"It is our expression that nothing can attempt to be, except by attempting to exclude something else: that that which is commonly called 'being' is a state that is wrought more or less definitely proportionately to the appearance of positive difference between that which is included and that which is excluded."
The universe of Zalchis is dying. The universe was murdered by a mad and now nameless Monocrat in the ruthless pursuit of their unholy ambitions and unquenchable thirst for vengeance for wrongs no one remembers and no one ever recorded. A wrathful figure of implacable resolve, the Monocrat built the Eight Spires and set into motion the horrific processes that resulted in the collapse of an entire universe.
Entropy stalks the outer perimeter of Zalchis like a great hungry wolf, slavering in anticipation of the inevitable, inexorable end that everyone knows is coming. Darkness permeates everything. Even the few lingering suns that reel and roll along the circumference of the Great Ring, those few that haven't been captured and enslaved by the Seneschals, grow dimmer as they waver betwixt and between a death transfixed upon the black spires of the servants of the Monocrat or the final spiral descent into the Maelstrom and ultimate extinguishment within the crushing embrace of the blasphemous Anti-Sun at the very center point of what remains of their cosmos.
In various locations throughout what remains of Zalchis, one might encounter one of the last few Orichalcum Spirals. These ancient, eldritch artifacts pre-date the Retrenchment of Parlassa by several Aeons and are the lingering legacy of a once-powerful teleportational transportation system that connected to myriads of worlds, moons and other places. Once, long ago, these mechanisms were the very backbone of a vast civilization that spanned the glittering host of stars that are no more.
Those stars are mostly gone now, dead or imprisoned or worse.
It is said that the Glyph of the Third Aeon might unlock the temporal pathways that lead back to the relict shadow-verse that persists from this long past age of mighty wonders and vast interplanetary empires.
Perhaps Nadume knows this Glyph. Possibly she might know someone who does, and who is willing to teach it to you...for a price.
Some of the remaining Orichalcum Spirals still function, most do not. Those that no longer connect to a world, or a moon, or any other such location have a tendency to open into the Maelstrom or directly into the Anti-Sun itself. It is for this reason that Orichalcum Spirals tend not to get tampered with except by those who think they know best how to wrest their secrets from them with powerful spells, impressive psychic talents or other means.
Some few, rare and specific Orichalcum Spirals in very particular places offer access unto certain of the Rogue Moons and a few well-known and well-looted sites out amongst the debris that orbits around the Outer Equator. But there are rumors of previously unknow and undocumented Orichalcum Spirals that lead to vaults, tombs and crypts long cut-off and isolated from what remains of the universe. Knowledge of such a thing would be worth much, to the right people and Powers.
The Orichalcum Spirals are a closed system. They only connect points within the dying universe of Zalchis, when they are able to maintain those connections. These gates offer no escape from Zalchis.
"It was perhaps that which certain secret cults of earth have whispered of as YOG-SOTHOTH, and which has been a deity under other names; that which the crustaceans of Yuggoth worship as the Beyond-One, and which the vaporous brains of the spiral nebulae know by an untranslatable Sign—yet in a flash the Carter-facet realised how slight and fractional all these conceptions are."
You found this gem. It is warm to the touch, almost as if it were handed to you by the hand of the artisan who just completed carving it for you. It pulses softly, in synch with your own heartbeat or mental processes. The gem seems to almost cling to your flesh. Perhaps it has a life of its own.
Over the next few days you experienced strange dreams of a truly weird place where the stars were mostly dead and the ones that survived were either imprisoned within rings of weblike metallic filaments spun from the fragments of times that-never-were, impaled upon impossible spikes of violet-cored blackness that is a condensation of space itself, or left to wander and roll about erratically through a terrible black abyss until they finally were sucked into a vortex and dragged to their deaths inside a grim and implacable Anti-Sun at the center of a Great Ring of debris accumulated from the wreckage and ruins of what once was a thriving universe.
By the third night you knew this other place as Zalchis.
Soft whispers emanate from the calmly pulsing green gem. One such as you might do well in Zalchis.
