A prisoner of Azalin, how could this be? And worst of all, the darklord is eerily happy about this. He has been quite dour towards other “guests”, but I’m different. He knows I’m the “Mist Lure” for his gate device. But, this begs the question, what horrors await once he breaks free with his Entropic Gloom cult? What horrors will the planes face? I can’t think of a way to stop him, not now at least. In the meantime, I’m simply one man against the forces of an all-powerful lich.
Author’s Note: I’ve been holding onto this idea for a year now! Ever since Ramon “escaped” Gothic Earth, I wanted to toy with something that popped into my head. I already had a “metaplot” of sorts bubbling in my head, with Azalin once again trying something. I figure this is a way to wrap this all together. Also, as to a previous reference to “Set Wands to Warpdrive”? That came before, but I wanted to tie it all together. Hell, I’ve been teasing and referencing these ideas for a while. And with that, let’s end this crossover of Planescape and Ravenloft with a domain that’s a literal crossover. But, with the truth finally out on Ramon, what to do with him next? Should he be doomed to The Mists with a successor taking over for The Planes and Wildspace? Or will he be released once more, living with a horrible guilt of his dark truth? Perhaps I should leave that to all of you. In the meantime, look out for at least one more 5th ed monster post soon!
The Mist Gate Lab of Darkon
Ahead, a laboratory with all means of bodies and strange arcane secrets. Within various cases and tubes, there are idle bodies drifting in a torpor state. He shuffles to one broken container, where he announces I was created here, in a chipper tone. I was but a project in a series of tests against The Mists. A project? My existence was merely a convenient lie in the name of collecting stories? Just another “S” for the Darklord to manipulate? It would seem that my initial escape was merely a plot, a test from The Dark Powers. But, not for me. No, the Entropic Cabal was to find and use me. This whole time, I was just a piece in some larger dark machinations, a tool to further Azalin’s torment. Seeing how The Mists are more enigmatic than The Lady of Pain, action taken against them is futile at best. But now, it is time to see if The Mist Gate will finally succeed and my purpose fulfilled as the gate key to Azalin’s portal exit. The mechanism whirs in rage, as magical fumes poor out of the circular creation. Devices warn of high arcane power use, causing a swirling black vortex to form. Azalin begins to mutter the name of his “long lost son”, Irik. Could this have been the motive? My purpose? Was it escape or an attempt at reuniting lost family? It’s all confusing, as I have heard that he had slain the child long ago. But, the Mists are rare to grant solace. Arms flailing in grandiose gesture, Azalin weaves tales about how this is the culmination of much hard work. Despite his curse to rely on help, he has at last found the perfect loophole through the follies of The Dark Powers themselves. The arrogant parade of prattling continues, only glancing back to ensure I pay attention. Even before I made my way all the way in, he only paid me enough mind to make sure I was “broken” on the way here. Just as a show of power and experimentation, a rod with a crystalline pendant pressed upon my torso. No time was wasted, as a white bolt leapt to my body, siphoning my own endurance. While slightly limp, the Lich still looked onward with expectation and want. With the help of guards, my drained body is affixed to the proper “energy mechanism” for the portal. You may have asked before, how would a portal work in The Lands of the Mists? A proper question. It’s hard to say, this working well enough to bring me back is impossible. It’s unknown if this work of diseased mad science will come to fruition. Some means of syringe-like beaks pierce and harvest some manner of power to ready the machine, with the pain nigh unfathomable. I failed to even scream, as my numb body lie limp. However, the process requires several tries. A vortex of darkness kicks up and spins for mere moments before the artifact would power down. In one instance, the outlines of Cabal members would peak from the murky void beyond. But, each time, failure. And each time, the indignation and fury of Azalin spouted about his rightful escape. As he hunched in resignation, it is given one last test… Success! As my conscious state wavers from pain, the portal wavers in its vile magnificence. A right arm extended, the mad lich looks up triumphant. His trials and tribulations, his previously foiled plans, none of those matter anymore. Salvation, at least for him, was at hand!
