Over with Charles’s projects… the twenty-six sapient deepspawn races had eventually moved to their new worlds – while the fifty-odd nonsapient species had mostly proven easy enough to chase through. A lot of the things only real fault had been not getting along with the Dragon Kings, Alaun, Lintha, and other species, so there was no reason not to let them have a few Hubble Volumes of their own.
There were spirits still hanging about for some of the extinct races too, so making some baby bodies to get their reincarnation cycles started again went on the list. No reason why they couldn’t each have a few Hubble Volumes too!
Meanwhile, in the Underworld…
Aikiko hesitated – and requested a review of what systems were available. Skoll obliged – although he DID redact some information on how she might escape…
Skoll, Swallower of Suns (Artifact-NA, Twenty-odd Artifact-V’s, 5x Manse-V’s):
Skoll is actually fairly closely related to a Kaiju Manse; he’s just sustained by geomantic relays and artifacts rather than being attached to a mental domain. In general, he can be treated as a Construct, and is immune to Compulsion, Cripping, Desecration, Emotion, Fate, Illusion, Knockback, Poison, Servitude, Shaping, Sickness, Social, Training, and Unnatural Mental Influence effects. He is inherently Outside of Fate, but can be bound into fate like a third-circle demon.
Attributes: Str 20, Dex 10, Sta —, Chr 4, Man 4, App 6, Per 15, Int 10, Wit 10. Essence 5, 40 Motes. Skoll currently recovers one mote per minute, but this will increase to 2 per minute if his power-source manses are rebuilt. The same applies to his operator as a bonus. He does not have Will; he simply has purpose.
Basic Systems: Essence-Sight (Sorcerer’s Sight), Detect / Evaluate Armor, Detect / Evaluate Weapons, Full-Spectrum Sight, Magnification (x1 to x50), Sound Amplification and Filtering, Network Access-III, Computer Emulation-III, System Security-IV. May provide sensory information, tactical evaluations, and system briefings to his operator/prisoner on a reflexive basis.
Skills are as per the operator, or default to +3.
Skoll is Indestructible from the outside; His “Pilot”, however, can be affected by essence feedback; attacks with a final damage score of more than twenty dice will get one die of damage through to the pilot per ten dice or part thereof beyond that and will get special effects tied to the attack through as well. Armor and defenses will affect this normally, but cannot reduce the total below one die unless a perfect defense is used – although any perfect defense will do.
The pocket-dimension interior is, however, designed to sustain the pilot indefinitely; he or she gains triple his or her normal health levels and may pay one mote to negate any special effect attached to an attack or charm or two to negate any number of special effects attached to a charm, combo, or flurry. It will provide food, drink, waste disposal, comfortable quarters, and various facilities up to the scale of a moderate palace. The pilot may use his or her own abilities through Skoll without difficulty, although Skoll can tap them too if necessary. In addition, the Pilot is in faster time than the outside world, and may reduce multi-action penalties by three dice (a benefit that also applies to Skoll when he’s operating independently). Skoll can let his Operator/Pilot in and out – or even exchange places with him or her to operate a bit like summonable armor – but leaving without Skoll’s consent will require special measures, such as successfully hacking Skoll, overloading him internally, threading your own gate through his defenses, walking into a chancel and destroying it so as to be dumped into deep chaos, or some similar exploit. Becoming immaterial is definitely useless though; Skoll WAS meant to contain a god.
Skoll may be damaged from the inside if someone inside deploys the Godspear or some similar “infinite damage” weapon – although he states that an internal upgrade has removed this vulnerability (at least in the specific case of the Godspear). If he IS damaged, however, he can drain motes and vitality from humans and solars in a wide radius to repair himself – given time. (Since this is a plot-device power, the exact rate is whatever suits the game master. It’s slow anyway).
Available Built-In Charms. There is no special cost to combo these.
