On some kind of FLAILSNAILS adventure to which I was not party, Emma Brighteyes--apprentice and companion of the estimable muscle wizard Barnabus Sleet--was cursed by the fish-horror-god Blibdoolpoolp with catatonic insanity, such that she was basically incapable of any action other than lying around in bed drooling, being fed etc. by caretakers. Returning from this harrowing adventure, Barnabus Sleet sought around for some means of curing Emma of her catatonia and madness, and ultimately hit upon the idea of Pete Loudly, a high level wizard, sending Sleet and other companions into Emma's subconscious to literally quest the madness out of her mind.
My character, Laurantha the Unbeautiful, a B/X Elf 5, was one of the volunteers to accompany Barnabus Sleet on this quest; the other volunteers were Percival Dolmetscher, Magic Meryl, Brutal Pete, Sapphean Gratchit, and Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet.
And thanks to Joshua Blackketter for the game! I thought it was a solid adventure in a dreamscape/symbolic sub-conscience, and everything seemed to tie together very well.
"Laurantha to Xanthos--a Missive
Xanthos, my companion in arms--not only along the Dreaming River have I traveled, but now also through the rivers of dreams; the dreams of one Emma Brighteyes, apprentice of Barnabus Sleet (the founding librarian of the Jarrod's Memorial Library in Vyzor, of which I am an honorary librarian). This unfortunate, Emma, was damned by some fish-god with catatonic madness, and Sleet sought volunteers to journey into her very dreams to cut the madness out of her. We volunteers assembled at the Alchemy Shoppe of one Pete Loudly, wizard extraordinaire in the whereabouts of Vyzor; and greeted there by his imp familiar-shopkeeper, were transported by means of a cloud of thickly magical cigar smoke (blown in our faces) to the swamp-tower wherein resides the most puissant sorcerer Pete Loudly.
The imp-familiar announced us; then Pete Loudly ushered us through his halls into a most peculiar chamber, filled at once with weird crystalline machinery and fungal growths, of which fungus included seven seats. Into these seats we were ushered (Sleet leaving behind two hirelings he had brought, one a demon, best left behind due to the fact that it is generally not well-regarded to bring foreign demons into the depths of others' sub-consciences).
Pete then explained, 'It will be dreamlike ... things will have meaning, but not substance. Monsters encountered in the sub-conscience are usually external influences (though if Emma has latent homicidal tendencies, they might be internal/integral); it is unclear as yet in my researches just what happens to a body if the psyche is slain within the sub-psyche stratosphere--probably not death, but not necessarily a simple waking as from a dream.' etc. etc. and then we were suddenly transported through the machinery into the very dreamstuff of Emma's subconscious mind.
All was dark; as Sapphean himself glowed and Percival lit a torch, our eyes found ourselves in what might have been a meadow, other than the eerie deep-sea quality of the light, with layers of darkness above and around us. To one side of us, we glimpsed vast figures, veritable titans, clashing in what seemed to us a slow-motion melee. One was a bronze colossus in the shape of Sleet himself, the other in the shape of what I guessed to be Blibdoolpoolp, a great crab-clawed, lobster-faced titan of seeming-stone. To the other side of us, opposite these titanic figures, an eerie bio-luminescence glowed in the distance.
We all opted to head for the eerie glow, rather than attempt to tangle with titans, and ultimately found ourselves, in the manner of dreams, suddenly walking through the streets of the Vyzor pocket-dimension. And yet, not all was as it should be; the people themselves were all crab-clawed and lobster-faced, and spoke in the nonsense singsong of dreams; and Castle Vyzor itself had been replaced with a vast statue of obsidian carved to represent a fish vomiting forth a woman in an edifice as towering as the castle normally is; and the Jarrod Memorial Library was likewise transformed into a monstrous growth of coral.
Venturing first to the library, given the logic that it should have some symbolic meaning to Emma, we found the place strangely distorted, full of corals and growths of sea creatures where books, scrolls, and the skull of Jarrod should have been. Upstairs, we found Emma's room filled with strange sea-things; but looking into Sharene's room (Sharene being a fellow apprentice, Emma's friend), we discovered it as it should have been, except with an arm upon the bed (Barnabus to Sapphean: 'You could tell if it's human by taste, right?' Sapphean: 'I might.'). This was the first clue as to the full nature of our quest, but at the moment it seemed only prudent to collect the arm (it seemed to be Sharene's) and continue thence.