But, how did all of this come to be? Based on the maniacal gloating of the proud but broken darklord of Darkon, here is how I piece things. 740 of the Barovian Calendar was a cataclysm that forever changed Azalin, the Grand Conjunction. His plans to alter Strahd’s own past could have granted him the exit he wanted. Instead, with it’s foiling, the Lands of the Mists were organized anew and his very essence was damaged by the process. In time, he returned, well readied with a new scheme. The idea in 750 was simple, advancing his lichdom into something more. His ritual to become a demilich destroyed Il Aluk, as countless souls were sacrificed. Necropolis was formed, but things went terribly wrong once again. While other plans were concocted, these two events in particular wounded Azalin’s pride far more than his necessity to collaborate with others to advance his magic. While the year of the Barovian Calendar is masked to me, it would seem that Azalin has learned the nature of worlds beyond The Mists thanks to the Dark Powers’ attempts to toy with him. His experiments soon followed the disappearances of his own people. He had to learn what this meant and how he could subvert it for his gain. This lead to strange little ripples, at first resulting in messages from beyond his cursed lands. This started with other domains, then messages from the locked off Prime Material. For sure, this was success. But, he would need more for true success. He was no stranger to creating artificial beings, but they needed to be used for these disappearance tests too. In fact, they could be used to gather information while finding a way to bring others in the demiplane in hopes of swapping with the darklord. And in the end, this is where I came in. As the soul-sucking powers of the machine blaze and burn, I can’t help but think the poor souls I might have accidentally dragged into this… Some of them might be helping to power the machine as we speak! But, none of this would be possible without the folly of Vecna. His own stranded forces discovered the ways of the Gate thanks to his paradox. Azalin obtained messages of this not long after tests were a success. And thus, their plans became his plans. While the devout of Vecna have seemingly been banished from The Mists, his essence and power is still felt throughout. Even this Lich King of Darkon has been made all too aware, as he jealously searches for means to outdo the reality warped deity. As of now, we’ll see what comes of this mad arcane experiment.
A familiar black swirl forms like wavy ripples in a puddle. But instead of someone going in, the slender and handsome form of the Gentleman Caller steps out. Azalin, both dumbstruck and enraged, demands the meaning of this. The lich readies to destroy the “lesser” fiend. The response is simple, Azalin has been made a fool, far worse than prior plans. The Mist Gate has and always was The Mists itself. It is not controlled, a will controls it. It is not forged, it is simply allowed to happen. It is not traversed through techniques, travel is simply allowed and guided. Azalin questions the research, the collaborations, before realizing… its all been a campaign of misinformation and farce, skewed by tempting forces to appear as anything different. For such an intelligent man, it seems unfitting for him to fall into a sucker’s plot for years, all starting with entrusting the eponymous caller. The Caller bows with a pointer finger towards me, the chains vanishing and the piercing needles receding. With a pull of the air, he snags me as yet another prisoner as we both descend into the failing portal. He assures me that he has little interest in romancing me, for wondrous payment is almost as good as any bastard spawn or indulgence. And like Azalin, his disappointment over the gate is immense… but he might have one upper hand, in his words. The screams of rage from Azalin ring in the misty void as we jump away. The Caller’s taunts and malicious boasts wash over me, still shaken from the revelation. I’m a mere construct, my efforts in vain? Do I just collect things for The Mists? I muster only the words to ask the creature where he takes me, to which he responds by complaining that it’s no one he likes, but a ‘deal is a deal’. He does remark that he might be back to collect rightful custody… The Caller disappears, as I find myself above the smoky spires of the conspirator likely responsible for Azalin’s current pain. Do I share his blood too?
