Saturday, September 8, 2018

Pale Riders

Out of the pale morning sun, pale men on pale horses with pale hounds. But they are not men; their limbs are too long, their horses have the mouths of tigers, and their hounds move with the grace of cats. Their armor and weapons are made of polished bone, their hair is as white as their skin. They ride and slay until coated with blood, and then ride into the red setting sun.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Lesser Malformed Homunculus

Fundamentally, a humonculus is a parasite of form. Clay-flesh, the creation of which is beyond the scope of this document, can use a human body as its mold, stealing away shapeliness and poise for its own use.

The creation of a homunculus is a complex undertaking that can go wrong in many different ways. Errors in early stages of development usually force an early "birth", creating a small, weak creature that is of little use. If this happens, you can still recover costs by placing the malformed thing within the skull of a freshly dead body. If all goes well, the homunculus will learn to control the body, and thus still be able to serve.

Wants: Sensation. When malformed lesser homunculi view the world it is as if through smudged glass, when they touch it as if their hands were wrapped in cloth. They pursue pleasurable sensation without care for its nature or cost, seeking more and more intensity. Their incredible hedonism gives them incredible reputations; they can often be tracked down by seeking the sources of the strange rumors that are spread about them.

Needs: To obey their creator. Even malformed homunculi must obey their creator. They will bend meaning and interpret as far as they can, but they must obey the letter of a command. Use them but never trust them.

Morale: Malformed lesser homunculi rarely have a instinct of self-preservation. Their morale depends on their attitude towards pain. Some despise pain so desperately they will surrender upon merely being threatened with it. Others embrace pain as another sensation that can be felt intensely, and will fight until destroyed.

What happens if you eat this monster: The bulk of the body is human, and eating it has all the usual ethical, legal, and occult implications of eating human meat. The homunculus itself, is made of skin surrounding a core of disgustingly soft fatty meat. It is calorie rich, but needs to be cooked carefully to be made palatable.

What can be crafted out of this monster's body: The body of the homunculus is of great value, as it can be made into a clay-like material out of which replacement limbs and organs can be shaped.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

World of Mists

 The world of mists is a terrarium, a cylinder carved out of an asteroid to contain a self-sustaining ecosystem. Spun for gravity, the interior of the cylinder has a surface area of almost 140km2. An odd effect of airflow through the spinning cylinder has led to permanent mist.

Approximately a third of the surface is covered in lakes and ponds, another third is marsh, and another third is forest. The constant mist has lead to massive amounts of lichens and mosses growing on every available surface. Moose wander the land eating lichen off branches, otters live along the shores of the lakes, and packs of wild dogs hunt through smell at night. The thick constant mist forces all animals to neglect their sight and depend on other senses. During the day you can hear moose bellowing to each other, and at night the dogs howl.

A village has been carved into the sheer cliff that forms one end of the cylinder.. The villagers tend to moist gardens and maintain necessary machines, living meditative lives of routine, including exercises that maximize their hearing. It is because of these exercises that they have become aware of the wanderer, a being that has never been seen. It may be able to see through the mist, for it has always been able to avoid even silent pursuers, but in quiet twilights one can hear the sound of its heavy steps as it roams.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Punctuated Equilibrium

Long after the singularity, after a million miracles had been tried and left wanting, after the reconstruction of the solar system into countless ruins, after the creation of great minds who cared for nothing but their own thoughts, humanity endures.

Then, each new invention promised a new world, a new way of life, a new future. Now each new invention promises more wealth, more power, and more prospects, but is always found to be costly, impractical, or useless.

The renovations of Mars and Venus would have made new Earths. It would have been a labor of centuries, but subsequent generations proved unwilling to pay the great costs. They support life, but they are not Earth-like. The solar system would not be adapted to suit Earth life, but Earth life was adapted to suit the solar system.

Then, humanity assumed that the creation of great artificial intelligences would be its greatest work.  They were long anticipated as the harbingers of either heaven or hell, but they only introspect, answering no questions and telling no truths. They are only feared when they are not forgotten.