Back out on the streets of dream-Vyzor, we headed to the great statue at the center of town, and investigating it cursorily, discovered a great hole beneath the vast carven fish, set into the large pedestal upon which it sat. Within the hole seemed an endless abyss of darkness; yet when Barnabus sent a lighted torch into it with a spell, it attracted the attention of an alien denizen of the deeps, a fish-headed giant that leapt forth to attack us. Barnabus leapt right back, into the abyss to punch the rising horror, and only managed to fall into the darkness. Meanwhile, the rest of us engaged the thing in melee.
|Like this, except it also had arms that pummeled us|
Percival received a powerful hit that knocked him out for most of the combat; Ilse managed to thrust her sword into the fish-giant's head deep enough to climb up onto it; Brutal Pete managed alternately to pin the creature's mouth open or closed with his spear; Magic Meryl both tended to Percival and struck the creature with a thrown stone; and I bravely stood before the thing, stalwartly drawing its ire and blocking its fists with my shield, too much engaged in defense to mount an effective offense. Eventually, the thing was slain by Meryl's dagger, and it burst into an ichorous mess, and we found Barnabus Sleet at the foot of a mere ten foot deep pit beside a great golden coin, and also a leg, as if 'twere Sharene's.
This coin, he lifted, and as he did so it suddenly shrank to the size of a normal gold piece; and because of my excellence in the melee, blocking hits with my shield, I was chosen to be the guardian of the coin, while Barnabus took the leg. Thereafter, we as a party intended to head to the Drooling Thoul, a local watering hole for adventurers in Vyzor; but along the way we came across a shack outside of which roosted a dream-owl--and Emma is known for taking the shape of an owl herself.
Seeing this, we stopped to investigate. Percival, a translator, attempted to communicate with the owl, and indeed upon mention of Emma's name, it turned its head. Then, breaking through the door of the shack, Barnabus revealed to us all a strange vision of child-Emma eating supper with her parents, except that her parents were crab-people like all the other villagers.
After some rather strange attempts to entice dream-child-Emma outside, we ultimately found ourselves following the owl out from Vyzor and into a forest (this, because Magic Meryl finally deigned to ask the owl outside the shack directly as to the whereabouts of Emma's spirit).
In the forest, we observed mice attempting to sneak through the brush, and yet being taken up by dark and shadowy hands from creatures that lurked in the darkness beyond our torchlight. Barnabus attempted to strike down one of the shadowy things with his fist, but managed instead to splinter a tree; nevertheless, this revealed the creature in our light to be a goblin, and yet its form was no fleshly thing, but a corse vaguely formed of oozing black oil.
|The Sheliak from Star Trek seem|
about right, just imagine goblin dimensions
Alas, distracted by this thing, we lost sight of the owl flying on its way; my comrades determined that slaying these goblin things was the best means of saving the forest for Emma's mind, but I inquired of Sleet as to the nature of the forest, and he suggested that it might be the home of the witches' coven of which Emma is a member. Armed with this knowledge, we all agreed to venture deeper into the wood, both seeking the coven, and destroying ooze-goblins as we went. These creatures being simple to destroy, we slew a great many on our way, and the mouse-population boomed behind us, ultimately including even Rodents Of Unusual Size; but in the end, we arrived in a clearing wherein stood the three Ink Witches (Emma's coven), except changed such as to have the heads and wings of owls.
Percival approached them and asked in Owl if they knew where Emma was; they pointed to a tree, in which sat the spirit of Emma in the form of an owl. We all got the dream-sense that Emma's self had recessed from personhood into the safety of merely being an owl to save herself from ultimate madness. We then went to the tree under the Emma-owl, and when I offered it the gold coin, it took it and flew away swiftly; and this seeming to be the logic of the dream, we all followed post-haste, but not without taking up the head of Sharene, which stared forth at us from across the clearing.
