This is the character journal of my character Aeona Tycheweaver, an Oracle who exists at a fraying of the fabric of space-time.
Before and after the Christmas break our intrepid heroes were investigating a haunted house. Because of the break, I’ve not been writing Aeona journals. We are now Level 6. Aeona is comfortable in her combat role of chaos-bringer and general helpful gal. Occasionally she can bring the noise… sometimes not.
It has been many days since I’ve written in my journal. Not for lack of news, but lack of courage. The Third Arrow hit and hit me deep.
I did not sleep that night. When I’m with my fellow adventurers, I try to keep a porcelain demeanour. It slips occasionally, but I am erratic compared to the rest of them, so it’s lost in the noise.
Instead of sleeping I sat with my arms folded on the table, my nose peeking over the top at an apple. I would look at its pristine state, rosy, fresh and juicy. I’d blink and run its thread along ahead of it. The apple would discolour, rot and collapse. I’d blink again and run the thread back, restoring the brown mess to its red glory. Back and forward, red and brown, rosy and rotten. All just a trick of time.
The Sandpoint residents had been up in arms. Ghoul attacks blossomed across the farmlands. We investigated the farmlands (surprisingly smooth time-threads there, if I were to be honest) and found ghastly mutilations at the hands of the ghouls. Farmers sewn into macabre mockeries of scarecrows. A farmhouse of… urgh, the thought of it just brings that bit of the universe closer to me… that stench and… The men keep remarking about the gore, but they didn’t see the mess in the space-time. So many lily-white threads dipped in blood.
Vik had encouraged the dwarves and Zoran to throw the evidence together and try to formulate a plan to stop the ghoul plan. Unfortunately in our last raid, Zoran had a ghoul open up his arm and drip festering plague into the joints. He refused the help we offered him. Zoran has a freedom like an unyoked ox – he stubbornly refuses to be pulled in the right direction even if he might come to harm. He needs to have the situation presented to him and given the freedom to agree with us – you need to open doors to guide his way. But in this case, we couldn’t have a Sandpoint hero contracting ghoul fever in town and potentially infecting everyone else. Especially the bordellos.
We didn’t tell him about it, but we forced healing upon him. I had prepared to reshape his memory in case of protestations, but luckily that wasn’t required. Friends don’t let friends abuse their memories. But then again, friends don’t let friends turn into diseased abominations. I was willing to go quid pro quo.
While he was recovering, Vik and I used our natural charm to win over the townsfolk and distract them from the plague. I proudly stood in front of them with my dented crown (acquired from Thistletop) and persuaded them that all was well, we were on top of it and peace would soon reign. No-one, not the townsfolk, not Durak, not even Viktoriya had noticed the tremble in my voice. I hid the truth from everyone – even almost myself – by playing up the gloriousness of my dented crown.
As the crown says, “I am Ozymandias. Look upon my works, ye mighty and tremble.”
Aldern Foxglove was at the center of this ghoulish conspiracy. His mark had come up time and again at crime scenes. The spread of ghouls seemed to emanate from ‘Misgivings’, the old Foxglove manor. Townsfolk gossip suggested that Foxglove Manor’s eighty years of abandonment had ended with Aldern returning from Korvoza and doing curious things in the night.
Aldern himself had been absent ever since the afternoon he had tried to woo my sister and I during a boar hunt. It didn’t escape my notice that twisted love letters to me had turned up at ghoulish attacks, and he had favoured me over my sister. I am quite hot – I explained to sis that I noticed that one of the funny invariants of the universes was that I was always attractive, and always just a little more attractive than she. She threatened to summon stink beetles in my bed for that one. Hey, I can’t be responsible for the universe.
Foxglove Manor was a reasonable horse ride from Sandpoint. Vik says half a day’s ride, but that could mean anything. The house was a grand old construction on the side of a cliff overlooking the sea. Well it would be grand if the grounds didn’t radiate sickness and evil. The servants’ quarters had been burnt to the ground. I tiptoed around those threads in time as they bled black horror.
It was evident after the entrance that Foxglove Manor was haunted. Poor old Bahlek the
trap-bait ranger had enraged some spirit that rested in the stuffed Manticore in the foyer. Haunted houses are fascinating things. Full of sadness, horror and death, to be sure, but the coterminal nature of supernatural and natural, past and present, of the moment and of a lifetime… It gave the rest of the party a glimpse into how I see things. They didn’t appreciate the lesson when set alight by Manticores, strangled by scarves or attacked by purulent rats.
I was uneasy. My power mostly resides in following the threads of space and time. On occasions I can touch two threads together, often quite disparate ones. I can remind an enemy of his friend betrayal. I can bring in water from ancient oceans to quench a fire. I have no particular skill in being a loom – creating new controlled threads, nor destroying them, nor severing them for any great time. The apex of my powers is to hide a thread from reality for a few seconds (whatever that means).
Every room that we were stepping through I could see my thread spooling out, advancing to that place worse than darkness. That place with the dreadful rhythm. Of misplaced security.
I couldn’t stop my thread advancing. I tried to reshape it, butting up against spirits and violent histories.