At Reality’s End
Cultural Level: Medieval (7 ) through Renaissance (9) anachronistic mix
Darklord: Zegul’Mrot the “Oinoloth”. This is the source of the Vecna conspiracy. Azalin’s exiled legions and the undead horrors that worked as a dark cabal were merely puppets. In the end, Azalin was never in control of the situation, but neither was Zegul’Mrot. This creature was an Ultroloth seeking to depose the Oinoloth in an act of pure evil, harnessing dead deities to empower a weapon capable of shattering the rival’s palace. However, one target destined for greatness became his end goal, Vecna. The Demigod Lich knew that the ‘loth was absolutely barmy, paying his “addle-coved state” no mind. However, there was strategy and long term developments in mind. Through know-how of portals, he assembled unlikely teams of heroes to stop Iuz of Oerth, who he planted with ideas of spreading Blood War influence to various Prime Worlds. This conspiracy took the heroes across various fiend-damaged worlds until one world had their nation absorbed into The Mists, the Infernal Empire of Cheliax. However, the meddling of the heroes rendered them something beyond reality, impossibilities… paradoxes. By Zegul’Mrot’s hands, the ultimate sin of the multiverse was created. They laid siege to the Burning Peaks, surprising even Kas the Betrayer himself. Ultimately, Vecna was defeated and Iuz doomed. This event caused a shattering point in time. The Mists saved themselves by purging the domain, stranding Kas somewhere in some endless void. As for Vecna? He succeeds his quest and fails at the same time, causing the paradox that made The Void a threat. The planes were only saved by a random assembly of heroes, but the terror of the paradox still lingers in the planar depths. As Zegul’Mrot was ready to gloat to the heroes on his sudden reveal, The Mists intervened. As he prepared to ready his ultimate power for his civil war, he found that his demiplane was gone. No longer was he able to harness divine power to take hold of the Grey Wastes. No longer was he preparing a deadly onslaught for command of the yugoloths. Now, he finds himself stuck in a realm that feels a mix of the lairs of Gehenna and Hades as well as the mixing melting pot of Sigil. While it has elements of his dreams of conquest, it shares much in his own personal fears. He continued to plot, now to free himself from his prison. After all, he was close to his goal, it was rightfully his!
Reality’s End, a worthy name. Like with many Darklords, Zegul’Mrot isn’t aware of the full truth. Despite his quest to steal from gods, his awareness of The Mists and other topics; he is clueless to the fact that he’s stuck in the dark lands themselves. To him, he has merely taken Sigil in his image, despite the “lesser fiends” punishing him for the act. While this was never his goal, he had settled for it as a prize, with hopes of marching to Hades some day yet. While all means of fiends are controlled under their new leader, his lair exists as a farcical mockery of the Khin-Oin, the Wasting Tower. An urban garden of spires and jagged buildings sprawls beyond a tower connected to a sinister complex, sampling influence from the Lower Planar Gate-Towns as well. The downtrodden and defeated non-fiend resident slaves carry a heavy despair. They resemble the Cagers I’ve long since become familiar with, only without the greater motives of guilds and factions. They exist in a far grimmer reality now, making them thankful even wistful for the City of Doors itself. The central formation, akin to the Wasting Tower, is a jutting work of wretched design. It fits more at home in the fiend planes than a pastiche of Sigil. If you’d prefer, it feels like a blend of the Lower Planes Gate-Towns rather than a sampling… especially since fiery smoke is all there is beyond the enclosed circular city walls. Within the throne room of his tower, artifacts of both the tanar’ri and baatezu bind Zegul’Mrot in place. Attempts to leave always result in agony and failure. It should come to no surprise that the smog and smoke swirls and chokes thsoe who try to escape, likely at the darklord’s whim. But, what has become of this darklord himself? The mutated, bloated and cut-up ultroloth sits in disdain, only acting through the fiendish proxies and agents he has accumulated within the domain. The other residents are humans and a small variety of planar-related humanoids stuck within this Lower Planes plus Cage looking nightmare. While he is incapable of moving more than centimeters at once, he can mentally see through and deliver messages to any fiendish minion of choice. Of course, his ability to see through or give new commands to his minions end at the domain’s border. His minions’ attempts to find keys and methods to escape have all failed, causing a realization to dawn; not only is his figuratively but literally trapped in this new place. His desires for more, his desires for The Grey Wastes, are a failure. Only one General in his service, another Ultroloth named Vanizthrexsus, managed to break the threshold. While his name is likely a coverup, his ability to travel and warp space in the mist lands holds true. And, given the reality rippling nature of fiends, his loyal fleets have also found ways to drift around the demiplane… almost like I have. His visions for escape are far more viable than Azalin’s ever will be.