A thousand peoples have lived and died, but only the tenacious and omnivorous survive. There are many peoples, but only some are human. Humanity endures, but the great wheel of time grinds innovation into tradition, and tradition into stagnation.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Corpse Colonies

Bone-white ants chew tunnels through the corpse. Workers chew apart nearby leaves and bring them in procession to the empty stomach, where more chew those leaves into mulch for fungi, and more still chew that fungi into layers of pale-grey plaster that smother rot. In the smallest chamber of what used to be a heart, a pale queen lays row after row of glistening eggs. The colony is expanding, slowly and surely.

Soon the colony will reach maturity, and the corpse will rise.

Wants: To reproduce. Corpse-colonies wander aimlessly, searching for corpses, or living things they can turn into corpses. They will try to kill anything they come across to make new homes fit for juvenile queens.

Needs: To eat. A constant supply of fungal plaster is required to prevent the corpse-colony from rotting, and a constant supply of vegetable matter is require to grow the fungus. A colony can be tracked by the trail of mutilated vegetation it leaves behind.

Morale: Corpse-colonies do not give up. If enough damage is done to an inhabited corpse, they will abandon it and the entire colony will swarm, hoping to pull victory from the jaws of defeat by turning their attacker into a new home.

What happens if you eat this monster: Preserved behind layers of fungal plaster, the corpse in which the colony lives dries, but is kept soft by movement. It can be eaten like jerky. The ants themselves are also edible, as are their eggs, although both are quite bitter.

What can be crafted out of this monster's body: The fungal plaster the ants use to prevent their home from rotting is a very effective antiseptic, and serves as the base for many healing unguents.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Purity of Form

We had heard rumors about the place for years, and obviously dismissed them. When a surveyor actually found it and brought back pictures, we assumed he was playing a prank on us. But someone upstairs took him seriously and sent a science team, and they brought back samples. Now there was a new laboratory somewhere in the mountains.

Our little outpost was the connection between that lab and the outside world, and we were all trying to get a peek at the hermetically sealed containers that were being shipped out. Security staff weren't privy to anything that was going on. But six months later, I was rotated into duty at the laboratory, to escort scientists as they run their tests.

As you crest the ridge and enter the valley, the first thing you notice is that it is filled with beige trees with white leaves. The trees have bark made of keratin, making them uncannily smooth. The leaves of the trees are pale white and tend to droop. They are made of skin, albino skin, the better to absorb light. In spring some grow "flowers" made of fine eyelashes.

Squirrels climb with small hands and chatter with almost-voices. Sheep walk on their knuckles and grow thick coats of coarse human hair. There are no birds, but bats are everywhere, hanging from trees with wings like emaciated hands. Even snakes have scales like tiny fingernails. Every animal has human eyes.

During summer the smell of human sweat is inescapable. Even in the laboratory it seems to cling to everything. Only in our hermetically sealed hazmat suits are we spared.

I'm showing Jones how to put on his suit, making adjustments every time he does it wrong, which is every time. My job is to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid in the valley, which is usually easy. New guys usually just follow along in grossed out daze.

When we're over the ridge and begin descending, picking our way past thorny, bone-like shrubs and into the treeline, he begins breaking the unwritten rule for security staff and starts pestering the scientists. Luckily, Dr. Vasquez is willing to indulge his curiosity.

"There aren't any normal plants and animals at all?" asks Jones.

"None. Even the microorganisms seems to be descended from inhabitants of the human gut. Normal plants can't sprout here, and normal animals die of allergic reactions." says Dr. Vasquez.

"Why?

"Its called allelopathy. These organisms all produce a protein that kills all non-human forms of life."

"That's why we have to wear these suits?"

"To protect us from allergens, yes. But also to protect the valley. We are genetically similar enough that diseases could spread from us to them."

We hear the sound of gagging and turned. Jones has taken off his facemask.

"It smells like sweat!"

