Though the thing begins in a manner more turgid and noxiously empurpled than usual I think there is some kind of metaphor here which is pleasantly ineffable. Magicians are fucked-up Ahabs and there are a thousand ways to be immortal and zero ways for it to be satisfying and the pursuit of what we desire will destroy what we love and that Faulkner said you must kill your darlings and I have no heart for it even when I know he is right.
The Hesychasm of Abraxas Twain
Between the hither-gaunts and the brackish weeps of Lackly Veil there is a tract of broken ground. In that place there seems to be nothing but an ill wind and straggly woods. Upon an afternoon in autumn one may approach from just the right angle and come of a sudden upon the manse of a man with a cocodrille's heart. He awaits his lost bride in a prison of his own devising and across the Eastern Sea he sends his kestrels of pitiless desire.
Of old he had the heart of a man and human blood coursed in him. He strode upon the world and took part in the despoliation of time and matter. But time and matter cleft his earthly plans asunder and took from him his bride and with tedious inevitability wracked his body and mind with the predictable vandalisms. So he rode south into the lost lands and sought forbidden ways of rewriting the pact between death and life. Upon a muddy riverbank he cut his heart from his chest and took the scaly thing that beats in the breast of a cocodrille-fish to be his own.
Through archaic eyes he beheld the world anew. It breathed more slow than before and deeply. He passed from that place and came at length to the manse in the north in the sparse wood to remain in an afternoon that lasted two centuries.
In that place;
I. A tow-headed oaf squatting in the dust of an antechamber bears a leathern satchel within which are five vials filled with mineral salts that are the living essence of the enchantress Sibilia Vaunt, erstwhile pupil of Twain. Sibilia's corporeality sputtered out with her allotted decades and she was rendered and precipitated into these crystalline powders. The oaf is slack-jawed and bright-eyed with sorcerous thraldom and wears the lion-face of the leper. The salts yearn for another bearer whose life is keener that they may take over the laboratory of Gleck the Wan without falling victim to Quorme.
- Sibilia Vaunt is a 7th-level Magic-user but must daily invest a Charm Person, ESP and Hold Person spell to weave the snare that enmeshes the will of the gimp. He is now utterly hers and may cast her other spells as normal (2, 1, 1, 1), these are; charm (x2), ESP, clairvoyance, curse. She will tend to utilise the ability to bestow curses to induce a PC to take on Sibilia's endeavours.
II. In a sinkhole is Gleck the Wan whose physical self is being subsumed by formulae. Every crevice of his brimstone-stinking, poisonous hole is stacked with alembics and crucibles and suchlike paraphernalia alchemical and with stacks of slates and parchment scrolls. His ardent pursuit of ineffable perfection has taken from him the capacity to speak save in some inane arithmantic cant. All the words of the six human languages that were his are trapped in a slab of burning green ice in the "Traipse of Angles" - a realm far-flung and mostly theoretical. He does not miss them, his toil is here. Though he can no longer spit magery he has a Many-Ken nestled in a grimoire whose answers hasten Gleck ever closer to transcendence.
-Gleck the Wan: MU 6 AC: 9 hp: 13 dmg: 1d3 (pestle)
Other than the Many-Ken there are three other entities nestled in the sinkhole that have invested components of themselves in Gleck's endeavour;
The Gradient of Capitulation manifests as the dusty fragrance of crow and as the warping of accents closer to that of the Old Rhadamanthine slave-tongue, a thick and lispy dialect. Upon closer inspection it appears as a region of inverted shadows the size and shape of a sickly troubadour.
-as one approaches the gradient one's judgment is temporarily compromised, -1d6 WIS within 10'
-STR may be traded for WIS at 2:1 ratio with successful save vs. paralysis. Failure to save means you lose the STR anyway
In a corner is a trough of stone. Quorme the Glue-Man rises stinking from the trough if bothered by intruders and in the glutinous tongue of Viscous Prime requests the abrasive interlopers desist their speaking and breathing and angular motion lest he drag them into the porridge-coloured hell of the Underglump.