- Dimensional Enclosure Prana (5 M): Extends Skoll’s internal pocket dimension around a section of space up to one hundred feet across without directly affecting it – an effect related to a Manse Gate. Since this doesn’t actually target anything within that space and operates under Creation’s laws, the only real “defenses” are multi-presence, reflexively leaving the area, being able to stabilize spatial metrics in a larger area, not being there in the first place, and similar effects. This may not be a good idea if fighting something powerful, since it will wind up inside Skoll’s pocket dimension with the pilot.
- Mountain-Leaping Stride (3 M): Take a step of from 10 to 100 miles at 1000 MPH. From the borders of the Wyld Skold can use this to copy the effects of the Mirror-Shattering Method, but this will not work without access to the Wyld. If combined with a reflexive dodge effect this upgrades it to a perfect dodge – but will generally take the user out of combat.
- Perfect Martial Block (A.K.A. Masterful Gibberish Avoidance) (2 M): Perfectly blocks any martial-arts based effect other than physical injury.
- Impervious Geomantic Cloak (6 M/Scene): Upgrades the effects of concealment artifacts and abilities to Perfection, provided that the user remains still. Otherwise it simply increases the difficulty of spotting the user by +6.
- Inevitable Translocation Meander (6 M): Skoll vanishes from existence, and reappears five days later in the Deep Wyld. In the meantime, as far as Creation is concerned, he doesn’t exist. Not that anyone inside may make an opposed essence check to remain behind when this charm is activated if they so desire.
- Innate Cryptographic Networking (3 M/Scene): Skoll can access I AM, or any lesser computer network, within a ten mile range, access publicly available information, and gains +(Essence) bonus successes on searches and hacking attempts.
- Sun-Stealing Prana (3 M/Scene): Skoll knows where the Unconquered Sun can be found, and gains +10 uncapped dice on any pool related to directly opposing, tracing, or capturing him.
Skolls built-in weapons and artifacts are powered by his linked manses, and include:
- Primary Weapons: Oblivion Lance and Godspear. Unfortunately, without Oblivion to power the Oblivion Lance, or the Unconquered Sun to power the Godspear, neither is available.
- Secondary Weapons: Twin Heavy Implosion Bows, Daiklaive of Conquest.
- Tertiary Weapons: Essence Disruption Pulse (as per Terrestrial Countermagic, essence rolloff to temporarily deattune artifacts rated *** or less and disrupt charms of essence-3 or below), Concussion Blasts (16b, 1-6 yard radius), Blackout Bombs (no normal light our sound in 100-yard radius for ten minutes), Sensory Scrambler (large area effect, scrambles information before it gets to characters so that they can’t resist), Nausea Cannon (large area again, essence rolloff to incapacitate), Transmutor Cannon (affects a shapable area fitting within a 180′ foot radius but only covers more or less normal materials, and not living things. You can, however, turn the ground to quicksand, air to steel, or create a flash flood), and Whirlwind Blade (16L, affecting all desired targets within 12 yards).
Reconfigurable Systems: May manifest any one Weapon-IV, or two Weapon-III’s, or up to four Weapon-II’s. May manifest any two Utility Artifact-IV’s, or four III’s, or eight of up to II. Skoll is, however, limited to artifact designs that are in his design library.
She’d had some idea of what kind of artifact she was occupying, but that was… Most of that had to be in the internal pocket dimension somehow! It couldn’t POSSIBLY fit into a suit of armor! And it was all powered by manses, rather than by her personal essence…
It was awfully tempting to just use some of those weapons on the task force guys, but it wasn’t really their fault! They were just having to defend their home against some armed weirdo running around and doing weird things. Even if she could win… did she really want to kill that many people? Even if they were already wraiths?
Oh dear! And was his counterpart up and wandering around trying to catch Luna?
Huh… Why hadn’t Luna been to the Deathlords little “party”? Oh, she probably just hadn’t felt obligated. Luna was like that.
Oh well! If she had to stand and fight – or cut a path through – at least there were nonlethal options! (That was kind of strange really. “Nonlethal” didn’t usually go with “Deathlord”. Was it just that the Mask of Winters had wanted to have options to keep what was left of creation after his plot intact?).
