The Articulate Plane

Life on the Edge, Lord Aranis

Found upon the rock outcropping beneath the Dragon’s Lair.

Well isn’t this pretty. At least I haven’t gotten hurt at all. Not many people can boast of killing a dragon without getting so much as a scratch. I wonder how I shall survive this fall ahead of me. I guess I must soon descend into this chasm. Perhaps I may speak with Mathra and dissuade him. Still if I were him I would ignore me for I know my purpose would be to delay, and I would also know that my colleagues kill first and then ask questions of the dead soul later. I am writing here because I fear I will fall if I get my pack out, also I don’t want to rely on a sole location for my writings. Perhaps it will all be lost in that great lake below. I know that carvings in stone last a fair period.

So now I must again write that posterity might know what has happened and what hasn’t, in case the worst should happen and we are destroyed by a conflagration. We came in here and fought a big dra-

It is presumed that at this point Lord Aranis’ carving tool slipped and feel into the great void beneath him.

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Fírnen - Schroedinger's Hallway

It seems I am not the only person with blots on my past. Even the great Vendae has secrets to hide, and one of them appeared, quite unexpectedly I gather, in the hallway that was our exit. A dwarf named Baldor sought to take his revenge on Vendae (and Paige I suppose) for abandoning them in some past life. It was an amusing spectacle, almost as amusing as the sputtering mess we left the dwarf in when he finally gave up on defeating our party.

A final bit of amusement before I cease to exist. Today I stepped out into the cold air of the Articulate Plane for the first time in several years. In fact, I believe it is the first time I have ever been to the surface. There is a peaceful calm to the night sky. I think I could get used to that at least, if we survive today.

Surviving won’t be easy though. If the sun doesn’t take me, then Mathra will be waiting at the mountain top to try his hand at vampire slaying. If Mathra fails to kill me directly, all that stands between the world and a second flash is a single staff and a key hole. If the flash doesn’t take me, then who knows how far it is before I will meet another sentient creature. The list could go on.

If I survive this day, I think it will be time to part company with these adventurers and hunt for a cure on my own. I cannot endanger them with my — what does Aranis call it? Dietary proclivities any more. Strange that I should grow attached to surface dwellers, but I suppose without a home anymore my emotions will attach themselves to a dying mudcrab if no other suitable creature can be found. Funny.

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Lord Aranis, Schroedinger’s Hallway
Loose Ends

What an odd combination. For the first time we’ve conducted ourselves with a fair deal of sense (we have at other times when all other options failed, but never so consistently), and I’ve never felt so useless to the group. I was only able to find out what everyone else already knew, I wasn’t able to have much of any impact on that Dwarf, my only purpose was as that of a warm body to keep the demiplane from closing. I fear that this latest trial at the lighthouse might be my undoing. I can see myself, out of breath, unable to speak or think, half way up the mountain freezing in my NATIVE cold environment as that tattoo glows until I feel the warm embrace of the flash.

Also we will probably run in with some bigger folk soon. I expect some arachnid Lolth adherents are probably doing everything they can to find out where the reanimator is. Also anyone well connected with Ioun, and She is well connected with many people, is probably aware that Mathra has the whole staff and is trying to use it as we let the temple guard know before the jump. They won’t know which lighthouse to check, but I will be surprised if Mathra is the only thing we find up on this mount.

I can’t understand why that Dwarf acted as he did. If he really let Mathra get through, and gave him the opening he needed to destroy the Articulate Plane, then why didn’t he carry out his plan to fight us. Mathra was one of the ones who left him. He was alone and yet the Dwarf didn’t fight him. I must conclude that Mathra is an extremely good bluffer or he was not alone, or perhaps the is more to the story of Baldour that is hidden, but too many have concurred on it independently to make me believe that. But who could he have with him? We saw him alone go through that portal and I don’t think he is one to seek the company of zombies. I must sincerely marvel at the insanity of the Dwarf’s logic. I wonder what could he hope to do! Perhaps kill one in the party though I don’t know how he could, and if he could, why not Mathra who he saw first, instead of banking on the promise of future victims. Also taking his revenge on Mathra wouldn’t keep him from taking it on us. The only explanations I can see are that A. The dwarf was very weak (as was his companion) and they couldn’t fight Mathra alone (very hard to believe. If they were willing to take on Me, Firnen, Random and Vendae they would be willing to fight Mathra), B. Mathra convinced the Dwarf that he didn’t abandon him. Extremely hard to believe, C. The dwarf felt that Mathra had something worse in store and felt he could deal with us. Possible. D. (Related to C) The Dwarf welcomed the flash, getting rid of his enemies, and he had few friends on the plane. Perhaps he thought he could polish us off and then go back to the articulate plane after the flash and dominate things. (I don’t know him well enough to judge what value he would place in this sordid scheme).