Fiends patrol the streets, while also running amok. While the presence of tanar’ri or baatezu (once more, demons and devils for the primers) can be noticed; the yugoloths (daemons) make up the majority of the underworld population. They act as spies, security, militias, brokers, bankers and more. All other creatures are second-class citizens at best, toiling under the fiendish hierarchy. Those devoted to the Oinoloth are granted far more privileges and luxuries, including work within the central temple palace. This isn’t to say that this gloomy underworld is without some places to go, as some sliver of hope is needed to keep the non-fiend stock in line… to reference their rhetoric. The Buckets of Blood and The Mourning Gory are both taverns at polar opposites of the city’s round radius. The former is operated by the ghost of one of Zegul’Mrot’s victims, forever bound and cursed within the domain. While Old Morgan toils in service to often crude and cruel clientele, he is free once the establishment closes for the night, as lodging is not available. Following this, he pays the Darklord a nightly visit to punish him for his deeds. For a while, this wore down the dark spirit. But, as the darklord’s mind fell to madness, he has come to delight in the company and adores Old Morgan’s words. The latter is run by an Arcanaloth, Zsal’Mot, and their small troop of mezzoloth henchmen. The Gory is actually a front for peddling fiendish wares and accursed artifacts from the domain and elsewhere into The Mists. A connected black market can be accessed by leaving the back of the tavern. The Black Market itself is an intentionally creepy parody of the Gatehouse Night Market. Lights are dim and cast sickly tones, ominous fiery orbs dance about to illuminate all. Stands and stalls are stationed with strange characters, all offering various evil services or artifacts for a price beyond money. Many of these vendors have found their way onto caravans traveling the Mists, typically those of Vistani. For the many talents of the Mist Wanderers, this domain’s boons of disguise prove superior. Several Vistani tribes in The Mists have been infiltrated by at least one fiendish henchman, with motives ranging from a safe cover to corrupting the tribes themselves. But, back to Reality’s End, it’s commonplace that the fiends will use their disguising boons towards visitors and trapped outsiders too. Though, they have been known to reveal themselves to outsiders they desire to terrorize or genuinely come to hate. North of the Darklord’s temple is the House of Defiling Ritual, a fiend-only lodge dedicated to the practice of dark magic. Majority of the visitors are ultroloths and arcanaloths, due to their more arcane connections. It is here where fiends can freely ignore the disguise rulings. And even then, it’s a very loose law within the city, kept up to maintain an element of surprise. Should one wish to gain legal advising, you’re in the wrong domain. But, if you are stuck here, simply travel away from the Temple Path and onto Surveillance Street and you’ll find Zakiliuhm’s Advisory. The eponymous overseer is the “lawyer” connected to the very Darklord of the city. Should you feel wronged by the populace of Reality’s End, he’ll take your case. As one could expect, failing to read or negotiate fine print will cost your soul… sometimes more. Those who give up within the City often offer their souls to the Advisor, should they not feel like sacrificing themselves in the Tower’s temple.
The Fiendish Throne
But that leads to another truth, he no longer cares, his confinement and own negative thoughts have driven him truly barmy. His throne is a testament to what he amounts to in the end, nothing. The Daemons, Yugoloths, are already a nihilistic type; built on raw evil, fear, death and much more. It’s only natural for him to realize that escape might be a far worse fate than being little more than a sentient idol to a parody empire. Rather than face the wrath of the true Oinoloth, he much prefers being a Statue King rotting in a prison of his own choices… to take from his own words. His bloodllust has changed to a more contemplative and meditative form of evil. More true to ultroloth motives, he schemes and plots; mostly to undo and damage others. His intent for Azalin started as using him to escape, but now he simply delights in furthering his misery. In fact, he takes credit for the misinformation campaign that got Azalin back to his old schemes as well. As for his interactions with me, while his mannerisms are crude and his remarks snide, he views me as some kind of prize. In many ways, not different from Azalin considering me a specimen. He babbles on about what his life once amounted to and his many plots to be petty against others now. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. As one might imagine, he receives little in the way of visitors. Loyal subjects and slaves are within his control, but he gets no true feeling from interacting with them… save for torturing the latter and sometimes the former. One popular visitor is another fiendish presence, one that shook me down for answers. The mysterious forced dubbed “The Gentleman Caller” delights in the rival yugoloth’s fate, finding ways to evade guards just to taunt the darklord without major consequence. Often, he’ll abduct one of the human prisoners who live in toil, promising something far better. Given how the caller is probably some kind of fiend, likely a chaotic one (tanar’ri?), this is most certainly a lie. Fortunately, upon my capture by his legions of evil, the Caller wasn’t there (at least not physically).