"PUT YOUR MASK BACK ON!" I bellow, running.

Jones can't stop gagging, his throat is closing up. I wrestle his facemask on and open up the oxygen valve, but he is already slumping to the ground. Dr. Vasquez checks his vitals. Jones is unconscious, but not dead. He'll probably survive if we can get him back to the laboratory, but that means hauling him out of the woods, up the slopes, and back over the ridge, and we'll have to do it as fast as possible.

I hoist Jones on to my back, and, as I turn to Dr. Vasquez, I catch something out of the corner of my eye.

The first thing I saw was the eyes, and I think, for a moment, that they were a man's eyes. I almost call out to him, when I see the face. The body is shaped like a big cat, but it has the hairless skin of a human. Human eyes, wolf face, human skin, tiger body. It paces towards us carefully and confidently. We run, and somewhere along the way I drop Jones.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Seedware.pdf

I have spent a couple of months slowly giving the yearblog entries some much needed editing. Now that that has been done, I have compiled a new pdf with the edited entries.

You can view and/or download it here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Defense of Irkutsk

The last monster of summer had shoved its way through thin arctic ice, and begun its journey south. The hole in the ice had frozen-over before being spotted, and the tracks covered by wind-blown snow. The thing had wandered in its fugue of hunger and adrenaline for weeks before being spotted and called in by a militia outpost, already much too far south for comfort. The hunter-killer Hind squadrons were unavailable, protecting Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Valdivostok, or else receiving necessary maintenance, and so militia groups were hastily mobilized and assigned military officers.

Five tanks along a ridge. All had their hatches open with men standing in them. Most manning DShK heavy machine guns, but two have binoculars. Mist blankets the land.

The lieutenant had been gazing through his binoculars since dawn, as had the militia sergeant. The lieutenant was restless, occasionally taking his focus off of his binoculars to take in the landscape, or glancing at the sergeant. The sergeant was diligently scanning the fog, making a point of paying the lieutenant no mind.

"Silhouette, twelve o'clock" said the lieutenant .

"SILHOUETTE, TWELVE O'CLOCK" screamed the sergeant. The lieutenant winced in spite of himself, and the five tanks pointed their guns north. The lieutenant and the sergeant both focused on the shape in the mist.

The mist cleared briefly and revealed a tree.

The sergeants face remained carefully neutral. The lieutenant and the sergeant returned to scanning the landscape.

"Movement, eleven o'clock."

"MOVEMENT, ELEVEN O'CLOCK!"

The guns of the five tanks shifted left.

The fog shifted in the morning breeze. Nothing moved. The sergeant began to smirk. Then there came an echoing call, halfway between a scream and a trumpet, and the monster came charging at them.

"FIRE!" screamed both the lieutenant and the sergeant, and the call of the creature was met by the crack of the guns. The shells hit around the creature, some traveling too far, some coming up short. Shrapnel tore into its legs and belly and it began to bleed, but it continued its charge.

"FIRE!" the officers screamed again. This time the guns were loaded with APFSDS rounds, tungsten darts designed to pierce armor. They zipped through the creature as though nothing were there. It stumbled, and struggled to get up.

The lieutenant waved the line of tanks forward, and signaled the machineguns to open fire. The combined sound of five heavy machine guns is felt as much as heard. Fifty heavy bullets per second began tearing apart flesh, sending up eruptions of black blood.

Up close, it looked almost like a mammoth. Almost. It had too many trunks, and they were too long. It had too many tusks, and they were too sharp.And, as something tore its way out of the monsters belly and charged at the nearest tank, the lieutenant realized it had been pregnant.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Intelligent Design

Humanity was created for a purpose. We are vessels, with just enough soul to be possessed. We are servitors, with enough intelligence to do work but not enough to understand. We are clay, substantial enough to be molded but not so substantial that we pose a problem for the potter. We are neotenic, children who can become something greater. We were made to be transformed. We were always meant to something more.

