Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thomas, Chad, and I to the Dark Tower came...

This is the continuation of my first collaboration piece with other creative minds. Thomas Novosel, created the picture of the Tower as well as a dungeon map (not included in this post). Thomas created the picture first, and then my mind latched onto an idea. The idea grew, and I found that my idea could mesh with another of Thomas' called The Black Candle Society. I've included a link below to his blog entry about the society, as well as another link to his blog's main page. Read his stuff, this guy is my kind of crazy. Chad Robb has been doing a wonderful job keeping my prose from turning into the street-corner rants of a madman. Editing is often a thankless job, but it is also incredibly important to any writing project. Thank you, Chad. Thomas has come up with some awesome monsters and items that I need to get off my lazy butt and include in the write up. As always, comments, critiques, and suggestions are always welcome.

Black Candle Society:
Thomas Novosel's Main Page:

The Tower - Thomas Novosel
The Tower –
A stained brick and concrete construction, canted as it points towards the sky. A tower of right angles and straight lines in a place of curves and oblique turns. The decorations on the edifice are made of simple geometric shapes clustered together to make complex forms. The flourishes are few, corralled within the bonds of rectangles and squares, leaving the majority blank. Golden glints are cast from the few bits of brass not corroded from the elements. Broken and grimed windows run up the sides of the tower. Straight sided and curved at the top, the frames end in a spike shape at the curves' apex. Atop the tower is an incongruous temple-like structure, a profusion of etched columns supporting an arched roof. It draws the eye, seeming to have been plucked from an ancient city of art, and placed upon a basic tower as a base. Imbedded in the sands of a beach, the grains of soft browns and yellows climb up the tower's sides, placed there by the wind and water. Roads to not turn to this place, mapmakers having ignored its very existence. A tower that is setting without purpose on a beach that is working to consume it.

No door leads into the place, and the placement of the broken windows suggest there is more of it beneath the sands. Its dimensions, and very presence, suggest a tower far taller than what is seen above the sand. Its sides are misaligned, some bricks too prominent from the walls' face, others too recessed. Rows and stacks of bricks set aligned and misaligned, without apparent purpose or design. This irregularity is not a product of shoddy construction, the rows and stacks, while misaligned, are perfectly placed in regards to one another. Somehow it's walls have been shifted brick by brick, a feat that has managed to keep it structurally sound. The bricks are stained black in places, large swathes pressed into the tower's sides. Shining in the sun, the stains are coated in a waxen residue that can numb any skin it touches. Temple foundations set far above the beach, its slate roof pushing at the dome of the sky. At times parts of the walls, and even the entire temple, can be difficult to look at. Sections of brick and the temple shift perspective subtly, becoming too blurry or too sharp for the distance they are viewed at. The only way into the place is through the broken windows and their verdigris and brass frames. 

Not an exact representation, but you get the drift.
Through The Windows
The room takes up an entire level of the tower, its misaligned ceiling twenty feet overhead. Water puddles in places on the black and white checkered floor, collected from weather reaching through the empty window frames. The outer portions of the room are devoid of furniture, though the gouges in the floors mark their previous occupancy. Piled to the ceiling, taking up the center of the room, is the furniture that once was spread throughout. Tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, and other miscellanea are woven and piled atop one another. Closer inspections show that these pieces have been fused to one another, legs and seats seamlessly emerging from desktops and drawer fronts. Sodden papers adhere to the walls and floors in clumps and single pages. Their ink has run to unreadability, save for a single sheet torn in half, set dry and crisp atop a desktop with a chair emerging from it. The page is typed (or written in a perfect and bland script, for those worlds without typewriters), it reads:

The Process Company, Inc.
Lantern Branch Office

To: Edsel Q. Forsythia – Project Long Burn Supervisor
From: Mavis L. Ferris – Company Wide Projects Supervisor

I have been informed that Project: Long Burn is running behind schedule. This lack of timeliness is beginning to reach and unacceptable level. Your lack of progress has been reported to the Process board of directors. The board has given you 96 hours (Central Plane Temporal Accounting) to remedy the situation. Your reports have been reviewed, and it has been determined that the precautions you have ordered are unnecessary. Furthermore, these precautions are greatly reducing the possible profit margins that could be generated by Project: Long Burn. You must bring the Lantern Mechanism online in the allotted time, otherwise a new supervisor will be assigned to your project. Below are the flow specifications you are to implement in the Lantern Mechanism, as per Process Engineering.