The Dark Fiendish Overlord, former Ultroloth, gazed upon me in judgement. “The Keystone”, he calls me. His mood twisted from sullen defeat to perverse joy. He introduces his traveling general, an ultroloth given a parody of regal military garb, to discuss matters with me. This “General” rejoices in the return of “the keystone”, as he has also stolen the somewhat broken Mist Gate Machine from Azalin’s failed experiment. The gothic buttresses through the stone floors of the tower’s hall quaked, as machine parts fall from some folds in space and into the room. The Darklord points out a letter dropping from my person again, it seems the Caller has stepped away to let me suffer. Truly, a kind captor. Watching fiends reconstruct the machine for hours, I hear more of the Darklord’s many accomplishments. However, he arranges all of it in the form of questions. I ask of his involvement in the Hag Countess conspiracy, the demonic-unseelie pact, the mad fallen deva, the Ashen/Entropic Gloom, the Centrist faction shadows, The Void, Vecna and much more. With giddy glee, his form jostles and jiggles from his royal bondage. Moments later, he repeats “yes” in maniacal repetition before breaking out into crackly laughter. While not the mastermind behind countless planar tampering, he took joy in getting his disgusting claws into as many projects and ventures as possible. After all, such is the way of a particularly enterprising ‘loth. Blithering on, he explains how he stole from gods and forged paradox entities. But, if he doesn’t want to be free himself and he knows the Mist Gate is a charade, why would he care? Because, he is a ‘loth, known for hired deeds. Besides, he has made far too many enemies, especially among his own. He cackles over mentioning The Void again, as his relation to the Yellow King is mutual apathy. And with the Gentleman Caller? A trade is a trade. The berk wanted his fabled Mist Gate to flee from these parts, he shall “have” it!
No sooner is the contraption reassembled does the dapper demon emerge. A series of retorts and snide remarks are exchanged, “Chaos Creature” among others on one side and “Blood War Fence Sitter” and then some on the other. Try as I may, I only get their attention after demanding to know what’s going on. Then both turn to me, taunts of being a reject and a pet project ring in my ears now, before they turn back to each other. To the False Oinoloth, this is all entertainment. By all means, he held up his bargain, a broken and fake portal for the capture of an “interesting keystone”. He informs the “well dressed chaos rat” that he has fulfilled his terms of agreement and he can take it up with either his general or ensemble of arcanaloth “legal men”. The two clash, as the portal acts on its “own accord”, summoning followers of Vecna and forces of Azalin. The massive temple throne soon becomes a battleground of overwhelming violence; as the various factions engage in mutual malice. The paralyzed fiend, even in his state, seamlessly wards off all who oppose him. Seizing an opening, I push through the cutting blades, hacking axes, barrage of spells and legions of undead and devotees fighting armies of fiends and their cultists. Quickly battered and limping, the inviting ominous murk of the portal welcomed me. The barmy “oinoloth”, taking notice, singles me out while laughing in delightful uproar. This time, I wasn’t greeted by a black vortex, but a foggy swirl of The Mists themselves. I don’t believe I escaped, as my purpose was made all too clear. Instead, faces begin to appear in the Mists. Holmes, the murderer of Chicago, demands to know from his dark masters if he did good. The ghost captain SS Morro Castle welcomes me on my voyage. A Zombie Lord of Souragne, the first domain I came across, awaits more corpses. The Councilman of Merton renews his religious vows. The Dark Witch of Dawnsveil cackles, muttering about accursed existences. The Caller’s visage appears, he’ll have use for me in due time as he does all his children. A mixture of other faces and outbursts follow, before there is nothing but empty void… And the voice of the false-oinoloth darklord, “All are mere pawns before The Dark Powers!”
Image Credits: Stephan Martiniere – Frankenstein Lab; Konrad-Knox – Dimensional Portal; Tony DiTerlizzi – Hellbound; Might & Magic Heroes VI – Inferno;