There are older beings, mature beings who were once like us, but whose forms have stiffened. They envy our youth and our adaptability. They peer at us from great distances, from around angles in spacetime, and from the distant future. We must beat them to the punch and decide for ourselves what we are to become.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pheonix Fire

The flame of a pheonix burns things back together. It burns things into health. It burns wood into trees, sickness into health, and metal into magic. If you light a funeral pyre with a pheonix's flame, it will even burn death into life.

This story is from the ancient days. Before all things had been created, before all things had taken their places, before the people built cities and organized their affairs. Across the land there was only death and those that feed on death. The people huddled under unrotting logs, fought with jackals for scraps of unrotting carcasses, and those that spent the night away from the warmth and light of a bonfire were never seen again.

One youth declared that the world could be better, and so he would make it better. The people had heard talk like this before, and knew that it always ended grand promises and a brave soul wandering away from the fire, never to be seen again. So they discouraged him, telling him about all the others who had failed, and when they saw he was determined to go, they wished him well, although in their hearts they knew they would never see him again.

 The youth wandered the lands for an uncounted period of time, stealing meat from jackals and sleeping in what shelter he could find. He found only mud, carcasses, and maggots. Nothing that could make a change or give him hope.

Eventually he resolved to climb to the peak of a mountain and see what he could see. Clambering upwards, he began to hear the sound of laughter. When he reached the top, he saw a great bird made of blue flame, laughing at the state of the world from above. The youth picked up a branch and held it aloft, lighting it from the bird's belly as it passed. He then began to descend from the mountain, to bring back to the people this new thing he had found.

As he descended, he noticed that the branch was becoming heavier. When he looked at it, he was astonished. Out of the bottom of the branch were growing pale white roots, seeking the earth. Out of the top of the branch were growing bright green branches, seeking the sun. The branch burned, but as it burned it grew.

The branch grew so heavy that he could not carry it. He planted it in the mud, where it grew faster and faster. The fire spread from the growing tree to the branches, logs, and stumps that littered the earth. As it burned them, they sprouted green branches of their own. The fire spread from wood to flesh, burning the carcasses that had lain in the mud for longer than memory, and as they burned they began to stand and run. The fire grew into a wildfire that covered all land, and it burned all day and night.

Next morning, the sun rose over a grand forest, through which wandered now-living wildlife. It was the most beautiful thing the youth had ever seen, but as he stared he realized he could no longer spot see any of the landmarks he knew. He was never able to find his way back to his people.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ooze Cyborgs

Ooze slime is a translucent yellow-green substance with the consistency of honey. It is a complex material, capable of regulating virtually any organic chemical reaction, as well as acting like a muscle. When young, oozes are simple scavengers, slowly squirming their way through tunnels and caves, eating whatever they find.

As they grow, they get smarter. Sooner or later, a young ooze's dreamlike sentience will direct their body to preserve, rather than dissolve, useful organs.

Most common are bones. Incorporating the skeletons of animals it has eaten allows an ooze to sustain a discrete shape, with useful features like limbs. Ooze skeletons are always unique, created by mixing and matching bones from many creatures. If an ooze is lucky enough to find a set of plate armor, it will wear it like an exoskeleton.

Oozes are also fond of glands. The powerful stomach of an owlbear might be re-purposed as an acid spray, the venomous sting of a wyvern might be implanted at the end of an "arm", and the flame glands of dragon hatchlings have obvious uses.

Oozes are translucent enough that incorporated organs can be seen from the outside. Those familiar with oozes, and with the interiors of local monsters can guess at the capabilities of a mature ooze.