We found Aldern’s wife Aisha in the attic. I had tried to avoid her moaning as long as possible, but the party had their own insecurities about the underground, so we ascended. She was a shade or somesuch. Gaunt face and baleful crying. Vik remembered her schooldays in religious studies: “When someone dies in a house, the occupants usually throw a blanket over mirrors.” She did and Aldern’s wife rose to her feet, her eyes seething rage, but not at us. Aldern. My relief turned into squirming fear when I realized she was following that dreaded thread down to the basement.
But I had an idea, so ridiculous but full of hope that I could escape my fate. Or at least replace it with another. I preferred a fate I chose than the alternative.
As Aisha walked by me, I said, “Well I guess we always knew Aldern found me more attractive than her.”
I winced, waiting for the rage. She ignored me. Vik stared at me, exasperated. The dwarves were pleased that she wasn’t going to attack us, so merrily followed the shade downstairs. Sis and I had a hushed argument in Infernal about what I had tried to do. I couldn’t tell her what I thought awaited us.
The wife stopped at a bloody stain in the hallway near the drawing room and tried to rip up the floorboards with her bare hands. Durak assisted her, muttering passive-aggressive dwarven quips about “houses built on wood not meant to last”. We found our way into a cavern under the house.
Inevitability dragged me down the stairs. In my nerves, I failed to protect myself when ghouls attacked us from the shadows. Not only did I brain myself with my morningstar, but a ghoul tried to eviscerate me in my stunned state. But the worst was yet to come.
The undead wife had found a door near a sinkhole leading to the sea. The sinkhole pulsed with thunderous, stinking breaths as we opened the reinforced door for the wife. She had been hellbent on revenge and we weren’t going to stop her. In any case, I was too worried about my own skin.
The wife burst into Aldern’s secret hideaway and began tearing strips off him. Zoran had caught some of the conversation and yelled out to us, “They’re coming!” Sis and I guarded the door, her excuse being to protect us from the reinforcements. My excuse was that I knew I didn’t want to be in that room.
Out of the seething sea came a gang of goblins cursed with ghoul fever. They advanced on us and one got a lucky hit in the wound the ghoul had opened not long ago. I was paralyzed and surrounded by goblins wanting to eat my insides. All my powers relied on physical mnemonics, so I couldn’t erase myself from time if I wanted. Death was coming for me from the darkness.
Vik’s half-elven heritage has always been an embarrassing Tycheweaver family quirk. Though my pure human blood utterly loved her when she picked my frozen frame up, ignoring the ghoulish paralysis attacks and took me inside, protecting our escape with earth elementals.
That is until I knew I was in Aldern’s Inner Sanctum. His body had since rotten into ghast form and he turned to me. “Ah, my darling, Aeona.” I had escaped murder into a much worse possibility. And I could do nothing about it. Inevitability in physical form.
And out of nowhere, claws tore, blades flashed, axes fell and Aldern died. His wife tore him asunder and in seeing his life-force dissipate, released herself from hate and this mortal plane.
I was alive! Alive and unmolested!
The others cleaned out the house as I demanded we burn it to the ground. To my endless frustration, the curses there would not let the place catch fire. Vik told me to accept victories where we found them and we returned to Sandpoint. We got drunk. Many young men tried to flirt with me. I told them of my near murder and rape. The men in the party assumed I had had a debaucherous night.
No. I watched an apple rot and recover, rot and recover.
In Foxglove we had found admissions of some evil conspiracy by a Xenisha. She had beckoned Aldern to help out the Brotherhood of the Seven Stars in Magnimar. Honestly, I was too out of sorts and time to take it all in. I had crested some hill in the space-time realm and was trying to get my bearings. In this thread I was keeping quiet and making a clockwork toy. It was a guardian only three inches high. It would stamp tiny steps around a bar table and try to roll bread rolls towards me. I adjusted his gears, oiled his cogs and polished his little plain face.
One day, sis might not be able to help me, so I need to make someone who can.
On the trip to Magnimar, without saying a word to anyone, I threw my dented crown into a river. I am and was no longer Ozymandias of legend.
Magnimar is a wonderful city. So full of history and curious spins of the time-thread. They have a golem-making guild, which I tried to endear myself to. They were pleased with my quaint clockwork guardian. Ostensibly we were in town to rumble Xenisha’s evil plans, but had little idea or evidence. The local authorities were helpful following a glowing recommendation of the Sandpoint heroes. Even Zoran’s past misadventures with the ladies of the town had been forgotten.
We had been given paralegal authority and an escort to investigate the Foxglove house in Magnimar. Given the horrific demise of the family in Foxglove Manor, we expected this place to be overrun with Xenisha and her goons. Armed with a warrant, a spare guard (Sergeant Donut, some regional name) and recklessness, we investigated and found something much weirder.
It was Aldern. And his wife Aisha. And not in ghoul form. Perfectly normal. In a boarded-up house. I probed the edges of their aura for magical trickery, but didn’t find any. They were radiating suspiciousness though. Durak offered to talk this out with them. So they attacked. With some care and cunning we knocked them out and tied them up. Shapechangers! We managed to arrest them, but you can never really be sure with shapechangers. Or whatever the hell they were.
