Reins of Darkness

Ulfen: An Oral History - Chapter 10

Sometimes, in order to keep your sanity, you simply have to accept the madness around you.

I woke up, having finally finished recovering from our aquatic adventure, and made my way into another one of Shard’s futile conversations with a newly promoted Fa Kseen about the giants’ intent to ‘civilize’ the world.

Now, up to that point in my life, I had never once trusted the giants. But at least I had the sense to keep quiet about it in conversation /with them on their own ship as it rose into the heavens./

When someone – or, in this case, an entire race – is convinced they’re doing right, it’s nearly impossible to change their mind.
I will give Shard some credit, he really seemed to zero-in on Fa Kseen’s use of the term ‘steward’ – on whose behalf were the giant’s stewarding? I tried to let him know that we were of one mind, but feared giving anyone listening reason to doubt our allegience.

Unfortunately, our ability to ponder interesting thoughts was being hindered by Smash who had apparently learned how to shapeshift and was (quite literally) making a camel-headed pest of himself. I guess I should be grateful for the opportunity to end the conversation, at any rate.

We made a few last minute preparations as we neared our destination: a ‘research’ vessel that the giants placed in the heavens to block the sun nearly one thousand years ago. Believe me when I say that consciously trying NOT to fathom such a thing was only slightly less difficult then trying to figure it out.

Have you ever climbed a really high mountain? Felt how different the air and the temperature are from the valley below? Climbing out on the deck of the ship was like that, only moreso. Fortunately, the same sheild Smash used to give us safe passage to the depths of the ocean worked just as well in the heavens. Looming over us was the largest single structure I have seen at any point in my life. A giant dark ball just hanging in the pitch black sky, the faint glow of a long hidden sun just barely creeping around the edges.

The giant ship continued to drift towards the ‘vessel,’ maintaining speed even as we drew within bow shot. At this point Fa Kseen strode forward and, well, did nothing. Even as we continued within the giant’s reach until it was literally resting against his immense head, at which point we came to a full stop.

Realizing that we lacked his reach, Fa Kseen knelt down, allowing us to draw close enough to enter the giant sphere by a simple door though, as we would see, there was much more to even the simplest device aboard this ship than we realized. With a final warning that some of the features on the ship may not be working correctly after a thousand years, the giant mothership began to drift away.

Turning our attention to the task at hand, we discovered ourselves in a series of nondescript chambers, all constructed from the same strange metallic rock that the giants apparently used in all their construction. Things were in fairly good condiditon, given how long it had been drifting up here – though I can’t imagine what would have molested the giants so far from everything.

We spent some time learning (painfully, in Smash’s case) how the giants traversed the various levels of the structure – by means of a tube that altered gravity, raising or lowering individuals through openings in either the ceiling or the floor. Occasionally we encountered openings in the walls and the ceiling that revealed pipes and strange leafless trendrils – some of which were frayed and spat yellow sparks, sort of like a wet log on a fire. There were a few places where chunks of the interior were broken away and revealed glowing gems embedded in the strange material. Smash attempted to remove one using a crowbar, only to suffer a tremendous shock – as if struck by lightning. It was then that we had our first encounter with another living creature.

Frozen into stillness, Smash could only offer a loud grunt as a small /brain/ with four legs crawled from around the back of his head. I stepped forward with my axe – which produced yet another grunt – and flicked the thing away from him. It landed some distance away and suddenly /grew/ to the size of a large dog. We managed to make fairly short work of the beast, but were somewhat shaken by its sudden appearance – in both form and purpose. Rounding a nearby column, our unease continued to grow.

Slumped on the floor, wearing tattered rags and a strange gauntlet, were the skeletal remains of a giant. We attempted to ascertain the means of its death and discovered that a portion of its skull had erupted outward. It was impossible not to imagine where our attacker had come from. Even more unnerving was the fact that these remains were many, many years old – which meant that the brain creature, or others like it, had been stalking this vessel for quite some time.
Despite the fear which crept over us, I remained fascinated by the gauntlet, convinced it was a mighty weapon or tool of some sort, though I had no clue how to use it. Shard decided the best course of action would be to recruit this individual – it could demonstrate the gauntlet’s usefulness when the opportunity presented itself – and raised the deceased giant. Had we not just encountered a brain with legs, I might have been put off by this.

Eventually, we located what – to my dwarven sensibilities – look like an access level. Believing that it could likely connect to the center of this massive construct, we set off towards the warmer side (having started on the cool dark side), hoping to cross the middle at some point. Along the way, we found some sort of hovering skiff to use as transport, strange vats that turned out to produce spark which, to my further amazement, was use as a source of power for the ship’s various smaller constructs. In retrospect, I guess calling it ‘spark’ should have tipped me off …

Traveling on, we encountered an unnaturally hot spot which made us all sick. Fortunately, Shard managed to grab another key card, despite the strange mutants occupying the area. We were then set upon by a veritable herd of the brain-creatures and I finally got to see what the giant’s gauntlet was capable of – it appeared to fire a focues beam of light that split everytime it struck something. UNfortunately, the brains were immune to it. The skiff was fast enough, though, that I could circle them while Smash took them down with his enchanted bow.

(I apologize if I’m merely hitting the high points, but it’s getting late, my voice is tired and I’m rather hungry – I’ll try not to leave anything unmentioned, at the very least)

Further exploration took us out of the service level and into a massive living jungle, dancing ghosts – at which point Shard was felled but raised – and controlled – by Tenebrous without our realizing it, a crafty creature posing as a talking bunny on a stump (yes I’m serious), a massive tentacled frog-like beast, beam-weilding contructs guarding a glowing land-shark which produced that same sickening heat as before, and finally FINALLY, the controls for the entire thing.

Which Shard promptly attempted to destroy.

Apparently, Tenebrous like the permanent eclipse – I think it was originally his doing, somehow – and tried to thwart our efforts. We managed to prevent him from doing any further damage (I was seriously on the verge of re-killing him, though who knows who – or what – would have taken over at that point) and getting the station moved. That second moon? Yup, that’s it.

Unfortuanately, the giants decided that our usefulness ended with bringing back the sun, and left us no way off the vessel. There were no smaller ships or magical means down back to the surface. We did, however, discover some kind of advanced armor that could withstand the bitter cold and lack of air outside, as well as some sort of flying belt that would allow us to fall slowly and not burn to a crisp. Of course, Nash and the others wouldn’t leave the ship without loading up on spark, first.  For my part, I decided to collect several of the smaller brains – I figured they could be of use against the giants.

We finally touched back down on solid ground – three days later. But, as you well know, three days was all the world needed to become a very different place.

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