This may be my last writing in this travel log book. It has survived purple fog and deep sea drops. If the flash should overtake us I hope it will help to erudite scholars of future years to piece together some of the Arcane and Literary traditions of groups with which I have come in contact since I came up from the Underdark! With that in mind, I can die in peace. They might also find out a bit about how the flash happened too.

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Fírnen - The Fortress of Lolth, Part 2

Trifling with gods, that is what they would call these endeavors. Granted we had the aid of a god ourselves (at least for the planning stage), but yet still this strange assortment of races and creatures unknown managed to outsmart the spider queen herself. That makes twice for me, although I’m not sure if the first time counts. Today, we managed to bring the reanimator the Ioun’s very doorstep.

Though this might constitute a success by most accounts, I’m not sure the price was worth. According to the Warforged Random, a deva by the name of Mathra, who I personally saw sailing smugly in a little skiff, was responsible for causing the first great flash. Now he possesses his key once more, and can very well do it again. I am not certain he will, as the flash destroyed him as well, but one can never tell with these types.

I stand on the precipice now of the Articulate Plane, the first time I’ve been there since my kidnapping several years ago. Maybe I can find answers there.

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Lord Aranis - The Fortress of Lolth Part 2
I've read your book!

What? How did this happen. Ashar is going to be mad. I was just starting to really hit it off with that Zehir author, albeit a dangerous run in with an all powerful, very malicious serpentine ecclesiastic, but I’d read his book! Such condescension, such grace, such mystery! And then when we headed off into the ribbon I find out that the staff hilt is floating out there! I thought Random had it somewhere, but no! I guess he must have thrown it off randomly. If he hadn’t the Zehir would probably have made off with it. Ashar’s going to be mad. I wonder if that would have been better for the Zehir to get it than Mathra. Still I know that Mathra would be easier to defeat. Though he managed to slip through the guards at the very temple of Ioun! They should have known what he was up to. To think someone could make a portal in the temple of Ioun and have it hidden.

Now why were the Zehir pursuing Mathra, and if they were, why didn’t they find him? They sure found us fine. I’m so glad we had the fang to give them, they probably aren’t so happy with Lolth right now, but who is?

But I have another great concern in my pack. That reanimator and even more so the imagination orb. I should have tried to disable that time traveling orb before leaving the place. Now if the Drow are smart, which they will be by now (probably Lolth will put an end to that internal blood bath), they will send some poor skeleton into that orb to a minute or so before the reanimator was removed. They will discover that a motley crew of two drow (I think that was Paige’s latest iteration) an Eladrin, an Elf, and two wardens took a couple spins in the orb and stole away with the reanimator. And if those drow were willing to expend a profusion of trips in the imagination orb, (which they probably would be because they still have alot of spare skeletons about) then they could chart out our trip until we left this plane (because they wouldn’t know where to put the next 5 minute beacon after that). So in all probability the followers of Lolth will soon have a pretty good idea of who took their sword and our goals/hankerings and will know something about my personal history from what that Zehir commander revealed in his outburst. If they know their history, which they probably do, they will also know that it’s not so good to have Mathra with a complete staff.

Still I have to say it was all worth it to get a chance to meet that guy in the flesh, or in the scales if you will. It is amazing to have a tête-à-tête (even one so onesided) with such an old sage. That’s the nice thing about being in the Astral Sea, you skip out on flashes and all that nonsense.