-Stats as an Adherer save that Quorme is more Fearsome
The Sardonic Charioteer is an mangled automaton of brass and hepatizon in the form
of a comely young warrior with a sinister rictus. It was made long ago to ride behind horses of scintillant attenuation that plunged between worlds at will. The horses are mathematically disassembled at present and serve as silvery pseudo-numerical glyphs on some of Gleck's more potent formulae.
-Unconcerned with all but the most appalling affronts to Gleck's endeavour. Stats as a gargoyle but flightless. If sore-pressed it will summon forth the steeds and disappear in a catastrophic twinkling - 5d6 dmg of light and sound within 20', save vs. petrification for half.
III. The Rhabdomancer's Vestibule. Here are seven hundred sticks and staves, rods and wands and beams and rungs and wattles and switches arranged neatly in rows upon the floor with manifold notations and diagrammatic marks and geometer's sigils chalked upon the stone. This is the array by which the venturesome Rhabdomancer is anchored to the earthly plane while he sojourns among prankish ghoul-maidens deep in Greenest Purgatory. Meddling with the array will set off magical alarums of puissant odium
1st meddling: Save vs. petrification or your bones literally become lead, heavy and poisonous. Permanently slow and increasingly sickly - lose 1 CON each day until dead.
2nd meddling: Make WIS check, if successful you know the world is a folding membrane and you are part of it, completely unable to extricate yourself from that structure. This is baleful to behold and with it comes the certainty that it was ever thus and others live in denial of the horror of the real. Save vs. paralysis each time someone denies that the world is a membrane or attack them for a round.
3rd and subsequent meddlings: Destined world-line of the soul. Roll one of each dice including d100, those are your scores for everything henceforth until ye eat of narwhal's spleen.
IV. The Widowing Quag is an oily pond in a grot of undulating moss wherein squats a woman who has undergone some kind of process of ossification. Her movements are imperceptibly slow but for her desperate eyes. By a slow process of signs she may answer questions and address grievances. She is consumed by the desire to intervene in the Pech's endeavour. When she was young and quick she followed Twain through his wild years and became mighty in sorcery under his tutelage but the path to immortality she sought is changing her into a elegant statue of bone. She loves him and he does not love her.
-It takes her a whole turn to cast a spell. Lady of Bone: MU 8 INT:17
V. An aged Pech carves a concubine in tainted ivory from the tusk of a colossal olifant emerging from the muck. He served Abraxas Twain long ago, before the assiduous dereliction took hold. His servitude continues out of force of habit. The carving is to be the vessel that will receive the next incarnation of the lost bride. He knows that the answer to the riddle of the Hesychasm is the horn the swordsman bears but does not know how much he yearns to tell it.
Cennaledh Bru : D2 AC: 9 (jerkin and targe) hp: 12 dmg: d6 (war-adze) AL: N ML: 8 Booty: the sculpture and all the ivory would be worth 5000 groats at least
VI. In a yellow field sits a man at table. The crimson horn of a monoceros is tucked in the belt of Jonas Grootzwaard. Grootzwaard is a man of girth and middling years lending grizzle to his spade beard and of indomitable callous charm. He wandered in a decade before and has weathered the afternoon well. He could leave at any time but is bound with some kind of inexplicable love to the Bone Lady who loves Twain.
Jonas Grootzwaard: F4 AC: 6 (brigandine) hp:23 dmg: d10+1 (Ye two-honde swerde) ML: 10 STR: 14 CHA:15 Booty: Faded green finery - 3 groats, ballock dagger -12 groats, Swerde - 100 groats, he has a fine meal of wine and meats set before him, enough food for three
If he is slain with edged weapons a Blotwyfe emerges from the pooling red. She swims though dark oceans of gore seeking portals into the real.
