drawing from it and spinning out worlds of their own, to grow as they please.
Destruction is the Higher Plane where the Wicked continually fight against losing themselves. It is a tumbling and Falling place, raining down endlessly on the City. The jealous Powers of Destruction rail against the endless Creation, seeking peace through the Destruction of all.
In the Balance of the City, the common people find a safe haven. The place is the knife's edge where Creation and Destruction meet. It is a mixing pot, where one can find the many races from across all worlds and across all Planes. A grand City, evoking echoes of oft talked about legends of cities called Sigil and Glass and Brass, of places called Asgard and Utopia, Shangri-La and Purgatory. It is a waiting place, it is a place of endless commerce, of bitter rivalries and secret dalliances. It is secluded, it is wide open and free, it is hidden from all prying eyes.
And its Queen, the City's ever faithful, ever vigilant Queen, and her eyes and ears in the form of floating Sentinels, keep the peace between all Existence.
The leprachaunagons uneasily clambered back aboard their raft. Slaughtering a wandering alu-fey should have been a positive bonding exercise - instead they were down to six of their original nine, and behind schedule at that. Discussion of how to salvage the situation was barely underway before the Styx began to churn around them. Bodies tumbled into the dark river as the boat ripped apart underneath their feet. Their memories immediately wiped clean, the fiends barely had a moment to consider how they had ended up in this damp predicament before the ravenous nixieloths descended upon them.
You want to meet my parents? No. We're not going to be doing that.
Special Credit to Weirmoken of the Kobold Boards who came up with the idea that a group of proxies simulates the actions of a god & Grant Morrison's Hexus the Living Corporation for the following:
Personality: Olmina H'hhhhhhadrafax
Olmina the Pixie's first flit across the parallels was to a delightful paper world, where she chased flocks of origami birds and crash-landed in a yielding mountain of ribbon, laughing hysterically all the while. Imagine her surprise upon returning to her verdant prime material home to find a miniature, elfin balor that remained unmistakably her father, now with a remarkable taste for slaughtering and havoc-wreaking, his esteem on those matters seemingly only emboldened by his small size.
Long ago on Parallel LXVII, the Queen of Air and Darkness stole away a part of her sister Titania. It may have been pure madness that found her burying bits of it across the lower planes, but doing so served to powerfully tie together the fey and fiendish races.
As many as a quarter of all fey here find their lives unexpectedly interrupted. Perhaps on a first birthday, perhaps hundreds of years into a life, a fey may find his path taking a violent biological detour towards one of the three great fiendish races. Doing so with little rhyme or reason, this has produced a wild variety of uniformly evil creatures (to say nothing of the fey-fiends that excel in fiendish society and are promoted into heretofore unseen forms). Fey-fiends on the prime are relatively seldom and powerful ones tend to take on dragon-like roles, lording over or terrorizing the populations around them. Planar fey-fiends are drawn to the lower planes; some join the ranks of the fiends while others maintain small, lower profile communities, preying on Blood War stragglers and other travelers.
Olmina's second trip across realities was not so much a graceful dance as a mad and desperate leap. She awoke in a humid pit deep in some version of Carceri. Emaciated figures called out to her from distant cells, identifying themselves as Zues, Hera, Apollo, and others. But Olmina did not know this place or these gods, and collapsed to the ground, weeping until she passed out from her wounds.
Parallel LXVIII: The Corporate-verse
The Spire rises up, an infinite round skyscraper that serves as the home office to the power the planes call the Invisible Hand, the corporation turned deity that refers to itself as the Greater Known Power.
The Spire rules over the Outlands, burning through any opposition with weapons of light fired from its infinitude of windows. It was in this way that the Rilmani were driven first into near extinction and then into diaspora.
Lightning rail trains extend out from the infinite pillar, tentacles of this organization winding through the realms of the powers and into the gate towns. Agents of the Greater Known ensure even the gods of this plane bow before the profitable business practice that interweaves conflict and cooperation, a strategy marketing refers to as the Concordant Opposition.
The remaining Outer Planes are not wholly controlled by the Invisible Hand, but their influence has resulted in the exemplars of these planes also acting in manners akin to a corporation. Conquering the Caverns of Thought and enslaving the illithid powers has only allowed them to better bombard the planes with subconscious advertising, or so the conspiracy theorists claim. The only Upper plane that has almost completely resisted this is the Beastlands, yet even in its wilds there are a growing number of colonial insect species of sentient and non-sentient varieties. (Even Limbo is a mess of slaad start ups offering ever varied, novel services born from the depths of chaotic matter.)
