It has been five years since Dirwin rejoined Barovia with the Prime Material and he, Marja and Word began their search for Tenebrus, the root of all the sorrow on that place. Lost in a world which was neither Nerath nor the Forgotten Realms, they stumbled about, helping people where they could and searching for any word of Tenebrus.
Today all that will change when Dirwin and Co find themselves in Planescape!
You think you know everything. You don’t. Five years of fruitless searching ended today in a new destination, a fresh road to travel, and all because of some old lady’s garden.
We were in a pub when her manservant sought us out. His name was Merent, and his mistress had heard tell of Marja, Word and I. She wanted help, so we went along to meet her. Her manor house was small, as many rural seats are. Lady Kindernes was gardening when we arrived. Over tea she explained to us her problem. Every night a red rose went missing, and a green rose was left behind. Green roses. Sounded like a clue for a druid if ever there was one. Examining it, I couldn’t figure out where it came from.
We spent the night out in the garden by the roses and it took less than an hours meditation for me to feel what was odd about the place. There was a great big window of the house facing the garden, and that window somehow led to another world. Or at least, that’s what my instincts were telling me, but the window didn’t yield to touch. But Word could smell it too. Something weird.
As we were investigating, five people emerged from the window. I say people, but these were like people I had never seen before. One covered in spikes and dripping… something. One that was strangely androgynous and non-descript, and smelled very strangely to Word’s senstive nose. One rat person. A small, very small person. And a snake person.
“Pike this, the coney’s got bashers!” said one.
“Hello?” I attempted.
They charged at us. The fight between us soon turned into a struggle for them to escape from our unexpected onslaught of pixie magic, Marja’s vines, Word’s jaws and my own (in crocodile form, naturally). That androgynous person – a mimic! It was the only casualty of our melee. Three others got away through the portal, stealing a red rose before they went through. We were left with the spiky man our captive.
“You burks! The music will maze you!”
This, and other strange lingo, erupted from his mouth. But after some time we managed to calm him down and speak to him about what was happening. Why was he stealing roses and leaving green ones? Where was he from? He kept calling us ‘clueless’. He said he was Zafnar, a cutter from the Collectors. A Knight of the Post. From some place called the Cage, or Sigil. After many hours of trying to figure out his strange speech, we finally managed to piece together the clues. He was from a place with many gates, and to get through the gates one needed a key. For this particular gate one needed a freshly plucked rose. It was only a temporary gate. What was the purposing of the visit? Turns out they were casing the old bird’s joint. I told him I wasn’t having any of that, and he could tell his Collector friends that Dirwin wouldn’t allow it. With that, I let him go back through the portal.
The next day I told the old lady what had transpired and she had Merent set to boarding the gate up. She gave us a small metal ball with some kind of evocation magic within (it floats? I haven’t figured it out yet) and as an additional favour we asked that she let us go through the gate before it was boarded up.
On the other side we found ourselves in an alley, very grey and rainy, with a strange vine growing everywhere. Looking up at the sky, all we could see was more buildings…
Heading out of the alley we found ourselves in a bustling marketplace. There was a genie selling fresh dreams, ogres bearing palanquins, animal-headed men, imps carrying advertising. After nearly enraging a pit fiend who was handing out pamphlets of “non-belief”, we were saved by a sheep-horse-man called Stronghoof.
I was starting to pick up on the lingo pretty strongly by now but he was able to educate me more. He is a tout, or a guide for the people new to Sigil. A cutter is a word for a person. He explained this and many other terms. He said that the whole place was alive with gates to everywhere, and these were there only by the sufferance of the Lady of Pain. Soon after he said this, she came sweeping through the street and he made us all hide. Apparently to stand in her shadow will flay your skin off? Not something I’d like to try. I asked if Stronghoof knew anything of Tenebrus, but he didn’t. But he told us that jink – money – wasn’t the real currency here. Knowledge and secrets is what the real jink is.