-As a wight with tangled locks and an eating knife of tarnished silver worth 13 groats
VII. In a sanctum of faded splendour Abraxas Twain waits. He is again as a man just past his prime and deeply acquainted with the cynicisms of immortality. Not much interests him save the means by which he may secure the semblance of his bride. If engaged Twain will speak of the amputation of a moment from the flow of things and how this anomalous fragment of time and place allows the blessing and curse of continued existence. For a variety of reasons he will not and indeed cannot allow anyone to leave the place. The little woodland requires their continued presence, they are part of it now and no longer of the outside world. Kestrels watch from every eave.
- Stats as a 13th-level Magic-User and a vampire, save that exposure to sunlight does nothing nor can he be slain at all while he remains here (and he may not leave) save by piercing his cocodrille heart.
- He will have at least one ritual memorised in addition to other spells.
- There is no booty here
The rituals developed by Abraxas Twain require the casting of numerous spells and the assembly of various ingredients to perform. The spells that make up the rituals have no purpose other than as part of these rituals.
1. Funnel-hatted apes of the utter-vasts clamber down on silken threads from beyond the sky. They will do your bidding for 3 turns as their magic hat funnels allow them temporarily to survive earth's toxic influence but then they with scarper back up the threads - they each require at last 100 groats worth of rare earths to devour or they will run terribly amok.
To summon the apes: Frenzied Ululations of Ashmodai (1st), Prance of the Immolated (1st), Ghastly Snare of Aspic's Splendour (2nd)
Stats as Rock Baboons, 2d4 appear
2. Caacrinolaas' Succor: A thing like a new-born babe but huge and emaciated and inky black comes riding a river-horse through mists and squalling vortices of poisonous sound - eat of its proferred liver to regain a lost level but lose 1 point in a random characteristic if you do. The thing is Abominable
To call forth the Thing on the River Horse: Abject Sprawl of the Vanquished Worm (1st), Now Must We Eat of Tainted Meat (1st), Gimping the Night Glare (3nd), Sparkling Putrescence of the Marrow (4th)
3. A lost brother from a dream who never really existed arrives and is tired and thirsty and an appalling parasite that you may not slay or allow to be slain any more than you would a real brother.
To precipitate the arrival: Dredging the Hate-Canal (2nd), Gape of Querulous Frenzy (2nd), Chant of Nacreous Vehemence (3rd)
4. Vomit your wolverine soul to go ravening against your enemies.
Soul-Glutton: AC 5 MV: 150' (50') HD: as caster + 10hp # att: 1 dmg: 1d12 ML: 12 - the thing will not stop for a day and a night - if it is killed the caster dies also
To spew bestial destruction: Whisper of the Insatiate (1st), Baalphegor's Glowering (2nd)
5. Scrying Cyst: Sink down 12' beneath the ground to a sumptuously appointed fungus palace where divinatory spells have ten times the usual duration.
To descend into the cyst: Aurifigian Carnivory (1st), Bonnacon's Madrigal (2nd), Loathly Testament of Decarabia (3rd)
6. Crossing the Abortive Gulf. The caster rides a Viridian Spleen-Drone, clanking and steaming and crusted with corrosion, across the palpable obscure to cavort among the archaic Lobster-Moles in the Primordial Principalities of the Carcass-Moon (disappearing beyond the campaign's boundaries)
To cross the gulf: Guttural Utterance of Doom (3rd), Sublimating the Gauge of Splinters (4th), Gliding Over All (5th), The Desecrated Fulcrum (6th)
"When one is a child, when one is young, when one has not yet reached the age of recognition, one thinks that the world is strong, that the strength of God is endless and unchanging. But after the thing has happened--whatever that thing might be--that brings recognition, then one knows irrevocably how very fragile is the world, how very, very fragile; it is like one of those ideas that one has in dreams: so clear and so self-explaining are they that we make no special effort to remember. Then of course they vanish as we wake and there is nothing there but the awareness that something very clear has altogether vanished."
Russell Hoban, Pilgermann