Each of the Elemental Planes is filled with various forms of magitech used to draw on their essences and combine them into a profitable alchemy. Refrigeration thanks to Ice, heating thanks to Fire and Magma, metals and gems thanks to Mineral, waste disposal thanks to Ooze, etc.
As a true example of the Greater Known's consolidation of the Multiverse, the Negative and Positive have become resources used by the Invisible Hand, providing low cost healing for both undead and living works in accordance with their positions in the company's subsidiaries and the appropriate regional health plan.
Perhaps the places most free from the Invisible Hand's influence are Sigil and the Prime. The latter simply has too many worlds for the Hand to colonize, and the deities of the Multiverse are better able to retain their assets via their churches in the varied crystal spheres of the flow.
In Sigil the commerce of the city has largely slowed as Sinkers, Anarchists, and Xaositects disrupt most planar business activity in an effort to deny the Invisible Hand it's power. However, for whatever reason, the Lady has not allowed the chaotic factions to overturn what passes for the order and peace. Perhaps this willingness to entertain at least some of the Greater Known's agents is a sign from the Lady that she is not one to be cowed by the corporate god that seethes under the torus that is her domain.
Parallel LIX: Where Echoes Terraform the Worlds
It is unclear whether Parallel 59 is in its infancy, or whether the primordial conflicts of Multiverse Prime have dragged on from the Time before Time into the present. Historians are of little help, for in this place even time is beholden to the ever evolving Word.
Planar Common has yet to emerge, though the Rilmani are said to be hard at work creating a language that negates the transformative power of language, a tongue they will then spread across creation.
Instead, what one ends up speaking are derivations and combinations of the Wheel's parent tongues: Dark Speech, the Words of Creation, The Tongue of Law (an attempt at signifying all things through the use of binary strings), Deep Hagunemnon, High Aquan, High Ignan, High Auran, and High Terran.
Each of these languages, when spoken, alters the environment around them not just at the physical level but also the metaphysical - even the true names in the surrounding area are affected. (Wheel Walkers are encouraged to come with an incredible amount of magical protection.)
The Prime Material Plane is a war zone, as exemplars of alignments and elements battle to create Paradise and Perdition. The elemental beings, through the work of the genie empires, have been more willing to grant each other territory, but even they participate in conflicts that leave crystal spheres destroyed or birthed in the iridescent phlogiston.
The power of language in this place has resulted in this Wheel being of high interest to parallel walking spellweavers, who have also noted with curiosity that their species is apparently absent from Parallel 59.
In Sigil the power of the Lady provides some respite for mortals and war weary planar incarnations - the entirety of the city exists under a blanket of perpetual silence.
Parallel LIX: Where Echoes Terraform the Worlds Continued
(Wicke, I'd love to hear more about dabus evolving rebus speak!)
A lover's sigh can water Eden, a dying gasp can birth a sun. In this place, celestials and fiends attack each other with war cry accusations shot through with undercurrents of missionary whispers. An exemplar can fall and rise in the span of an hour, its core Self battered by the lingual cacophony that makes every breath a battlefield contested by thousands.
Words, symbols, signs, all signifiers are intimately tied to signified concepts of alignment and element, but the words of power must be spoken to enable their effect. Because of this, there are many prisoners who are found with their tongues cut out. This silencing in turn has led to advancements in glyph and rune magic, as the sudden handicap, the inability to chisel reality, is too much for most exemplars to bear.
In Sigil, telepaths are highly prized as go betweens. Those willing to be placed under geas spells to ensure good behavior can find lucrative work in the Cage. Truenamers are pariahs here, in the same way chronomancers are in Multiverse Prime.
Parallel LX: The Kiddie-verse (Did we already do something like this? Let me know!)
Parallel 60 is a Wheel that is difficult to get to, and even more difficult for visitors to remain within. The Wheel continuously pushes to banish parallel walkers to their Wheel of *origin* rather than the last Multiverse they came to Parallel 60 from.
Illithid tadpoles skitter in the pools for the perpetually adolescent "elder brains". Dragons take eons to grow beyond their hatchling stage. Tome Archons are elders in that they are teenagers, as are the Companions along with Morwel and her consorts.
