Holes/Session 33

A fragment of the Garden of Remembering

INT. Horrible nightmare realm
Rhu is still in a horrible nightmare world. It's horrible. And nightmarish. He's facing an enormous red toad eye peering at him out of the wall. There are creepy voices emanating from nowhere in particular.
Rhu takes his mask off to check if he can still hear the creepy voices without it on - he can. Things feel relatively normal without it, too. The air, the smell - what is that smell? The walls feel like the inside of a cat. Not hairy, just smooth and moist.
Rhu puts the mask back on and uses his sleeve to try to wipe the eye gently. The eye doesn't feel hairy at all - it feels wet and smooth and the cloth sort of sticks to it.
Then the pupil contracts and the eye, despite being part of the entire way, tries to shrink away, rumbling the entire place, whatever the place is.
Rhu supports himself against the membranous hairy walls to avoid falling over.
Woah, hairy place ... woah ...
Something sticky and viscous drips on Rhu's head. Rhu ignores it for now and continues trying to steady himself as the rumbling dies down.
He looks around. (rolled 30 perception) Nothing really stands out, but the voices continue behind the rumbling, getting louder and frantic and saying uncertain things about other things. Lunch is missing.
Then the rumbling stops. The place is still. The walls ooze. More viscous stuff falls on Rhu's shoulder.
Rhu looks for an opening, glancing occasionally at the tunnel that he tried to climb through earlier to make sure it was still open. (rolled 31 perception)
Rhu gingerly pokes at the ooze. It's dark and sticky and looks like it's covered in hair.
There seems to be a crack in the other wall. A whole lot of ooze came out of that. Rhu heads toward it.
Gaurav (Rhu): It was great playing with you guys, and I hope whatever character I role next is less liable to fall into the digestive systems of basements.
Ganelon (Radek): That is a rather naive hope.
Rhu tries to enlarge the crack with his hands and look through - it looks like a passage has opened, though it's uncertain where to. But it's big enough to fit a person.
Rhu steps through the crack. Everything is dark and sticky and furry. He has to crawl to make progress, and so he crawls.
This goes on for awhile.

INT. Dorgin town inn - night
The party has someone to meet tomorrow, but for now they're just... doing random stuff. Amadi and Greibel are dancing. Radek is having no part in it; he's sitting alone at a table just pondering and tinkering.
Townsfolk have been trickling in, amidst some chatter of the current weirdness and a fair number of rather bad jokes.
Ganelon (Radek): Radek spends an hour to make... HEDGE WIZARD'S GLOVES. (cost: 840 piles of dust)
Bear Soup Guy (Greibel): This is no time for gardening!
When he finishes, we find Amadi dressed up as Old Gregg and leering at Gravy. He ignores her. She produces Baileys and a glass of it appears in front of everyone.
Ganelon (Radek): The gloves allow their wearer to use two wizard cantrips - one makes hands that can carry small objects and manipulate things, the other is Prestidigitation and does 'everything'.
  • Change colours of, clean, soil, chill, warm, or flavour 1 ft cubed of matter...
  • Create a small image or item that vanishes a few seconds later
  • Make a small handheld item invisible for a likewise brief period.
  • Light or extinguish... light sources. Campfires are mentioned.
  • Create harmless sensory effects.
Gaurav (Rhu): "Flavour 1 ft cubed of matter" ... hmm.
Ganelon (Radek): Yep, I can make stone taste delicious to you.
Gaurav (Rhu): We could turn the Hole into a lollipop and get Amadi to eat it.
Ganelon (Radek): So once he's done making them, obviously he has to test them out.
Radek stares into the Baileys balefully. He doesn't drink. Literally.
Gravy starts to drink his, but Radek interrupts him.
Hey, do you want that to taste like something else? Literally anything.
(he pauses to think)
Lemonade. Chicken lemonade. Chickenade?
The limit is... well, I suppose my imagination.
Your imagination?
So... wires and chrome? That does not sound tasty.
Radek touches the glass with his gloves, and the Baileys takes on the flavour of his closest approximation to Chickenade. (rolled 23 ancient history to get the chickenade right)
...Just try it.
Let me know if I remember the sensation of taste correctly.
Amadi sits on the bar and giggles.
The chickenade Baileys tastes a bit like cream of lemon chicken soup. It is rather chickeny, and a bit fried-like.
Radek sits content with the fact that that his memory of food is apparently still good enough, though he's rocking out in his head.
Meanwhile Greibel is trying to perform a magic trick for a disinterested but polite bar patron who seems to to be unhappy despite wearing a very funny hat.
Greibel makes several flourishing motions before removing the patron's hat, setting it on the table, hitting it with a hammer, picking it back up, reaching inside, and pulling out the destroyed remains of three eggs
The patron looks at Greibel disgruntledly, takes the hat back, shakes it out, then realises it's got egg stuck to the inside.
Greibel grins sheepishly. The patron sighs, wipes it on his trousers, and puts it back on.
Gravy heads out and wanders around the outskirts of town for zombies and herbs. The bard in the grave screeches at his as he passes. All in all, he finds some hallucinogenic plants, hears some random howling, determines that the howling was not probably not chickens (rolled 23 nature to see if the howling was chickens) and instead possibly a moose, and then heads back.

Ganelon (Radek): I think... yes, tonight, Radek is going to explore the possibility of making his bomb an un-bomb. Something that can close holes and mend craters rather than create them.
Apheori (GM): How would it work?
Ganelon (Radek): He wants to see if it can create stuff rather than simply energy. Whatever stuff the environment lacks.

Ganelon (Radek): Of course, a bomb that converts explosive energy into mass is fascinating enough on its own.