Considering the structure of most warstriders… she fired the sensory scrambler towards the biggest collection of them (Neat! That would be really hard to defend against!) and followed up with a blast from the Transmutor Cannon into the sky – unleashing a flood of… blood. Ghosts liked blood! That might distract them!
A flood of blood – roughly a hundred and fifty million gallons of it – swept down the streets, toppled a few small buildings, washed most of the infantry away (including a few into the Pit of the Void – although they WERE ghosts, and would come out SOMEWHERE all right), toppled the warstriders, swept a few of them away… and gummed up EVERYTHING. Fortunately, Aikiko was an initiate of Adenic Thaumaturgy, and Skoll was protected by it as long as she was – and so he didn’t get dirty.
Well, except for all the buildings getting knocked down, and ghosts possibly getting REALLY lost in the Void and passing on to Lethe… (at least it WAS only the Void, and not Oblivion any longer) that was… pretty effective and relatively non-lethal! That was probably also why the military didn’t want people like her running this kind of equipment though… She’d have to spend some time later reviewing what some of this stuff really did!
Meanwhile, she took advantage of the distraction to escape back into the Well of the Void, and headed for the Labyrinth.
When the Mask of Winters saw the recordings of that little fight (much later; it was a fairly minor incident and a low priority after all) there was a classic spit-take… He’d thought that the Unconquered Sun had taken out Skoll, Haiti, and that entire manse, even if the mere delay had let a fair chunk of the plan work! And – by the Thousand Unspeakable Names – who was piloting the thing? Had the AI systems been damaged enough for someone to take full command? Skoll could make some pest quite powerful if they had even partial control!
It was hard to say just how far “down” it was to the Labyrinth – but time was as subjective as space in the pit, so it didn’t much matter. With cloaking running it should be possible to get fairly close; after all, probing the Void was pretty much equivalent to randomly probing at the entire universe. There wasn’t much chance of being spotted.
The construction project at the Tombs of the Neverborn… was still underway. There were multiple abyssals, and quite a lot of ghosts and underworld horrors, and a small soulsteel foundry (even if it was really hard to get ghosts who could be made into high-quality soulsteel any longer), and the scene was a massive industrial project from hell. They were most DEFINITELY building something in the empty tomb, using bone, and soulsteel, and labyrinth-iron, and enslaved ghosts, and artifacts… Whatever-it-was seemed to be being molded into the weird shape of the huge inside of the tomb.
Armoring it up on the inside? Why would they do that? Were they building a cast of a Neverborn for some reason? Made of screaming souls, and voidstone, and soulsteel, and behemoth bones, and other arcana of death?
Freaky… not quite as freaky as actually going into a Neverborn though.
She started checking… what was this one’s theme?
Once Abhorrence-of-Life was a primordial power of adaption and symbiosis, capable of absorbing other creatures into itself and into it’s own soul-heirarchy if they were powerful enough. As a Neverborn it shattered adaptive relationships, turned harmless bacteria into horrific plagues, caused plants and venomous animals to produce yozi venom, stripped life from the land with demon-locust swarms, and harvested the souls of the dying to wield as swarms of weapons against the world. It had been a blight on all creation, turning the harmony of nature into a struggle to the death – and the world into utter desolation. It had been a most famous Neverborn indeed; it’s whispers once caused many to hurl themselves into oblivion, just to make them stop. Their lingering echoes alone made being crammed into it’s tomb – or working there – into time in hell. In many ways… it was the incarnation of self-loathing.
Aikiko shivered. That was… creepy, and horrible, and sad. There had to be some way to listen in and see what this was for… she slipped out of the Void one of the quieter tombs and swapped out the flight systems for some surveillance gear… The Bureau of Destiny might be interested in these findings – and she could easily record and transfer to a secure server in Aden.
Annoyingly, they didn’t discuss the purpose a lot – but she wasn’t in any rush either once she (well, Skoll) was standing still again and the cloaking was perfect again. It… looked like they were building a set of “Neverborn Constructs” in the images of the horrors of old – things intended to gather the fading echoes and memories of the original Neverborn, to bring back their powers (and the charms they could offer), and – as an improvement on the originals – to rise from their tombs to walk the worlds of Creation as primal powers had not done since the Primordial War. To draw on the power of the damage the original deaths of the Neverborn had done to Creation and to amplify and return that power, gradually turning Creation into a dark realm where the powers of the underworld would reign supreme.
