|Illustration by Sidney Sime, because you never need a reason to post a Sime piece!|
43.69 Diplomats: There is a vast expanse of mud flats here. The mud is fairly solid, though strange, burrowing worms sometimes push up from the mud, “stare” vacantly at passers-by and then disappear once again. Ten rusty, iron pylons form a gathering in the mud flats, each one a bit tilted. They are, at the moment, occupied by a ten bat monsters, envoys of Bael who are hearing the pleas of a diplomat of Adamantia, one of the Queens of Elemental Earth. The diplomat, if anyone so brusque can be called a diplomat, is an elder xorn called Xaanon. He has been accompanied by six normal xorn, and they are demanding that the soul of a wicked elementalist who did much harm to their people be turned over to Adamantia for proper punishment. Bael is not inclined to agree, though he is willing to make a deal that Queen Diamond will probably find repugnant.
48.31 Macrosian: A tower made of nightmares – surging and writhing like a tower of crimsons, ambers, golds and bilious greens, screaming or weeping faces appearing and then dis-appearing on the surface – stands here, overlooking a dismal landscape of frothy water and black claws that might once have been trees. The tower seems solid enough, despite its moving surface, and it has a wide door composed of black oak embossed with a golden eye.
To enter, one must simply push through the door, saving as they do against a nightmare spell. Inside, they find themselves in a throne room with walls lined with books (most are false, containing only the screaming faces of damned souls that attempt to steal levels per a wraith). In the middle of the room there is a throne of built of metal cubes, shimmering with peacock brilliance. One’s footsteps echo in the chamber and the air is so still it almost strangles a person’s words before they can utter them. Spiral stairs of hepatizon rise from the four corners of the throne room to other chambers and halls.
When a person enters the tower, a shadow version of them emerges from the wall. These shadow clones (the effect is similar to greater shadow conjuration or greater shadow monsters) act very much like their doubles, but one of them, randomly, is possessed by the spirit of Macrosian – He of the Long Shadow – a powerful sorcerer (Mage 17; 44 hp) consigned to Hell. Macrosian seeks to conjure the Typhon from its slumber in the abyssal depths.
The tower is inhabited by hundreds of shadow people, the clones of people who have passed through, and any one of them could be Macrosian. He speaks with a thunderous whisper, and it is through his speech that one can identify him. He can move from body to body at will, and is canny enough to take on the mannerisms of the person he is, at that moment, possessing.
53.80 Athachs: A pair of athachs are clumsily working their way through a village of mostly ruined brick hovels in search of a very special child. The inhabitants of the hovels are twisted, little grey men and women in dirty smocks who seem to make a living raising cabbages. The child was found by them in the swamp. He is a frail lad of about 7 years with opalescent skin that gives off a coiling green mist and completely black eyes that mirror one’s soul.
56.30 Bronze Tomb: On a high, flat mound of earth, surrounded by a picket of bronze spears, there is a tomb of bronze in the shape of a demon with a distended belly. The demon sits in a squatting position and its clawed arms drag the ground at its sides. The demon’s belly is made of glass – in fact, it is actually a sphere of glass about 3 inches thick and mingled with silver dust. This sphere is filled with a pale, grey ichor and floating in it is the preserved corpse of a murderess. The corpse is in a fetal position, clinging to an iron chest, her black hair fanning out in the weird liquid.
A flight of harpies protect the tomb, swooping down on any who would disturb it within 3d6 rounds of their first approaching the tomb. The tomb is also capable of defending itself, for the wicked soul within it can animate the monstrosity, making it arise and flail at tomb robbers with its claws.