We did find some platinum pieces and records indicating “Aisha” had been making regular payments to a B7 group down at the sawmill. Clearly something to do with the Brotherhood of the 7 Stars, and the whole Sihedron rune stuff, but not clear enough for the local constabulary to go arrest them.
So we needed to bring some Sandpoint justice to them. This is as much a curse as anything.
In my reflective days I wondered how I had dodged my fate. Time has always been malleable to me, up to a point. Here I had seemingly moulded my own fate, but in a mundane way. And to be brutally honest, I didn’t even do anything except triple-think everything. Vik had acted.
Since then the darkness in her roiled and bubbled. It’s a different kind of darkness though. I understand that the fabric of time and space around me is frayed, like a worn carpet. Around Vik there is something similar but instead of space-time, it’s… order? Not-quite-morality? It was comforting in its familiarity but worrying in its unknown dimensions.
I was concerned that with my own salvation that some conservation principle had kicked in. Keeping me stable had excited her. The sister that had been the dependable bellweather during my encounter with Nethys’ mind had become the darkness. The dependable rhythm of darkness. Hmm. There are many dimensions to that horrific encounter in Misgivings.
In any case, we both were quiet when the men had planned some half-baked scheme to pretend to be Aisha and uncover the Brotherhood at the lumber mill. She took me aside quietly and asked for my help, “Just in case.”
Our cunning plan involved trailing guards and then trying to deliver platinum pieces to… well we hadn’t decided who. Or how we’d recognize who. Or whether if giving a guard the money would just mean an unexpected holiday for the man.
Throwing all legality and morality out the window, we broke into the mill. Bahlek proved surprisingly adept at picking locks for a forest ranger. The mill was utterly empty. We checked the first few levels. Nothing.
We found a crate full of grotesque red suits. An image flashed in my mind: Skinsaw.
We ascended to the top floor and surprised over two dozen cultists, all wearing the red robes. They were chanting and intending to sacrifice some young man. They weren’t expecting a visit from the Sandpoint heroes (partly because we’re unknown outside that little hamlet).
Shit hit the maelstrom, but we were quicker than they. Zoran used all his reckless cunning to weave through the crowd and attempt to free the sacrifice. Durak tried chopping through them as backup. War-razors were slid from sheathes. Crossbows creaked as they were loaded. Anger and hate boiled around me. It was all too noisy.
So I stopped it.1
Sound exists only in the movement of air, and I had grabbed the thread for the air and held it still. The cultists tried to spit words at me, but nothing emerged. Movement without sound. A monk’s koan thrust into their face.
This was the first of two shocks. As the cultists struggled to defend themselves, Vik stepped into the room from the darkness.
Or should I say, Mira.
Mira is the chaos that Vik talks to in the dead of night. She has hair black like the abyss, ragged wings and murderous claws. Literally underneath all that is my sister, so while I was shocked, I understood.
As Bahlek shot arrows at the cultists, Mira tore the arms off one and dropped them at the feet of another. Any cultists that had stepped up to wreak revenge on my invocation of silence were torn to pieces by my “sister“.
It wasn’t a shakedown. It was a chaotic massacre. Revenge upon these cultists for the numerous dead farmers. For corruption and dark days, and their insistence on more dark days to come.
Cultists tried to run away, but I chased them (couldn’t have them bring reinforcements or more eye-for-an-eye reprisals). One slipped my grasp. From upstairs I heard the roar of the abyss as Mira took a shortcut through the dimension of chaos. Downstairs the wily cultist met a gory end.
The head cultist – a horrific wall of a man – had tried to flee as well. He ran into Mira at the front door next to the once-wily cultist.
Bahlek, Durak and Zoran were stunned. The dainty maiden Vik had disappeared. I tried to explain to them that she was still my sister under there. Over my shoulder, Mira was plucking fistfuls of flesh off the head cultist and casting them into the river.
I tried to bring her down to reality and push Mira back into her pocket plane. Meanwhile, Durak had punched a hole in the lumber mill and attempted to chase the head cultist. In stone armour. Luckily the stone pulled him to the river floor. Otherwise he may have been floating with the pieces of his prey. We could hear the dwarven curses before he stomped back up onto land.
Mira subsided and Vik returned. She was okay. The cultists weren’t. The lumber mill wasn’t. Our evidence trail wasn’t. Then again the guy to be sacrificed survived the ordeal. So I guess that’s something.
Later that night I tried to take a step back and examine Vik and my threads. What were once random threads that occasionally bounced off one another are now a rope. Our destinies are woven together.
For better or worse, we are the twisted sisters.
1. Okay I have to gloat here. I dropped a Silence spell on the middle of the room. Silence has a 20ft radius and that caught all 14 casters, including the big bad guy. No Will saves, because it was stationary. They were all prepared to use Command spells. They couldn’t dispel it because dispel needs speech. They couldn’t step outside because of line-of-sight and general dangerous terrain. My screw-ups in Foxglove Manor were repaid with this one brilliant spell. The DM was very unhappy.