That was NOT good! Revival, recreation, underworld-kaiju-manse-construct… every one of those options was downright horrible!
Skoll… agreed. The Neverborn were supposed to be released, so that the Mask of Winters could rule without the problems they created! Not recreated! This needed to be stopped! Still, even with HIS weapons and defenses, Aikiko was a rather young Solar – and a direct attack in the face of a dozen or so experienced Abyssal Exalts in the Underworld was unlikely to go well.
Aikiko… had to agree there.
The Abyssals… were mostly supervising, directing creatures of the Labyrinth on the actual construction. Some were apparently already drawing certain powers and charms from the project – beginning to test the Crippling and Draining (and self-renewing) powers of the Perfected Principle of Consumption, the blighting powers of Abhorrence of Life, the ability to awaken hatred in the hearts of little gods and turn attacks against their originators of the Father of Murder, the Mind-feeding of He Who Holds In Thrall, the Negations of the Speaker of the Final Silence, and the Duplicating Mirror-Charms of the Queen of Suicides, who turns opponents against themselves.
As long as Aikiko simply observed and panned around, perfect cloaking was secure against everything except being randomly walked into, especially when she was in a construct that didn’t breathe, eat, have to move, or do anything else that might give her away – which let her film quite a lot! Still, the projects might well be nearing completion – and those charmsets seemed to be incredibly dangerous – and several had functions and modes (keywords) that hadn’t ever been seen in creation…
There had to be some way to sabotage this disaster!
Besides… just watching was getting boring! It looked like the security on the work camps was pretty lax though; most of the wraith-slaves were pretty well cowed anyway, and who’d want to bother messing around there?
Wait… was there a way to store lots of wraiths available? She could import them to that manse in Aden…
Ah! Skoll could – in theory – hold hundreds, albeit in storage instead of in active (and contributing) mode. It would take up a good chunk of his utility-artifact capacity though.
Still… rescuing the slaves was well worth doing, and it might stop the soulsteel production and delay the project nicely. The guard-patrols would be easy enough to evade – they were just first-circle equivalent manse-emanations (even if they were rather horrible ones) – but the various alarm-spells, wards and so on were more of a problem; first circle necromancy.
Hm. She probably wouldn’t have long after she started – but Adenic Thaumaturgy could break Shadowlands necromancy like a normal celestial-level dispel… She tried to discreetly break down the warding spells and alarms on one of the buildings where they were keeping ghosts…
Skoll gave her control.
Behind the cloaking, Skoll raised his arms in a pleading gesture – not to the darkness of the Labyrinth below and the Void above, but to the Sun, not present but not forgotten. He then joined his hands together and pounded the ward – just shy of where the effect would start, but fast enough to ripple the air.
Sadly for Skoll, who was hoping that this represented an attempt to reach out of the underworld and across Elsewhere to grab the sun out of Yu-Shan, Aikiko wasn’t up to solar-circle level wyld stunting – and wasn’t actually trying that anyway. She WAS channeling her Compassion though – and the roll was excellent and the Abyssals hadn’t really invested all that much effort or power into things. Why bother? The slaves were pretty cowed.
The green-gold radiance of Adenic Thaumaturgy blazed around Skoll, lighting up the profound darkness of the Labyrinth as if the Sun had indeed risen to drive back the dark as crackling bursts of essence from the wards arced and grounded themselves into the Labyrinth. From three of the tombs came an unearthly, and utterly horrible, howling filled with ancient pain that cut through the dimensions of reality itself to resound across many worlds. Even within Skoll, that… hurt. Not that it was an injury, but that it was yet another echo of ancient pain shared.