Centered in the northern wall are a pair of corroded brass, sliding doors, one slid closed the other tipped onto its side. Beyond the doors is a shaft, blocked ten feet above with twists of stone and metal, below is open to the darkness below. Ajar in the north-eastern corner is a metal door, askew on its broken hinges. Beyond it is a stairwell, the stairs leading down to darkness tinged with the scent of old books and thunderstorms. The stairs are slick, water puddled in the centers and sides of concrete steps leading down.

1 – The Light Behind The Door
After the descent, with puddles sliding beneath feet, darkness held at bay with meager light, the bottom is reached. ^The stairs end in a small room, plaster bulging from the push of water beneath, hexagonal white tile slick with mildew. At the near end of the room is a wooden door, perfectly hung, the frame dry and well polished. The door's upper half framing a window frosted white, illuminated from behind. Emblazoned in bold black script are the words: Questionable Acquisitions, casting worded shadows from the window's center. A porcelain, hexagonal handle is set along the right of the door at waist height.^

^[The stairs end in a small small room. Plaster walls and tile floors warped and buckled from water, everything slick with a film of mildew. A well made door is framed in the near end of the room, its upper half a frosted window with: Questionable Acquisitions written upon it. Its nob is porcelain, hexagonal, and white.]^ - This is a possible edit Chad recommended. 

The kind of photo found orbiting the desk - By Arthur Tress
Beyond the door, a room stretched, blown out from a cube to a sphere. Floating, fixed in the center is a wooden desk, the contents of its top perfectly arranged, a lamp on its corner casting radiance on the room. A wooden chair, upholstered in red, sets floating and equally fixed behind the desk, its seat rotating upon its base. Orbiting the desk: monochrome pictures, a cigarette smoldering in a black ashtray, blank Process Company letterhead, and a host of unused office supplies. Pictures leer at those is the room, poses subtly shifting with each passing orbit. Soon, poses are completely changed, loved ones belonging to the viewer appear, then replaced by men in Victorian suits and animal masks. The floor, checked tiles of black and white curve down, out, and back up in a hemisphere. The ceiling, domed above, stretches down to meet the hemisphere of the floor, allowing no room for walls. Opposite the entrance, and degrees above the room's midpoint, is another 'door'. Rectangular, the no-color of taupe, the height of person and divided equally into three sections. Attached to the center of each section is a silver, horizontal handle with a placard and frame above it. The placards bear upon them: Acquisitions, Expenses, and Mazes. Next to the 'door', a pair of still wet rubber boots tap out 'shave and a haircut, two bits', in an never ending loop.

When pulled, each handle extends a drawer, as wide as an adult human, and made of a thin metal painted the same color as the front. Within the Acquisitions drawer is a hallway. The black and white checked floor is aligned with the drawer front, making it perpendicular to the sphere room's floor. Hallway walls, made of white plaster, covered floor to ceiling with evenly spaced picture-frames, end after fifteen feet with the floor's sharp downward drop. Opposite the drawer-door, after the drop of the floor, a door much like the one to the sphere room, its frame in the opposing wall or the ceiling of the descending floor. Questionable Practices is printed on its frosted window in gold lettering, a soft yellow light illuminating from behind. The hall is lit by long lighted cylinders set into metal frames on the ceiling. Buzzing, they shed a harsh titanium-white light that flickers almost imperceptibly in time with their noise. The relative direction of down persists until at least half of whatever, or whoever, enters the drawer's hallway. Once at least half-way, the new direction of down takes hold.

Expenses is a normal drawer, having no hallways or rooms, just a large, tattered black leather book. On its cover the words, YOUR LIFE: DEBITS AND CREDITS are embossed in flaking gold leaf. Thick and heavy, the book bears with it the unforgettable scent of gold, silver, and printed money.

Mazes is another normal drawer, containing a manila colored folder nearly overflowing with papers, and a palm sized cherry-wood box. Sealed with a silver clasp, the box contains a globe that in turn contains a city. An island filled with buildings of similar design as the tower, save they have no temples atop them. Looking through the magnifying glass, also contained in the box, one can the city is alive with movement. Minute people go about their lives as metal carriages without horses travel up and down the tiny streets, oblong silver balloons ply the 'skies', everyone oblivious to the god sized people looking in at them.

An example of some of the photos from the wall - By Bryan Durushia

1a – Hallway Imagery
Steps echo oddly, sound returning as if from a larger space, or the originating sound coming under foot after the echo's arrival. These walls, unmarred by water's corruption, are covered in pictures within frames, all of equal size and spacing. Monochrome images of figures and settings from the mundane to the bizarre. Children wearing strangely formed masks on a playground. Men and women facing away from the camera, turned towards a lonely house. Doctors and nurses wearing animal masks, standing in places far too dirty to be called hospitals. All of the pictures possess a level of depth not present in other photographs or portraits. Scenes shift as the viewer moves, giving different perspectives from differing angles. If inspected closely, the frames and pictures show themselves to be windows into times made still and colored in grays.