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Random - The Fortress of Lolth Part 1

Sneak sneak sneak SMOTE sneak sneak get ready to smote. I am the best. I turn skeletons into bones. Do I have bones? It seems I have some things to ponder…

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Lord Aranis - The Fortress of Lolth Part 1
Lord Aranis confides his misgivings to his traveling book.

What a fool’s errand. If we do get out of here alive, and I mean alive, not some levitated, dessicated, ossified, necrotic alive, then I shall probably have difficulty convincing some in the party to do what we must, namely destroy the reanimator. It seems puissant, but it is manipulative, and on a more pragmatic note it acts as a giant flare for Lolth I should think. Though I’m not too bad at arcane matters and I couldn’t sense where the reanimator was, tied as it was with cords coursing with arcane energy etc. until I was in the very room with it. Even so we cannot rest on this issue till the reanimator is destroyed. If a haphazard mix of elves, wardens and a vampire can steal away with this thing from Lolth’s very lair, I should wonder who can keep it securely. I am sorry to destroy such a magnificent work of art, such beauty, such condescension of a soul into ornate metals. But all its art points to death and from aesthetics we learn that ornate craftsmanship does not equate to quality, virtuous art. The soul of this instrument is set against Ioun at its core. It abhors truth and embraces continued artifice. For these reasons it must be destroyed. Still I wonder whether my colleagues would follow such a discussion.

What shall we do if the astral opening closes before we can get through? I can step on through, but I alone. Perhaps I could make off with the reanimator. But I wouldn’t want to betray my companions. And how safe would we be with Firnen taking the helm, the rest of us hanging off the sides like a giant, slow motion contrail while we put put-put away from the fortress. If that gunner had taken us just a bit more seriously we would all be dead. They could give chase and capture us sooooo easily. I fear we must pilfer something from the docks. In which case we must bluff our way through. Perhaps we could bluff our way onto a boat. But that seems most difficult.

Whatever we do we must be careful when it comes to that group of vampires. They’re sure to want us dead so we must have them fight the drow. I can’t imagine them winning though some might escape. That would perhaps be a redeeming way for a vampire to die.

I like to think that Firnen is different, but perhaps that is simply part of his intricate dance of death that charms his prey. I’m sure every vampire must want us to think they’re something different, after all once they’ve been outed that’s their only chance. Otherwise they would be left to die as a diversion for Lolth guards. I fear I will be the one on the line when Firnen has a chance to truly prove his loyalties. I wish I could say I was too old for this and go back to live at that library. Still if the reanimator isn’t destroyed no library is truly safe from desecration. What a thought!

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Fírnen - The Fortress of Lolth, Part 1

Today was a harrowing experience without a doubt. Everyone reads of ghost stories and other tales of the undead haunting some locale, terrorizing the villagers or making children behave. Dreadful. No one stops to consider the possibility that we might have fears of our own. I certainly do, and I read it plainly in the face of another with my condition. The horrors that man has been subjected too, and yet I can do nothing to aid him. If he escapes he will not be able to resist the temptation of my companions, especially one so physically frail as the Eladrin. I can maintain this facade of friendliness only so long as I keep myself well fed. Should I slip up for even a moment I fear the beast will have no regard for the well being of the others.

I wonder if that’s all this unlife really is – a facade. Pretending to be what we are not. I am a wolf amongst the sheep, the predator dwelling amongst his prey. I shall have to meditate on this further, for if we succeed here, we will return to the Articulate Plane. A land of warmth and sunlight and… people.

Now, of course, that well being is already placed in plenty of jeopardy merely by being in this accursed fortress. Any moment a horde of drow could come storming through this perilously weak door and ruin everything I have worked for. If all goes well we shall be long gone before they realize that the sword has been removed. If all goes well.

One thing I had not considered – there is a Sun on the Articulate Plane. I’ve never seen it before, not in Kalanvylle or here. I wonder how badly it will burn.