But the ward shattered, and Skoll busily shunted dozens – hundreds! – of ghosts into storage – emptying most of the camp, while Aikiko dealt with…
- An Invocation of Evisceration – a horrible burst of necromantic magic designed to kill her, strip the soul from her body, turn it inside-out, and drain her essence back into the user, slammed into Skoll – not damaging Aikiko at all beyond the slight expenditure of essence to block the feedback of the effect.
- The Mountain-Shattering Wind Kata hammered against Skoll in a double strike that she could actually feel (90L, two strikes, took off Aikiko’s first -0 health level).
- The Soul-Binding Chains of the Void Serpent Style passed through Skoll – who lacked a soul to bind – harmlessly, and the trickle of shaping feedback that reached Aikiko shattered harmlessly against her Behemoth Cloak.
- An Abyssal Juggernaut – the spirit of a long-fallen army given form once more through some necromantic spell or charm – rose, towering a more than a hundred feet into the dark sky of the underworld as it attempted to smash her (or, more likely, pin her down) beneath one of it’s huge taloned feet. If she EVER made it out of Skoll in one piece, she would never forget THIS mess!
That was a problem! She couldn’t afford to be pinned down… Ghost Body Technique? No, that wouldn’t work in the Underworld; it was already a realm of spirits! Still… Lightning Speed should be enough to get her out of the area; it wasn’t THAT huge.
- The Unnatural Mental Influence of the Whispers of Despair tore at her mind, trying to break her will with nihilism and despair and the belief that only in death would there be peace – but simply drew defensive green sparks from the energies of her Adenic Thaumaturgy.
- The Seven Arrows of Sinful Priesthood attempted to search out the secret darknesses of her soul and manifest them against her as they flashed through Skoll, traveling along the essence links to her regardless of distance and dimensions to turn her sins into personalized monsters – but within Skoll’s pocket-realm, and the essence-bracing of her Behemoth Cloak, blocking them required a mere trickle of Essence.
- A Pyre-Flame Holocaust whirled around Skoll, attempting to drain any motes invested in him to de-attune him, to melt down anything meltable in or on him, and to roast his occupant alive – but it’s multi-thousand degree heat was simply making him glow white-hot. That wasn’t how Skoll worked.
There was some cursing all around – but that had been merely a quick opening volley, and the Abyssals had never expected any worthwhile opponent to go down to their first attacks, even if they had thrown in some fairly good ones. More importantly… whoever this might be, he or she had launched no worthwhile attacks of their own – and had not even destroyed the Juggernaut or banishes the Pyre-Flame Holocaust!
Aikiko made a break for it. Fighting from within Skoll was more advantageous than she had ever dreamed – but this many opponents would drain her resources eventually – and as soon as someone figured it out and found a way to get inside with her she’d be in serious trouble! Worse… they’d probably follow her to the ends of the Labyrinth to get those ghosts back! If she could get back onto the phantom stairs… heading back to Coruscant would be better than this, and maybe she could find the “place” (or perhaps attitude?) where Charles’s gate opened and get out!
A short-range teleport – she only needed a hundred feet or so – would get her past the Abyssal Juggernaut! Another Adenic spell should handle THAT.
Whirling Skoll’s arms to define the circle of the gate – and not bothering to hide Excellency use as a corona of gold, blue, and green light spun forth – Aikiko (with another huge success) used her Adenic Travel Thaumaturgy to spin open a gate across the few hundred feet she needed.
A necromantic counterspell forced her to strain against am abyssals corrosive essence, but she broke through the resistance (5 successes to 3) and reappeared on the stairway.
Sadly, that left her a prime target for another blizzard of horrific attacks – leaving her with some noticeable injuries and down quite a few more motes. The Abyssals… were learning fast. There wasn’t going to be time to climb the stairs.
Aikiko sighed – and leapt through the void into the near-infinite depths of the Cosmos with the Mountain-Leaping Stride. She had never thought that she’d ever WANT to go in there!
And Skoll was pleased! With his occupant undertaking a journey into the infinite at random… or at least with only Travel Thaumaturgy with which to influence her path – the Narrative Force would have free reign to select their destination. They would surely arrive SOMEWHERE of importance.