Sharp taps of footsteps on the checked floor approach from the door, their echoes approaching from the hall's opposite end. A flash of quick movement through the pictures, a monochrome form whipping through black and white worlds. Originating sounds of running feet moving with a humanoid form moving within the pictures. In some pictures the form is as small as the rest of the objects in frame, in others it takes up multiple pictures as if they are individual panes in a single, large window. A hiss, a flash of bone white, the swish of claws cutting the air. Movement in the pictures as the form comes back around for another swipe...

2 – Questionable Practices Beyond This Point
Five feet lays between the Questionable Practices door and the sudden drop at the end of the hallway. Checkered black and white tiles continue down the steep angled drop of the hallway, the floor of the drop ninety degrees from the current position. It continues 'downward' for twenty-feet or more before angling downward again, out of sight. A hallway of similar height and width, though its walls are lined with doors too close together to allow for rooms of any regular size. Each door along the hallway different from the others, crafted in widely varying styles and even sizes.

Questionable Practices is unlocked, the door swinging in easily on well oiled hinges without a sound. Beyond the threshold, a room of many purposes compressed into a single space: a workshop, an operation theater, a jumble of mechanical equipment, and a cone-shaped object large enough to fit two adult humans. Floors blend into one another: antiseptic white tile, bare and smooth concrete, and black rubber. Dimensions bow out and flex inwards intermittently, creating a sense of travel without movement.

A tool strewn workbench is the closest destination from the door, an oil stained wood surface covered in tools and mechanisms. Most of the tools are familiar in one aspect or another, others having purposes that may only be guessed at.

An operation theater, stadium seating around the roof that appears in one moment to be too small for humans to sit in, and in another just seems very high up and far away. Surgical tools lay scattered on the floor, metal trays overturned onto their sides near an operation table atop a hydraulic lift. Ripped sheets writhe on the tabletop, though nothing lays atop or beneath them. Stains dot the area, some large enough to be called puddles. A technicolor fluid of luminescent, shifting rainbow hues cover scalpel blades, floors, and sheets. Shifting bands of color move in the fluid, at times taking on familiar shapes that soothe the mind into a soporific state.

Strange people in strange suits.

Beyond the theater, a black rubber floor supports a large metal cone. Constructed of metal bands with a silvered surface that reflects a landscape not present in the room. Striations in the metal make it difficult to make out the exact shape of the landscape, but it appears to be barren, rocky, and gray. A small hatch is built into the cone, a tiny porthole framed near its top. Within the cone, two humanoid shapes sit, dressed in silver jumpsuits and helmets, arms and fingers frozen in mid extension towards a panel of dials and switches. 

Not exactly like the hall, but you get the idea.
2a – The Descending Halls
Doors line the hallway that descends away from the threshold of Questionable Practices. A bucking and dipping binary checker board, doors of every make, size, and color lined to either sides in irregular spacing. Down's direction reorients to the new floor angle once the ninety degree bend is passed, requiring a short fall that soon becomes a forward stumble.

Most of the doors are without windows, their handles unmoving, keeping whatever is behind them sealed away. What few doors that do have windows give strange, and often disturbing views. Rooms too narrow to be comfortable, occupants frozen in bizarre poses only to blur with sudden movements only to become frozen in a different pose afterward. Those looking in remain unnoticed, the individuals in the rooms never approaching the door. All the windowed doors are unlocked, the occupants of the rooms remain oblivious until the moment the doors are ajar to peek through the jam. Once the door is opened, the things in the room move into action...

While the floors roll, buck, and dip for over two-hundred feet, they come to a sudden stop at another ninety-degree drop. Floors lined with dark, textured granite, drawing and bouncing echoes about without regard to consistency. There are no walls to speak of, rather they have been replaced by display cases. Their glass fronts reflect the light from miniature chandeliers suspended from a ceiling that is more a void than an actual structure or plane. Reflected light makes it impossible to see more than vague and large shapes within the cases, a closer look is needed to see their contents.

This would totally fit in with the other displays.

2b – The Exhibit Halls
Another dropping step is needed to enter the hall, the down direction once again reorienting to the granite floors of the new hall. Lighting is dim in the halls, save for directly under the miniature chandeliers where the light is almost blinding. Within each case is anthropological scene involving humans, and rarely, human-like beings in all manner of dress and in all manner of environment. Below each case is a brass plaque with the following format:

The People [Name] of World No. - [Number]

Each different scene has a different name for the people depicted within it, and a different number for the 'world' they must come from. The displays and their windows are nine feet on a side, with five lining either side of the fifty foot hallway before it comes to another ninety-degree drop.