True, Zalchis is a ruined and destroyed place, but it still has much to offer and many an ambition could be furthered within the shadows of a universe such as this one. There are secrets buried beneath the rubble and lost below the bitter-barren wastes that could change everything for the right person. The wealth of empires linger on in sleeping vaults hidden behind implacably grimacing seals of enchanted metal. Incredible caches of long lost wisdom and all kinds and sorts of arcane knowledge, unspeakable blasphemies and unnameable abominations are trapped within forgotten tombs, waiting to be unleashed one last time before the universe ends. There is great power in this place. And not all of it sleeps contentedly as time runs out.
Few sleep in Zalchis, contentedly or otherwise. The Oneiric Cacophony surrounds all forms of consciousness capable of dreaming, insinuating itself into every subconscious, polluting every last nook and cranny of the collective unconscious like a tidal wave of plague crashing across all the accumulated cast-off dreams and nightmares of uncounted beings who remain within this dismal and dying place. Do not dream in Zalchis, warns the gem--it is a dangerous thing to tempt the Oneiric Cacophony.
The gem offers to teach you ways to defend your dreams, to elicit a sleepless state, or to address the matter in a variety of other ways.
Sleeping and dreaming undefended can presage a brutal and gruesome fate, often one far worse than simple death or dismemberment. One needs to learn ways to stave off sleep, to banish dreams, to erect barriers that can grant some measure of reprieve from the all pervasive echoing dissonance of the Oneiric Cacophony--but that is not the only subtle danger one must contend with in Zalchis.
Just as the uncounted dreams of unnumbered dead worlds echo and resonate within the realms of the Great Ring, the Ectosphere seeps into the manifest realms wherever the living spend any amount of time. The collapse of the universe brought about by the Monocrat's Mechanisms has exerted a tremendous pressure upon the Ectosphere, forcing it to erupt into the manifest with the slightest provocation, invitation or tiniest crack or fracture. The dead are very restless in Zalchis and they are desperate to make the most of what time remains before everything comes to an end. You will need to learn how to ward off the insinuations and temptations of the Ectosphere or lose more than your mind to the things that prowl at the very sheerest margins of separation between the manifest and what lies beyond. Crossing over between the realms is no longer a difficult task to accomplish, as in the olden days when people tried to communicate with the departed, now it is a terrible thing that erupts forth if one just stays in one place long enough. One must defend onesself from these unwanted advances and invasions.
The gem offers to teach you ways to defend your soul and to preserve your lifeforce within the dark regions of Zalchis. Some are more palatable than others, but it merely makes them available to you--the decision as to how you wish to deal with the matter is entirely yours.
As with any undertaking or venture into unknown territory, there are preparations to be made and matters to attend to, and the gem offers you advice and counsel in addressing these matters. It is very helpful, very knowledgeable and you sometimes find yourself asking just what is in it for the gem...who made this thing and what is it intended for? Why is it being so helpful?
But the gem, alas is an inanimate object and not likely to yield any satisfactory answers. All you have are vague recollections and some disturbing dreams...and a few new spells that seem to have come from nowhere. Spells that are of little use outside of certain rarified conditions or circumstances.
They are spells meant to be used in Zalchis.
Perhaps a person such as you would do well in Zalchis...
But Zalchis is not a place for the timid, nor the weak. The soft comforts of sanity are long since fled and the sleep of reason has bred horrible things in this place. Unfounded assumptions kill in Zalchis. Arrogance is its own reward. Hubris is a toxic elixir milked from the vein by Hags cackling behind golden masks in Ashadan.
The gem has bonded with you. It is comfortable with you. It is yours to use as you see fit, perhaps it can unlock more secrets of Zalchis, possibly it could teach you more of the sorts of things one requires to survive in such a dangerous place, maybe it has further uses...in Zalchis.
“There have been times when only a hair's-breadth has intervened betwixt myself and the seething devil-ridden world of madness; for the hideous knowledge, the horror- blackened memories which I have carried so long, were never meant to be borne by the human intellect. ”
Amidst the bitter wastes and the forlorn fragments of dead worlds scattered across the width, bredth and depth of the Great Ring of Zalchis, there are a number of highly specialized biomes, peculiar territories and eldritch environments that defy description. So we'll ignore them for the time being and focus instead upon those territories and terrains that we can at least attempt to describe in the hope that it might do someone somewhere some good some day.