Only the Baern are old enough to take on a mentality of incoming college freshmen. Their evil, the deepest in this Multiverse, is akin to that of bullies and cruel siblings. All other beings fall into younger age groups psychologically, with only non-sentient animals possessing the lifecycles one would expect on Multiverse Prime.
Beings don't bear wounds but developed an increasingly red aura until they finally go to sleep or stasis where they fall. The more wounded you are, the longer it takes for this aura to fade.
Sigil is a city turned play pen with filled with enormous toys that the dabus are continuously making. Visitors who try to interfere with the various moral dramas going on in this Wheel (think after school specials) find there is one adult, and her shadow leaves you with an aura so deep and red that you won't awaken for a thousand years.
There are no undead on this Wheel.
Parallel LX: The Alignment War in the Kiddie-verse
Since there is no strong representation of Evil here, beyond the bullying nature of the Baern and then fiends they domineer over, the Alignment War is much more muted. In fact, there are playgrounds on the Outlands where slaad, modrons, celestials and fiends all enjoy each others company. Exemplars "rise" and "fall" frequently, but the statistical tendency of angels to be good (tattletales, good two-shoes, show offs) and fiends to be meanies does hold overall in this Wheel.
Beyond that, there are no souls to contest, because no one is dying and almost no one is aging. Only dragon hatchlings are born from eggs, watched over by mortal and exemplar children. There is a belief that the dragons do age into adulthood, and somehow control this entire Wheel at the behest of Io, but this is all conspiracy theory at this point.
Right now eggs are simply found, occasionally in the company of wish empowered fairy dragons of indeterminate age category.
[Threw that last bit in as a tribute to Shemmy's excellent story hour. :)]
Parallel LXI: The Negaverse
A pall of darkness tints the daylight across this Wheel, and even in the noonday desert sun unless you're on a lucky Positive touched Prime world it's more than likely you'll find yourself shivering.
Those who are genuinely alive should be doubly wary in this Multiverse, for in this place even in Heaven the dead easily outnumber the living. Sigil is a grand necropolis, a city where only the Lady and the dabus offer haphazard protection from the numerous undead citizens who rule over the factions and guilds. Of course, the Dustmen and Doomguard are stronger than their rivals, and the Harmonium has been ousted from the city.
The Negative Material plane and the corresponding quasi-elemental planes are "larger" here, which has apparently affected even the Outer Planes. Most structures are dilapidated and even the realms of the creator gods show subtle signs of decay. All the living here, save those immune to negative energy damage, tire more easily without continual infusions of positive energy.
No one is sure what caused this overflow of negative energy, and the fact that the Negative Energy Plane is even more destructive in this place means few dare enter this plane to uncover what has transpired there. Even undead who enter are rarely heard from again, and those who do return whole in mind and form refuse to speak of what they discovered.
Some suggest that Skall has found a way to kill off this entire Wheel and gain True Death, while others believe one of the primordial destroyer deities has begun the scheduled termination of this Wheel.
Parallel CII: The Duchess's Escape
Phaedra scowled. "So what you're saying, Wayf, is... this parallel is exactly the same as Multiverse Prime in every respect."
The Lonely Wayfarer seemed affronted by this suggestion. "Not at all, Phaedra! There are countless differences! Countless!"
Phaedra scanned the streets of the Clerk Ward. "It looks the same to me... same street names... same buildings... same proportion of races... oh! I know that guy!" Her face lit up as her eyes settled on a familiar face. "Iarmid!" she called out happily to the tall, pale aasimar. "How's my favorite masseur doing?"
The aasimar blinked at Phaedra curiously. "I'm sorry, miss, I don't recall you off hand... could you be Phaedros's sister?"
Phaedra's face fell as she came closer to the aasimar she had mistaken for her friend. The resemblance was uncanny, yes, but there was one significant difference: this aasimar was a woman. Phaedra sighed in world-weary exasperation and glanced sidelong at the Wayfarer. "Is this seriously how it's going to go, Wayf? I mean, seriously?"
The Lonely Wayfarer looked back guilelessly. "Why Phaedra, is there something wrong?"
Phaedra gave her companion a withering look. "A reverse-gender parallel? This is so cliche it doesn't bear mentioning. Why would you even bother?"
