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.