Let us begin with the Cilia-Fields of Draxu, if for no other reason than they are close at-hand and rather notorious, and thus perhaps already somewhat familiar to at least someone in the audience. Yes, I noticed you three Scavengists and that psychodelver sitting in the back. One doesn't get to be as old as I have without being able to notice such things. Welcome. All of you. Perhaps I might prevail upon some of you to elaborate upon my presentations with what information you would be inclined to share from your field experience? Good. Good. Many thanks to you ahead of time.
So, The Cilia-Fields of Draxu. Hmmm. Yes, very unpleasant places indeed. Hungry places. Living places. The Cilia-Fields are the remnants of gargantuan bacterially-colonized arthropods that have adapted to their new ecological niches within Zalchis in spectacularly gruesome ways. Where once they were mobile, having something of a swarm-like consortium-style existence, the Cilia-Fields are now more like layers of living scrum that congeal and fester within deep ravines, nooks and gaps within the wreckage and rubble of what passes for a landscape in Zalchis. They infest deep pits and deeper abysses, growing to cover the walls of shafts and caverns alike, filling grottoes and growing rampantly over valleys and gorges to form living forests of waving cilia the size trees. Cilia that have been known to entrap, enwrap and crush to death even a Vhadduk in order to infiltrate the body and absorb all nutrients, all memories, all energies and every last bit of the victim's ectoplasm, spirit or soul.
Yes. The Cilia-Fields are vampiric, but not in an undead sense--they are exceptionally efficient at draining any and everything from their victims in order to use these ill-gotten things are building blocks for the colonys' continued growth and expansion.
The Cilia-Fields are highly territorial, possessed of a fantastic drive to acquire more and more space, to fill every nook and cranny with their flesh, and to devour all who come into their power as completely as possible. And yes, it is true: the Cilia-Fields exude their own incipient atmospheres so as to lure and entice would-be prey to come into their folds, to draw nearer to the trunks of the colossal cilia if only to refill ones air-tanks or to take a breath of air. They even manufacture a form of false-gravity in some instances, allowing their prey to wander deeper into the maze-like depths of their flesh before terminating the gravitational effect and swallowing them up like a vast carnivorous plant.
Since the Cilia-Fields of Draxu exist across a vast span of planes, timelines, phase-states, and more, they are a hazard to navigation to nearly all species and beings who attempt to travel or explore the outer surfaces or inner regions of Zalchis. They are known to tap into the Ectosphere, they drain the life from umbrallic echoes, and they greedily devour the souls of those lost within the Maelstrom whenever a particular colony achieves enough mass and is able to extend cilia outwards into the swirling curents of matter and energy falling past the Great Ring towards the central Anti-Sun. But only the most adle-pated fool would disturb such a thing as it feeds upon the last vestiges of the universe.
So of course you all now want to know how one can escape from the Cilia-Fields. I just bet you do.
Well, that will be covered in our next lecture. Class dismissed.
"What is a television apparatus to man, who has only to shut his eyes to see the most inaccessible regions of the seen and the never seen, who has only to imagine in order to pierce through walls and cause all the planetary Baghdads of his dreams to rise from the dust."
Not quite a goddess, but more than a mere demon, Nadume walks a dim and twisting path haunted by things other than ghosts. For a small quantity of your blood she can tell you your fate and for a portion of your soul she can help you to forget. Lamias fear her, succubi revile her, the barren hags of the razor crags mock her, but none of them can claim to have rejected the Tyrant Himself, who once sought to make her one of his sacrificial concubines.
It was on account of the unwanted advances of the Tyrant that Nadume first donned her smooth, silk-silver mask to conceal her beauty. No one has seen her face in over a thousand years. Some say that Nadume no longer has a face any more, that she has become an empty spirit, one cursed to spend the rest of what days remain wandering the ashen wastes where once a mighty forest grew.
It is also said, in a more quiet voice, amongst the nomads who send their young girls to wait at one of the sacred wells for Nadume, that she might teach them certain spells and grant them such blessings as is in her power to bestow. She also knows how to open the way to many desolate and abandoned places where a clever person might find something of more than passing value. But one must be careful in bargaining with Nadume, for she has many uses for men's souls.