"Excuse me, miss," said the parallel Iarmid. "My Cipher instincts are calling me to some other seemingly random location. Perhaps later you'll tell me when your brother introduced you to me." She turned abruptly and trotted off.
"You have no spirit of scientific inquiry, Phaedra!" said the Wayfarer. "Just think of this parallel as the perfect control study to at last determine the true differences between the genders! An almost perfect mirror of Multiverse Prime, but with queens reigning instead of kings! Authors instead of authoresses! Goddesses instead of gods!"
"So what differences have resulted?"
Phaedra sighed. "Basically, then, the same arseholes as in our multiverse, but with different naughty bits?"
"Precisely," beamed the Wayfarer. "Oh, and the timeline seems to be about nine months behind. I blame all the maternity leaves."
Phaedra glanced at her fingers briefly, as if counting them. "That makes no sense!"
The Wayfarer shrugged. "Nonetheless, we are when we are." He pointed suddenly. "You see? That's Duchess Rowena Darkwood, about to rendezvous with the courier who will bring her the Labyrinth Stone, with which she foolishly hopes to overthrow the Lord of Pain."
"Wayf, look out!" Phaedra's eyes grew wide and fearful, but before her warning left her lips something cold and sharp pressed against the Wayfarer's spine.
"I don't think so, berk," said a gruff voice. The Wayfarer turned his head slowly. A large man with a scarred, craggy face, a square jaw, and a patch covering one eye stood at the other end of the sword. The one-eyed man grinned, showing bright white teeth. "We're rescuing her from fate, as well as any other parallel me that we can find." Behind him were others of similar build and appearance. One was maybe twenty years younger than the one with a sword. One wore wizard's robes. One had deep blue-green skin and webbed fingers. One was some kind of reptilian humanoid, though a patch covered one of his eyes.
The Rowan Darkwood holding the sword grinned again. There was a nasty edge to it as he spoke again. "And you're going to help us."
Parallel CIII: Mad Queen Morwel
In this parallel, the latter years of the Dawn War between Law and Chaos went wildly differently. The exact chain of events that led to the timeline's divergence are disputed. Some say the Queen of Chaos was defeated by the slaad lord Ssendam, who took control of the hordes of Chaos only to be banished to Pandemonium by the unlikely alliance of her rival Ygorl and Queen Morwel of the eladrins. Others say the Queen of Chaos was slain by a marut suicide attack and Ssendam and Morwel seized control of the squabbling forces of Chaos as partners, and Morwel only accidentally became ruler of the united chaotic armies when she thwarted Ygorl's attempt to use the Spawning Stone to transform eladrins, slaadi, and obyriths alike into multicolored toads by gaining control of the Spawning Stone herself and transforming all the races into the superficial appearance of eladrins.
Regardless of how it happened, Morwel and her consort, a night-black eladrin called Ygorl, became the strange attractors around which all of Chaos whirled. The power of the Spawning Stone had granted all the warriors of discord the same tall, beautiful, vaguely elflike forms and mad glowing eyes, but driven the Queen of Stars irrevocably insane, as wildly chaotic and amoral as Ygorl and Ssendam. At the Wind Dukes' final stand on the plains of Pesh, Morwel brought the Spawning Stone with her and unleashed it on the forces of Law. Though the sundering of the Rod of Law opened a terrible chasm on the Plains of Pesh, the waves of Chaos from the Spawning Stone washed over the legions of order and they, too, were transformed into eladrin-like shapes, their minds made demented and strange... and Chaos swept across the planes unchallenged.
Eons later, there are only two outer planes remaining in this parallel. Arborea, a riot of strange, gargantuan, writhing trees of every color and variety, has merged with Limbo and absorbed every other outer plane from Gehenna to Acheron. Baator is the last redoubt of Law, the sole remaining point of order in what was once the Great Ring. Nine Lords of Law rule Baator's nine layers: Zariel, Dispater, Mammon, Levistus, Belial, Lilith, Triel, Mephistopheles, and Primus, the One and Prime, who has bound his shining, androgynous body with chains of darkness and light to a vast, broken serpent that twitches at the bottom of the deepest trench in Nessus. The Lords of Baator are not evil, not entirely, but they are utterly without scruples as they do everything in their power to resist the still-growing Arborean forests and prevent them from consuming all. One former Lord of Baator, Gargauth the Traitor, has been exiled for conspiring with the enemy. Having made common cause with Chaos he has reaped the benefits: Morwel has given him an entire world to rule as he sees fit. This world, Abeir-Toril, Gargauth has remade in his own image, an ever-changing ruin dominated by dragons and grim cities.