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Lord Aranis, In Which *Lord* Aranis Fires Unicorn Bones Out of a Cannon
How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Many might wonder at the manner in which I disregarded the Astral Sea Arcane Naval Combat Pedagogy that I have studied. But it ought to be remembered that our ship was approaching a derelict status. We also did not know the power of the other ship to escape us and bombard us to pieces from a distance and at the Battle of the Ribbons the call was “my kingdom for a mast” from the capital ship. We would have had a similar situation if I had not supercharged the cannon. Also even if we had reached the enemy ship we wouldn’t have been able to pin it. The glow! The scintillating light. The excruciating burn, with the knowledge that others had it worse! I am a weakling, but with the bomb I can make my enemies tremble and fall before me! They shall give me consequence now! That whole battle yesterday was surreal. I still have a wracking headache from the explosion and did some things I probably shouldn’t have. Well I thought the Unicorn was working for them. That must be remembered. I have the utmost respect for the Feywild. We returned the Unicorn home not much the worse for wear. I still shouldn’t have done that.

Acolytus seems a great mystery to me. He was defeated with such ease. I wonder whether Lolth’s interest in him is sinister. What am I saying? Of course it’s sinister, but I wonder if he was to be part of a sacrifice of some sort with the unicorn. He seems a fairly weak chap, perhaps that could be me some day.

I have to wonder a bit at the foolhardy nature of our attack plan. Do we even have a plan? We’re crowded on a tiny skiff, we are heading towards the home of Lolth. It will be swarming with her people. We don’t even know for sure that she will leave to find out what happened to her galleon. And there’s that Diva Doxin. Sounds like a bad smell you get when cleaning at an Apothecaries’ shop. I don’t know how we will ever deal with a Diva. Perhaps we could let him know about Mathra and that he was trying to redo the flash! And we might be able to make him think that Lolth is in on it. The flash probably would open up the chance for her to make a huge undead army. That’s it. Turn the two against each other! Anyway it must be something. We can’t fight Doxin, not even in a battle of wits (I was humbled in that respect at that galleon. Men are too heavy to be total puppets. At some point the cords snap. And for some the cords never hold them back.) If we just go in there sneaking about the Diva will surely perceive us. But I can remember that I foundered a drow galleon. If only I could find another one of those cannons….

One last note. That drow fellow disappears behind a mast and comes back with blood stained lips. And yet he is fighting against Lolth and darkness. If he meant my destruction he doesn’t know low hanging fruit when he sees it. Perhaps he really doesn’t like his dietary proclivities. The next time I get to a big Ioun library I will definitely have to look into seeing what I can do to change him back. Perhaps that is what has kept him reaching past me for the high hanging fruit. Or maybe I’m not very appetizing. How gratifying.

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Fírnen - In Which (tl;dr)

We found the dominion ship, shortly after convincing a stray Coatl to leave us alone by… less than dignified tactics. Not that I have a problem with these, reminds me of my time as a living person. The phrase is hard for me to say, but I suspect (and fear) that I shall grow accustomed to it in time.

The one who styles himself Lord Aranis (evidently of the so-called snow elves) has a rather unique fighting style. He prefers never to show his face, only to manipulate the minds of his opponents. Such individuals are exceedingly dangerous, but I believe I can trust him at least. There is a naivete about him that belies an incredible intellect – there is little the eladrin does not know. But he seems to know little of the ways of the world itself, how people interact. I suppose I could assist with that, but he seems… averse to my company. I suppose it is for good reason. It may comfort him to know that physical strength is more appealing to my kind than mental strength, but I think reminding him of the nature of his companion is rather ill advised.

On another note, I now owe my life (or rather unlife) to the warforged Random. I don’t think the thought has crossed his mind, but if he had not arrived when he did, I would have suffered final death. I’m curious what happens to a vampire upon death, but for obvious reasons if that were to happen I wouldn’t be able to observe the results. Perhaps I shall meet more of my kind on the surface. Our predatory natures likely force us to live solitary existences, but who knows? The beast may enjoy the company of others.

Tomorrow we enter the Fortress of Lolth. I have never been more prepared for anything in my life. Her vile majesty will have no army to secure the Articulate Plane with. Her betrayal of me and the others will not go unpunished.

PS We secured a vial of unicorn blood. I wonder what it tastes like?

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