Loremageddon 2019, Day Twenty-Nine: Eldritch Pacts, Bleak Marches, Planar Beings

Hello, everyone! I hope those of you who partake in Black Friday have done so responsibly, and that those of you who have to work today were at least able to enjoy your Thanksgiving! For my part, I stayed overnight at my family’s place, so this lore-drop comes later in the day. Nonetheless, I hope it finds you well–we’re diving straight into the eldritch today. Some of this will sound at least a little familiar to those among you who’ve played Dungeons and Dragons. The rest, well–hopefully the rest gives your mind-teeth more to gnaw on.

With me, now, and let’s delve below the asterisks…

***

Snippet #1: Eldritch Pacts (World: Creation’s Fringe)

Each seeker has their own reason: to resurrect a lost love, to seek vengeance on someone who wronged them, to acquire forbidden knowledge, or simple curiosity. Whatever mortal urges drive them, each comes in time to seek something beyond mortals or gods–a voice, a likeness, a line of text. Sometimes it’s easy: repeat a word or phrase, perform a ritual on an ancient idol. Sometimes the quest takes years, or a full lifetime. At the end, however, awaits the answer, the reward, and all too often, the price.

If the above seems infuriatingly vague, it’s because this is the same experience had by mortals upon Creation’s Fringe who decide to seek counsel or even patronage by an eldritch being. Each has its own criteria, and some change these on a whim. For some, whims are the criteria. Such is the case for Sahclern the Peerless, who manifests as some form of shadowy viper–his size can range from a few feet to hundreds in length and height–and insists on putting those who seek something from him through some form of test.

Sahclern’s tests vary wildly in difficulty with no relationship whatsoever to the enormity of the feats he wants performed. If he has some hidden measure by which he determines his “exchange rate”, it’s not apparent to outside minds. He may request a pittance to restore the spirit of a long-dead sage, yet put adventurers through inordinate trials simply to acquire a few jewels. For similar reasons, those who can truly call him their patron are few; few souls have enough affinity with the unusual void-serpent to channel his power.

By contrast, Sahclern exacts no immediate prices from those he chooses to patronize. In fact, it seems the only thing he expects is the right to frequently appear in their daily lives. This is an anomaly among eldritch pacts; most such patrons want things like ancient relics and sources of power, the destruction of knowledge about their weaknesses, quests against the agents of their rivals, and so on. Haughty demands–but then, they do offer an ordinary person the ability to match a mage.

Surely, such opportunities must be worth the effort.

Snippet #2: Bleak Marches (World: Creation’s Fringe)

Bleak Marches seem to be a similar strain of place to Phantom Reliquaries, but accessed via different rules. Where a Phantom Reliquary might appear any time planar travel is attempted without sufficient controls, Bleak Marches turn up only in the latter stages of an elite party’s trek through the cosmos. In combination with their nature, those who stumble into these abandoned spaces always remark that they feel they’ve arrived somewhere they’re not supposed to be.

A Phantom Reliquary is distinguished by holding some grand relic; a Bleak March is defined by desolation. The most famous was a world long since deprived of all oxygen–the adventurers who stumbled onto it nearly died in the split-second before their priest managed to channel some air and pressure into being. If not for their expedition’s profits, they’d have spent the rest of their days wracked by instant depressurization’s traumas.

On exploring this Bleak March, they found its surface coated by a fine crystal-laced powder. Their leader, the Latren-Laprani engineer Pelub Nar, identified it at last for a mix of ashes and crystals caused by an incalculable amount of combined heat and pressure. Metallic structures speckled the forlorn landscape, all with swooping, graceful curves and engravings depicting alien species Pelub’s people had no records of.

Wandering deeper, they found fossilized plants and impressions of corpses. Impressions only, for though ruined war-engines and fortresses and craters clogged the husk-planet, not a single body could be found.

In the sky above hung enormous constructs which Pelub recognized as destroyed starships–more than thirty different styles, but all showing similar damage: once-molten punctures wide as lakes which had cracked and ripped the ancient metals, and shears with slag-rivulets running from them. All were built to a scale which dwarfed anything built by the Latren-Laprani in their own brief days of starfaring.

“What wore us down most was the emptiness,” Pelub later said. “The emptiness and this overwhelming sadness I couldn’t place… it was a little like learning that someone you’d always had an eye for was in love with you, you know, but only months after they died.” More even than Phantom Reliquaries, Bleak Marches are rare, and they never guarantee a reward for braving their miseries.

While Pelub’s team collected some ancient metals and found that their miraculous properties yielded weapons and armor beyond any Fringe craft, some groups have braved toxic oceans and superheated ruins set halfway into a hellfire world’s core without finding anything.

Anything, that is, except the inevitable epitaphs for a dead, irretrievable past.

Snippet #3: Planar Beings (Worlds: Any)

“Planar being” is a loose term used to refer to any entity which makes its home on a different plane of existence from humans and deities. While demons are technically planar beings, they’re not usually referred to as such–they adhere to similar rules from one world to the next, and it’s only how demons function within those rules that define a given hierarchy or group. Planar beings cannot be defined except that they exist primarily on planes of their own making.

Some, like Sahclern the Peerless as mentioned earlier, are merely esoteric. In their strange and convoluted way, they’re even helpful. Others, like Fon Kerrick, exist in such violent opposition to the ordinary realms of mortals that the two might as well be anathema to each other. Planar beings always operate via their own rules–if the core physical reality’s rules suited them, they’d likely spend more time in it–and these rules may not be healthy for mortals.

Nal-Higrana the Sifter, for example, operates a plane where only pure elements retain their molecular cohesion. While Nal-Higrana has nothing against mortals, and actually likes to speak with them, its plane thus inevitably kills any organic person that sets foot upon it. Some constructs fair no better, though most arcane constructs simply lose any alloy components; their cores will likely use pure copper or a similar material because this yields the steadiest enchantments. Spirits and demons, meanwhile, experience no ill effects at all, having no molecules to disrupt.

Nal-Higrana’s motivation? It just prefers the way pure elements look, as well as what it calls “mind-feel”, and this system makes them easier to locate.

***

There we are, Day Twenty-Nine completed–I hope it’s been weird enough for everyone’s tastes! Just one more to round off tomorrow, and the first-ever (successful) Loremageddon will be complete. I’ll be throwing together a big ol’ summary post to celebrate. For now, please let me know any thoughts down in the comments, leave a like, and share this lore with any you think might appreciate it. Otherwise, you could follow me on Twitter for a little something extra.

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