Following the owl, we arrived at a long shoreline of obsidian sand and glittering water. For some reason, Percival and Meryl began to throw stones into the water, and one of Meryl's stones landed with a clang rather than a splash. Barnabus used the last of his fly spell (cast earlier when he was within the grip of the illusion of the abyss that ended up being merely a ten foot pit) to search the water, and found a tonbo--a great iron club--sticking out of the water. Grabbing hold of said club, Barnabus then wrestled the club out of the grasp of the scaly arm that held onto its lower part, and then the arm sank back down into the dark waters. Meanwhile, those of us on the shore, combing the sand, came upon the other arm of Sharene, sticking up out of the sand.
Uncertain where to go without an owl leading us, we returned to Vyzor to seek out the Drooling Thoul once and for all; there we saw a man, not a crab-man, but a real (though dreamily indistinct) human man, who paid his tab as we arrived and then immediately went back out into the dream world. We followed him, and ultimately found ourselves standing before a great bronze gate. Upon the surface of this gate were carved spirals of stories in images, an infinite number, all spiraling forth from the single central image of two people meeting romantically at a pub. Every infinite possibility of the combinations of their own stories twined out of that central image; and Brutal Pete hit upon an interesting solution to open said gate when he kissed the central image. All the story-paths spiraling out lit up, and Brutal Pete touched the one he said he liked best, of the woman (she seemed to be Emma) learning not to need a man in her life, and yet who also found happiness with someone she could see as her equal.
|Personally, I imagined stories spiraling out like the|
expectation vs. reality scene from 500 Days of Summer
--except all part of a giant bronze gate!
All of the sudden, a kind of keyhole opened up with the tonbo as the seeming key; inserting it, the gate indeed opened, and revealed behind it the second leg of Sharene, which Barnabus duly collected.
At this point, Sapphean was certain that we should return to the shack wherein dwelt child-Emma, thinking that we had not yet exhausted the dream-possibilities there. So duly we returned, and there, Barnabus suddenly spilled his knowledge that Emma had deep-seated guilt over having once accidentally injured Sharene worse when trying to heal her; and that though she had ultimately saved Sharene, she still blamed herself for 'tearing her friend apart'.
And indeed, when we presented child-Emma with the body parts we had found, she brightened suddenly. 'You found them!' she declared, and then went to her 'room' in the hovel and produced a doll's torso that seemed the right fit for all the parts. Ilse then sewed every limb back together, and suddenly there was Sharene before us, alive--as far as dream-alive goes. She then led child-Emma to the clearing with the owl-witches, wherein they enacted a great ritual, summoning all the owls of the forest until finally the Emma-owl appeared, descended into a triangle created by the outspread wings of the owl-witches--and then suddenly it was an owl no longer, but Emma herself stood there, and she took her tonbo from Sleet, and she and Sharene mounted it together and flew off toward the colossi battling on the horizon.
We all followed; and we saw that when Emma and Sharene arrived, they nearly collided with the bronze giant of Sleet--and then with a flash, the colossus was no longer Sleet, but Emma herself, huge as Blibdoolpoolp and wielding a tonbo as tall as a tower.
We below joined in the combat as best we could in support of this colossus of Emma. Sleet and I threw lightning bolts; Brutal Pete drank a potion of giant's strength and tried to overtopple Blibdoolpoolp by wresting at her feet; Ilse cast haste on the party; and Sapphean flew around the fish/crab horror, biting at her and stinging at her with the bizarre growths borne on his body from the trials he has withstood while adventuring.
And then titan-Emma swung her great club at the colossus of Blibdoolpoolp, and with a crash like a thunderbolt, she burst open the fish-horror's breast. Obsidian fragments and ichor rained from above as the vast giant teetered and then careered to the earth to shatter into a thousand dark shards.
And all at once, we were seated once again in Pete Loudly's tower, surrounded by crystalline machinery and fungal growths. ...
I have since heard that Emma Brighteyes has returned to the waking world, as fully aware as before the damnation of the god that cursed her into madness. Undoubtedly, deep scars remain--but such are the scars of healing after great injury overcome. I expect there will be much rejoicing in the house of Sleet for some time to come.
Well, Xanthos--such is the account of my descent into the dreams of another. I tell you, I have seen many wonders since wandering down the Dreaming River, and I do not doubt that I shall see many more. Someday perhaps you should join me--and let that bitch Almalonthas preen in all her supernatural beauty alone for a time, while our powers grow and overtop hers. But that is of course, your prerogative.
Your companion-in-arms under the Black Dragon,