One group has managed to escape Gargauth's shifting hellscape of a world: the illusionists of Nimbral, who have colonized a demiplane cloaked by magic, from which they can worship their goddess Leira and continue the battle against the conqueror of their world with lightning-fast raids on their pegasus mounts.
Sigil, in this parallel, is still a neutral ground filled with refugees from countless worlds, the Lady of Pain taking no sides in the radically lopsided war between Law and Chaos. What might happen to Sigil if the besieged plane of Baator should fall, however, is anyone's guess. Can her city remain neutral in a multiverse with only one side?
Parallel CXXI: The Waters, the Land and the Crown
Sigil, also known as the Crown, is a circular castle that circumscribes the Spire. This Sigil is far larger than the Cage in Multiverse Prime, and the castle has been converted into a city. For the most part the dabus don't mind the remodeling, but every so often they will fade into existence - this is a signal to abandon whatever renovations you were about to engage in. As always, attacking or even just defying the dabus is a sure fire way to find yourself mazed or filleted.
Positive, Negative, Fire, Water, Earth, and Air are the only Inner Planes.
The Positive Material Plane is an endless, bottomless expanse of adamantine light. Its energies are much more stable, and no one who comes here will burst apart. As such, many civilizations exist here though any non-native must give a tithe to the enigmatic Elementals of Life. The tithes vary between settlements - some are asked to give up a child or two while others are required to raise some kind of monstrous animals or surrender years of youth. Vivacious creatures of various sorts always come to collect the tithe, anyone who has seen the Elementals of Life does not speak of it.
The Negative Material Plane is a viscous place filled with clots of partially solidified negative energy. Undead, just by existing here, are seen as poaching and dealt with harshly by the natives. No nonnative endures this place for long - the wraith like Elementals of Death have little tolerance for anyone save for visitors bearing generous bribes. Elementals of Death enjoy the cradling of dying animals or sentients, or barring that precious things of value to the visitor now tarnished or decayed.
The Plane of Fire has an atmosphere of blue flame within which rests spheres where residents make their homes. Those who are not fire elementals live in spheres of magma or cinder, while the true elementals live in white hot stars. The Plane of Air is a dark void filled with churning winds, screaming elementals, and continually occurring storms. Settlements make heavy use of bottled lightning as a source of illumination. The Plane of Earth is surprisingly bright due to the preponderance glowing gemstones, and the elemental beings here are shrewd negotiators who enjoy the influx of traders. The Plane of Water is dimly lit by the submerged bergs of ice giving off a soft glow and the various bioluminescent creatures that always seem to be around.
The Outer Planes are an infinite expanse of islands varying in size, with the Spire always seeming to rise out of the waters somewhere on the far horizon. Sailing the waters requires strong magic or a water-attuned extraplanar guide to reach an actual destination across infinite space. Marraenoloths, wastriliths, noviere and zoveri are capable of aiding a traveler to get to a destination in accord with their alignment. One sails the waters which usually have the properties of the Ma'at, but take on the nature of Oceanus or the Styx depending on the alignment of the island you are visiting.
Each island leans toward an alignment, one that is usually easily determined by the races, flora, and fauna found there. However, loyalties do not always break down according to axes of Law/Chaos or Good/Evil, as these exemplars are more concerned with specific domains related to their fiefdoms. For example, some islands might ally because of their concern for government, while others might take up the banner of music or science. It is not uncommon for exemplars of widely different alignments to grudgingly take up arms for shared a cause.
Factions are very powerful here, using portals and currents to eek out settlements and trade routes. Powerful exemplars create huge empires in name of Art, Magic, Ice and other portfolios. Gods have islands of their own for their realms, and seem much more focused on the Primes than elsewhere.
If you guys enjoyed this trip around Parallel Wheels - which I swear to resurrect someday! - I highly recommend Lords of Gossamer and Shadow by Rite Publishing.
You don't even have to get the main book, you can just mine the supplements for ideas.
Very impressive, than you for sharing this. In the past I had thought to run a campaign based on Planescape with Sliders TV show concept of moving between Multiverses - that campaign was not even a fraction as creative as this thread. Thank you.