More importantly he showed us to a place where a guy wanted a job done in exchange for lodgings. Readily we agreed. We went to an old clerk’s building with the name Jysson on a sigh outside. Inside was a cat and a talking book. The cat was apparently Jysson, on a mission back from the Beastlands, his afterlife of choice. He had failed to return the talking book to its maker, Heiron Life-giver, before he died, so he wanted to ask us to do that for him. Easy enough, we thought. Ha…
Heiron’s shop was in Automata, a “gate city” – a kind of middle ground between Sigil and the outer heaven of Mechanus. To get there we needed to go through a door in the clerks’ ward holding a piece of paper torn perfectly in half, each side bearing the letter E. On our way there we stumbled into an argument between Athars and Believers about whether gods existed and whether everyone could become a god. I’m afraid I tried to appease both sides and so ended up having to run away.
But we got to Automata unscathed. Definitely unscathed compared to what happened next.
First we were accosted by guards who told us to go and get our permits for being here. We wanted to just go to Heiron’s shop, but I thought we had better try to follow the law at least.
Six hours and countless forms later, we were on the way to Heiron’s shop. Looking up in the distance we could see a great circlet shape in the sky above an impossibly high spire. Jysson told us that was Sigil, in the middle of the outer planes.
As we walked, we were met by many guards who checked all of our permits and always found some error in them, but they simply warned us and let us continue. But then when we reached the shop, it was a dried meat shop, not Heiron’s store at all! So we bought some meat and at the shopkeeper’s direction went to the inn called the Divine Machine to find out about Heiron.
It was there that the second major trauma of the day happened. We met Toorlak, the halfling bartender, who asked us for our BMIs. He analysed our weight and heights and alcohol tolerance and began to calculate our dietary needs. How, I said, could a beautiful free halfling soul be trapped in a plane of pure law? He looked like he was going to cry. I told him he could leave with us. He panicked and said what about the paperwork? I managed to convince him that I could polymorph him into something small and sneak him out.
Asking around the bar, we had no clues given to us about Heiron’s whereabouts, but then Word and Jysson noticed a tiefling woman sneaking out. Jysson followed and I rode on him in the form of a flea. The woman knew where Heiron was and only revealed that to Jysson once he assured her he just wanted to return his property. She was worried that Heiron was in trouble with the wrong crowd. But at her suggestion, we waited until night so we didn’t have to fill in any more permits.
As we went to the gate to sneak the polymorphed Toorlak through, we sensed we were being followed, but could find no one. We send the halfling through without being caught.
At night we managed to sneak without much effort, timing it right behind the utterly predictable guards. We found the paperwork closet where Heiron was supposed to be hiding, but there was no-one there, and no door. So we did the five knock ritual we had been taught, and he revealed himself – out of a magically created pocket in the wall. He was not keen to see us, and when we returned his book and asked if we could help with his troubles, he disappeared again.
But just as we were about to leave, the people who had been following us showed up! Their leader cast a dispelling spell and Heiron’s pocket in the wall exploded out into the room, and then the walls exploded straight out and we were all on the street – nine thugs and us! A mad scramble started where the thugs chased after Heiron and we chased after them to save him. In order to prevent us being apprehended I summoned nearly four hundred ravens to my aid, thinking (rightly in the end, it turns out) that any guards who showed up would try and apprehend each individual raven. When the guards came, they all chased ineffectually as they waited for individual scouts to return for the permits to arrest ravens!
In the midst of this third trauma of the day, we made it to the central square where stood the mighty gate to Mechanus. It was there that three githyanki assassins landed on top of me and declared themselves for the Collectors.
As if that weren’t confusing enough, the gates of Mechanus opened, and wave upon wave of small geometric beings marched out and up the central boulevard. In the confusion we were able to dispatch two assassins and the third fled. But we lost Heiron and the three thugs pursuing him. I hope he got out alright. Also, at some point my concentration was disrupted, so the ravens vanished. Automaton guards freaked out, screaming, resigning, and having existential crises left right and centre.
We got back to Sigil and Jysson explained to us that the geometric things were Modrons, and every 280 years or so they went on their Great March across the planes. But the timing was wrong. It had only last happened a century ago. What was happening? Also as we travelled through the city, we heard rumours cried out that Automata had shifted in the planes, closer to chaos, because someone had exploded a building there and summoned four hundred ravens out of thin air.
On the nice side, Jysson rewarded us with his building, run-down as it is, and his secret stash of money, before going off back to the Beastlands.
So… we’re in the nexus of worlds. What better place to start looking for Tenebrus in earnest?