Another ninety-degree drop in angle, another display case lined hall of the exact same proportions and make. As with the first hallway, these cases are impossible to see within without being near them. Once again another drop step reorientates the explorer to the new direction of down.

Display cases in the new hallway exhibit creatures instead of people, though the variance from 'normal' animals can be considerable. Shapes, skins, colors, means of movement, even taxonomic classifications can vary widely between exhibits, though none can be called familiar in the loosest of terms. Below each display is a brass plaque with the following:

Binomial Name:[Name] Common Name: [Name]  World No.: [Number]

Just as with the first hallway, there are five displays on either side of the hall, though this one ends in a set of metal double-doors.

3 – Double Doors to A Questionable Environment
Two stainless steel doors, set into a black iron frame marks the end of the animal display hall. Stylized scenes of industry are set into the doors, re-imagining the male and female forms in idealized clean lines. Figures toiling over geared machines, working diligently on tables with evenly space containers, and people holding aloft strange objects with halo-like rays bursting from them. Atop, and inset on, the door frame are figures made in a more natural style, though the condition of their bodies are incredibly unhealthy. Either morbidly obese or thin to the point of starvation, the figures lay about clutching bottles, trays of food, or weapons held to their chests. All of the figures stare sadly out at whoever stands before the door.

Each door has elongated, cubical rectangles for handles, the edges sharp enough to hurt the hand that squeezes too tightly. Set into the granite floor before the door is a mosaic of white and black tile that spells out 'Questionable Environments'. The doors and unlocked, and weighted so that they open with ease.

Kinda like this, only with black velvet leaves.
Dim blue illumination allows the features of the room to be seen, but creates a multitude of pitch back shadows. Objects in the room are the colors of silver and the night, dark blues, blacks, and white of the moon among silver forms. Stepping stones styled and colored to appear like the phases of the moon, arranged in a path straight away from the doors. One both sides of the path are a four stylized trees made of stainless steel with a mirror finish. All natural curves have been removed and replaces with straight lines at precise angles, rounded edges made razor sharp. Leaves on the trees, made to look like oaks, and the grass on the ground is made of black velvet. Three additional rows of four move away from either side of the path, creating a mirrored grid upon black velvet. At the path's end, is an upturned hemisphere, also styled and colored to be a perfect rendition of the moon. The half-moon is a basin, roughly thirty-feet across, filled with crystal clear water, a set of hemisphere moon steps leading up to the rim. At the far end of the pool is a small cratered island, its color a lunar off-white, from its center a golden ladder reaches to the room's far ceiling. Its golden rungs climb eighty feet into the air, disappearing into a perfectly circular hole shedding a dim white light. Bright, electric blue stars dot the black ceiling in a grid pattern, the stars being the primary light source of the room. Luminous, amorphous shapes dart in the depths of the water, and the cover of the shadows. Deeper into the room someone travels, the more agitated the luminous shapes become until they dart in for the attack.

The object in the sphere room looks like this, but only WAY more fancy.

4 – A Climb to a Questionable Heaven
After climbing for what seems like hours for some, or possibly seconds for others, the inside of the moon is reached. Spherical, and nearly sixty feet across, its walls emit the same soft illumination of the moon on a warm summer's night. Hundreds of bulges ringed by thin and deep depressions cover the surface of the room, making movement somewhat difficult. Occupying the center of the place is a gold and silver construction, roughly the size of a carriage. Its golden base is covered in lifelike and detailed reliefs of angels as well as robed men and women bearing halos. Extending from the base are four scaffold-like legs festooned with angelic reliefs and curving ornamentation. Atop the base is a silver egg shaped structure, covered in equally detailed and lifelike reliefs of men and women dressed in odd jumpsuits. Attached to the jumpsuits are boxes, ports, and hoses bearing clasps, switches, and nobs in an almost random profusion. The silver figures too stare upward, arms and fingers pointing out at some distant, and unseen, object. Set into the far side of the wall is a large gray metal door, a small round porthole at its top, the porthole's glass cracked. In the center of the door is a wide wheel, its spokes radiating out of a dark gray bolt. A golden ladder, similar to the one leading to this room, leads up to a small, railed platform set before the wheeled door. Looking out of the porthole window only gives a distorted and refracted view of a dimly lit room, filled with vague shapes.