Friday, March 9, 2018

12 Rewards for Quests that are not Gold

1. The local priest will say prayers in your name.

2. A puppy, ready to be trained.

3. Your name will be entered into the annals of the city as a hero.

4. Past crimes will be forgiven.

5. A local hedge wizard will cast a spell of good luck on you.

6. Access to the Lord's library.

7. A mule, old but healthy.

8. A portrait by a visiting artist.

9. A reserved seat at the local pub.

10. A letter of introduction to the local Lord.

11. A charm that will ward off illness.

12. The whole community made donations, and the reward is a dozen eggs, 2 chickens, half of a bushel of barley, a basket of apples, a newly forged knife, a keg of ale, and a fine new hat.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Oxpeckers

Oxpeckers feed on blood, suckling at wounds and staining their yellow beaks red. They pull out soft, half-dead flesh for their chicks to swallow, then tear at healthy muscle for themselves. They can smell blood on the wind from miles away, and will converge on even the smallest cut. Where they range, no open injury is allowed to heal but is pecked and torn and pulled apart until the animal dies from infection, weeks later.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Blackflies

From spring until the first frost, the wetlands of Canada swarm with blackflies. Some feed on nectar, others feed on blood. Most lay their eggs in water, some lay their eggs in flesh. Most of those that lay their eggs in flesh prefer dead flesh, but there is one species that prefers the flesh of the living.

The flies are small, so small that their ovipositors cannot pierce skin. They therefore lay there eggs in whatever soft tissue they can access: open wounds, open mouths, your sinuses, your lungs, your stomach. Throughout summer moose and deer wander the wilderness, snorting blood and larvae.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Fields of the Sky

Go south. As you pass the equator, you enter the fields of the sky.

Birds rule here. Terrorbirds hunt down flocks of Ostriches and Gamebirds through the grass. The only non-avians are the snakes, which swarm the rivers, and feral cats, introduced by travelers.

The people here carve citadel-manors out of the great pillars of red stone, and surround them with tall white dovecotes. The women keep themselves meticulously hairless, the men take pride in never shaving and being as hairy as apes. The people do not craft metal, but trade honey and eggs to passing merchants in exchange for metal tools and weapons. Their weapons are therefore of a great variety, each of a different type and from a different culture.

I have not seen this land, but this is what I have heard.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Wee Folk

Two millimeters tall, wee folk are easy prey for predatory insects. They therefore seek out virtuous people to keep them safe in decorative glass terrariums. They are masters of sand-grain masonry and moss gardening, and will quickly shape their new home to suit their needs. They resent being kept in captivity,but it is better than life in the wild.

Sometimes their keepers are cruel, and put spiders in the terrarium to watch the tiny people fight. If their need is great, the wee folk will risk an expedition, undertaking a great journey from their home, down the table, across the floor, climb the bed, crawl up their keeper's nose, and set off tiny mining charges. The keeper will awaken to a strange tickling sensation, shortly before dying of internal bleeding.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Monastery

The path is almost as wide as a man's outstretched arm. Even where it snakes far up the canyon walls it roughly carved and uneven. Prospective new monks extend the path, then carve their cell into the side of the cliff. The openings are sealed with clay, into which is carved a name and a date

Every so often a cell lies open, broken out of from the inside. Sometimes a monk will choose sculpture as their method of meditation, turning their cell into an immaculate bas-relief; gardens or shrines or scenes from the Testament. These cells are kept open, for viewing.

The monk is bound in tight wrappings coarse brown fabric. The visitor is bound in pure white linen, on top of which is layered a tunic, a vest, and a turban, all of bright colors and with elaborate embroidery. They do not travel far up the cliff, but stop in front of one of the older, still sealed cells.

The monk gestured to the door, "Solomon of Babylon, withdrew 10th year", and steps back. The visitor stabs an iron bar into the ancient clay, pulling out chunks and throwing to the canyon floor.

There was no cell beyond. There was a tunnel, barely large enough to crawl through, leading deep into the earth.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Witches

In the high lands status is known by the suffix on each name. For dogs and slaves, -fet. For commoners, -het. For land lords, -thet. For wolves and outlaws, -wiv. And for witches, -wev. They exist outside normal society, neither male nor female, indulging in fashion, etiquette and morality only as it pleases them. The law neither protects nor restricts them. They cannot be legally prosecuted for any act, but neither will the law protect them from retribution.

To straddle thresholds is not unusual for spellcasters.