But in particular, we're talking about creating whatever is lacking that causes holes to appear. Stuff on the most fundamental level. Reality.
Gaurav (Rhu): Hmm, interesting. Somehow I imagined the holes more like ... necrosis. Like skin just tearing apart and then there's a gap. So I've been thinking about closing them in clotting/stitching metaphors
Ganelon (Radek): That could be accurate. Of course, we're debating the metaphysical properties of a fictional world that may have never made sense to begin with.
Apheori (GM): So energy-based matter synthesis according to what should be in a space but isn't?
Ganelon (Radek): The latter would most assuredly be reliant on magic. Energy to matter is theoretically possible to achieve through our understanding of modern science. "What used to be here"... is more complicated.
While Radek ponders, Amadi is sitting on the bar, dressed like Old Gregg, singing about pickles. Then she suddenly giggles and falls over backwards behind the bar.
The barkeep mutters something about how maybe they need a new bar.
Gravy comes back inside, wordlessly thrusts the plants he found at Greibel, and goes to bother Radek.
Ganelon (Radek): Not that you need one, but is there a purpose to this bebotheration?
Frezak (Gravy): Yes. Gravy is sure that Radek needs good old bothering to keep him grounded.
Greibel inspects the hallucinogenic (rolled 23 nature) and finds it not only to be a mild hallucinogen, but also likely to be very, very stinky if smoked.
Frezak (Gravy): Actually. I want to roll Arcana. To say soemthing smart. (rolled 21 arcana)
Have you considered that you're overlookign the resonant disharmony between planar frequencies?
Oooh, look at the shine on that shovel.
Radek does a double-take.
...What did you just say?
It's this polish.
Got it before this thing started, made from authentic materials!
No, no, before that.
Oh, that.
(he shrugs)
Well, I was wondering whether the Holes were a result of dissonance between planes, and were more like mass molecular gaps than actual holes.
(he glances toward the door)
I should drag that bard out. Before he's eaten by moose.
Gravy plods out and drag the bard out of the grave. The bard thanks him by howling at him and then trying to hump his leg.
Ganelon (Radek): Let's see if I can roll an Arcana bad enough to be under that result.
Radek has an epiphany (rolled 32 arcana). Something about the nature of holes. He stands up and ends up catching his beard on something.
Frezak (Gravy): Leaving pieces of his POWER behind. As in beard.
That's- agh!
(he gets his beard free)
THAT'S IT! Gravedigger, you're promoted!
Gravy had been completely wrong about the dissonance, of course, but it gave Radek an idea - the holes are gaps. And in gaps, there has to be something, even if it is nothing. And magic invariably interacts with these things.
And that is what the problem with the magic was. It's not the doing spells badly that opens the holes. It's that there's something genuinely wrong with the magic itself here. Something eating at it. So far you only run into it when you bork a spell in a particular way, but it will only get worse in time. On a geological scale, that is. Perhaps astronomical. But eventually, all magic may do it. Any at all. Whatever that something is, you need to find it. And have Greibel smoke it?
No, that last bit was ridiculous.
By now, Greibel has started smoking the weird stinky plant. The tavern is getting really stinky. People are making horrible faces and groaning in disgust.
Greibel continues puffing away, oblivious to the discomfort around him. He blows some smoke rings. Some people start to leave, coughing.
The barkeep politely asks Greibel to leave. Greibel frowns slightly at this, but then walks out to smoke in the alley instead. This does nothing for the lingering smell, but nobody remaining seems to care much anymore.
Outside, Greibel runs into some the people who already left. For some reason they all look like bubbles to him. Possibly upset bubbles.
Most of them start to move away from him, some probably heading home. Greibel laughs for no apparent reason, which apparently sufficiently unnerves the others that they also leave him alone.
Meanwhile Radek deactivates his nose and makes Gravy a pair of awesome boots.
Frezak (Gravy): You have tailoring?
Ganelon (Radek): Hell no, he robs some drunk of his fucking boots and uses magic to reshape and resize them.
Frezak (Gravy): Look, if you really needed boots I'm sure there's another way.
Apheori (GM): Why, does anyone in the party actually have morals?
Gaurav (Rhu): Rhu has morals! They're very annoying.
Frezak (Gravy): You're being digested by a cellar! Your morals don't count!
The bard runs in and starts singing about what he sees, and, subsequently, smells, and a random patron helpfully gets up, clubs the bard over the head with his mug, and then goes back to whatever he was doing.
The Gravedigger sighs and drags the bard back out into the grave, then picks up Greibel, who fell asleep in an alley, and hauls him over to the guardhouse, which seems like as good of a place as any to squat for the night.
Radek eventually relocates there as well, for whatever reason.

INT. Horrible nightmare realm
Rhu crawls through the tunnel full of strange whisperings and hairy darkness. It gets tighter as he goes.
That goes on for awhile. Rhu loses whatever track of time he had to begin with.
At some point he tires a bit and stops for awhile. Lies on the side of the tunnel. Listens to the voices. (rolled 28 perception on voices)
The voices are whispering in his mind, and Rhu realises for the first time tha he's not actually hearing them with his ears.
Gaurav (Rhu): How do you tell that something is "in your mind"? What would that feel like? especially when Rhu has no other context on what is going on aurally around him.
Apheori (GM): ...normal, except where it isn't.
Rhu tries to voice his own thoughts in his head and see how it compares with the other voices. The thought-voice is similar, but a lot less distinct. Not that the others are individually distinct, but there are a lot of them. Or something.
Hmm. Strange.
Rhu takes a deep breath, and continues crawling. He doesn't try to stop for sleep. He doesn't like how tiny and suffocating the tunnel is, and would rather rest once he's sure that there's a way out.
And so Rhu crawls deeper into the nightmare...