sciborg2's picture

This is an interview with the deposed oinoloth, part of the Outlands centered news magazine Pawn's Eye View. The reporter who got the story is the famous--in my campaign world--B.Agnus.

Special credit to Raymond Luxury Yatch of the WotC boards who came up with the idea of an ultroloth trying to look like a baern. I added the surgery concept.

It resembled a ram's head, with curling horns. But it was a sculpted face, the horns attached by threads of black iron with bits of their original owner's flesh. The round yellow eyes were made from carved nuggets of amber, grey flesh stretched over mutated bones. The taut hide of the fiend had been treated with alchemicals to keep some sembelance of life. The side effect was flaking flesh, ever falling around the ultroloth, like a putrid snowfall.Anthraxus spoke, but the face did not move save for the sound of tearing skin as it turned to me: "Glory is the currency of Good. Look to their martyrs, their last stands, their courageous prattle about the daily struggles about a dead love one. But take that loved one and make her sick, ravage her features so that even the chance of reflection makes her recoil. Make their fathers forget them, their mothers revile them by decaying their minds. Make their attempts at love bring death to others, their touch a defilement. Suffer them with boils and sores, so that one cannot look at them without digust. Even angels break under such transformation. In their paradises, where appearance and health is a marker of identity, of belief, it is that much harder to bear. They will blame themselves, recalling the slightest of temptations. Then they will hate those who led them to such minor follies, believing that if not for these mistakes they would not bear such burdens. Plague becomes the cleanser, cutting through their self-deceptions. In the end, why would anyone walk the path of light but to reap the rewards they believe due to them for virtuous conduct? A pitiful illusion born of vanity. There is no justice, and are not my eons of cruelty proof of that?"The deposed Oinoloth studied my face, noting the scars that were shards of language. He read the fragmented Abyssal, and somehow I sensed amusement in that motionless mask atop its neck. Beneath this ruin, I could see the deflated remnants of his original eyes, which retained a hint of their opalesence. Ghostly traces of dweomers wove through the hollows of the manufactured skull, keeping it from collapsing. It perhaps should have been more horrible, but Anthraxus blurred in my vision, disappeared into the grey sky and plain around us. We were the only features for miles. I glanced around, waiting in worry for the new ruler of Khin-Oin to take notice and strike the usurped one down. I just didn't want to be the bystander injured in the process.
With loths, there are always bystanders. But was Anthraxus even a loth anymore? For those gunning for title of Clueless, a little background. Anthraxus was the supposed ruler of the 'loths, sitting upon his throne in Khin Oin. In a bloodless coup, another ultroloth deposed him though no one outside the tower is sure why or how. Since then, Anthraxus has traveled the lower planes incognito until recently when he contacted our publication. Apparently, he had a story to tell, one that he would give only to B.Agnus, the "Orcus-touched". Right now though, we stood face to face in silence. Both of us altered, scarred. Despite the gulf in the circumstances that led to our transformations, I felt a disturbing kingship with this lord of disease. "Your questions...are prayers, are they not?" he asked, his voice inside my head but accompanied by whispered wheezing from somewhere in the mass of bone. "Yes, I suppose they are." I was cleric to the Story, the Truth, the ideal that knowledge was meant to be shared. It made our work a religion, while giving us a duty to search out the facts. I was surprised Anthraxus would know, though he may just be sensing the holy symbol hidden in my once red, now grey with hints of burgundy clothing. And I'd only been here a day. In must be him standing next to me."Questions imply answers, demand them. Even when they are not asked out loud. Sometimes, one hears an answer, and realizes the question was lurking in the mind's recesses, hidden and waiting to betray its home. That's why I left, you see."Wait. Did he just explain why he left his throne? I knew I should be writing this down, but I figured I'd be able to remember it. "What was whispered to me? It was, as unity of rings would have it, about disease and decay. Not a disease of the flesh, not even decay of morality. Such things are too obvious, as apparent as color and joy in the glooms. This was different. A pestilence that struck far deeper, far higher. I think I was what I sought to be. I think I may have been first." This sounded important, something the readers would want to know about. But another part of me said it was a waste of time coming here. This washed up has-been was just showboating. A waste of...waste...grey. wastes.Close one. No wonder we have so much trouble getting decent reports from this miserable nadir of Evil. I snapped back to my senses, cast a quick spell to transcribe everything he had said so far, and began jotting notes down. Trying not to think I had almost lost the story and maybe even my afterlife.Anthraxus had begun to be more animated, waving his staff around. His hands were so rotted I could see bone and mustard-grey pus beneath, black claws cracked."Imagine, to seek so long to copy what you were the inspiration for."

Yes?" I prompted. These cosmic powers were notoriously long winded. If I let him, Antraxus would babble for days."The whispered words, the secret of Mydianchlarus, would be powerless if it did not have the scent of truth. I could feel it, and even now it may be worth risking everything.""What did he say?"Quote:

"Anthraxus appears as a tall man in a rotting grey suit and cape. His head is that of a ram deformed by disease; his mouth foams and the wool pulls away from the skin in handfuls. There are boils and blisters over hisexposed skin, and his flesh is pulled taut over his bones."
"You believed this because...""Because", and now the diseased monstrousity seemed uncomfortable, "I rememered those words. I had kept them in my chamber, a scrap from some Prime work of arcane lore. A simply mistake, to confuse me with the Father-Mothers, but it was what made me what you see before you. It made me ask, 'Why not?' "One of his putrid hands reached into the 'rotting grey suit and cape', emerging with the page. Was that skin or papyrus? It was so old it could be either. If he wasn't who he was, I would say he was shy."I had kept this from all around me. My shame, and my inspiration. In a place where belief makes reality, could I not force my desire onto the multiverse? To be one of *them*, the Authors! But in order to fool reality, I had to fool myself." Then he shuddered, with disgust or anger I could not tell."And Mydianchlarus had known. It was my shame, it made my reconfiguration a joke. Surely, I thought, the Father-Mothers must be laughing at me. But the way he had said it, something in his tone. I checked to see if the parchment was still there, still hidden beneath my robes. It was there, but it was out of place. No, not place. Time. It had always been.I left the Tower within one of your days.""You're saying this parchment isn't part of our timestream--" He leaned in close, the smell of him dulled like everything is dulled here. Though his eyes were false, and his smile a rictus grin, it was almost as though we were two school girls trading sequestered truths. Then I saw the maggots in the hollows of his false head, squirming in the remnants of his former, true faceless face hidden beneath."I'm saying the timestream this object comes from no longer exists."I was taken aback. It was one thing to imagine locations, even whole layers shifting between planes and another to think of time streams being born and dying. I saw myself as words on a page, part of a story whose beginning could be rewritten."Pardon my doubt, my lord, but it's hard to believe you. After all, even if you were right, we couldn't prove it." Though the sculpture atop his neck betrayed no emotion, I could feel some irritation coming from the collapsed eyes glittering beneath like gems in a cavern."There is no "we" to circumscribe us mortal. I am wholly apart from one such as you. You could not prove it, time chains you like a dog to its master. But for me, I stand at heights beyond you. I can see over the edge of Time and know what was. What I lost.""And what was that?" I really hoped this was going somewhere."The 'loths are not as you see them now. Here we are conniving, traitors to all including ourselves. Conspiracies are our nature, but here the circle is a serpent that devours its own tail. Reviled by the gods, we devote ourselves to Evil. But whereas time is the fetter of mortals, this faith becomes the binding of the 'loth potential. In the before that has vanished, we were different. Our strength lay in our lack of ideals, we warred for what was tangible. We held court in the domains of death gods, we sought to spread Evil but only so much as it expanded our own sphere of influence. I was a guide to the 'loths, a king among my fellow lords--the altraloths. Some like Bubonix and Cholerix survived the death of that timestream. Others such as Diptherius there is no longer any sign. But only I seem to remember him, though only his presence. His image is like a dream dissolved."
"Why are you telling me this? Why did you ask me to come here?" The Wastes were making me nervous. I had been here before, but the proximity to Anthraxus was laying all my protections to nines."You seek Truth. You survived Orcus's attack. You are both resourceful and determined. The best servants are those who seek to serve themselves." I smiled grimly."The yugoloth mantra, eh? But I have no reason to believe you. You and I both know that even if you offered the cure to some plague you cursed me with, it wouldn't change the doubt inside me." The reader may be surprised by my audacity, but it had a purpose. There was no point in lying, since Anthraxus had camped out in my mind.Once more nervous and hesitant, the ambulatory scarecrow reached into his robes. It was though he was ripping the heart from his chest, the pain evident even on his non-face. His body shuddered. When the phalanges were revealed again, they grasped the parchment that had begun everything for this loth."Take this. Perform your verifications. Beware the Father-Mothers." My rational mind hesitated, and not just for fear of disease. The baernoloths had challenged gods and won, if all the conspiracies were true. But I had been indoctrinated to seek out Truth, and that part of me driven by faith reached out and snatched it from the skeletal hand."Was it the baernoloths who did this? Did the baern change time to gain power over all yugoloths? Sons and daughters who made themselves the Father-Mothers?"The altraloth seemed to look at me with frustration. "I do not know. This parchment, it is the key to everything that could come after. If it is a trick, laid out by my rivals then I have gambled away my throne. If there is truth to it, then I would have the past restored. Or, at the least, myself restored over the Father-Mothers. You cannot imagine how that dream blankets all my thoughts. The mere possibility gives me joy, as when I first saw the Chasm of Maruts in Mechanus, when the Rudra of Plague devoured all the other identities. An army of plague..." Anthraxus's mind wandered, and he babbled like a child who has just returned from the wonders of a menagerie or stage performance. Words to fill the wound created by giving me the parchment. It was strange to hear joy in his tone. It bespoke an innocence that this one did not possess, unless by way of madness.I looked down at the piece of parchment. Was it possible? Had he been deposed by a revision of Time? I did not want to help him, I couldn't imagine the multiverse would be a better place with him on the throne of Khin-Oin. But a lie made real. The suggestion of such a thing burned my soul, an anathema to my faith. My conviction is usually a cool pillar of stone that supports my work. Yet now I felt a flame blazing within. I *needed* to know, and that was how I found myself as a servant to the deposed Oinoloth. I was my own plague, Anthraxus had only revealed this truth to me."I'll do my best." I looked up. But he was already gone. He had known I would help him. After all, he knew the disease that made me who I was.=-=-=="And she said we are all just prisoners here of our own deviceAnd in the master's chambers, they gathered for the feastThey stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beastLast thing I remember I was running for the doorI had to find the passage back to the place I was before"--eagles

Nemui's picture
Joined: 2004-08-30

Not half bad. Though I'm not too keen on the splitting time streams theory, I do like A.'s description, and I definitely wouldn't mind reading more about this ... journalist priest, or whatever he is.

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