I wonder what it’s like to die? With mayhem and butchery all around, it’s hard not to think of it. Koyo has been brought back from the brink once and Fenn has met oblivion twice. What is on the other side of mortality? The theologians say that Pharasma waits for us all, separates the good from the evil, just from unjust, and directs souls to their rightful end. The good souls are spirited to the positive energy plane where they are slowly recycled back to the universe through the gates at the hearts of stars. Thus life springs anew from death as we are all cleansed in the heart of our stars.
Or maybe we just go through an endless cycle of suffering from which there is no escape and reality is a prison. Fenn might know, but he sure isn’t telling. Maybe I didn’t do him any favors bringing him back.
Despair has taken hold of my insides like a parasite, gnawing away at me. Maybe it is this place, the things we have seen that cannot be unseen. This plane is sickening. Every breath tastes of decay and depravity. If this is the place that gave birth to Baba Yaga, no wonder she is what she is.
Fenn, freshly back from an early grave, teleported us back the compounds cathedral from which we would continue to look for Rasputin and Baba Yaga. Everyone got back in the magic bag and I stealthily approached some nearby buildings.
Peering in one of the windows of a long warehouse, I saw the entire interior covered from floor to ceiling in blood, entrails, and flesh. Muscles and sinew had been stretched taught on hooks and intestines were strung from the rafters. A single figure could be seen inside reveling in the carnage of countless bodies. I was going to move on when I saw something more: 2 children. There were 2 children huddled inside at the back, looking scared and confused. We couldn’t walk away from this.
I thought that perhaps I could use the robe of etherealness we had found earlier to slip in and grab them, but once I put it on I caught fire. Even worse I couldn’t remove it. I had been cursed for the second time that day!
I hastily barged through the door of the slaughterhouse to get out of plane sight in the yard and unceremoniously dumped my companions out of the bag, only Koyo landing on her feet. The vile being before us was clothed in chains and gore-soaked rags and when I looked closely, he seemed to grow extra arms that looked suspiciously like my own. Taryn must have had a similar reaction as we were both momentarily stunned.
Selene and Koyo went after it while Fenn shot beams of fire from his outstretched fingers. I conjured a stone wall between us and the children to protect them and Taryn jumped in to the melee with swords swinging. The creature seemed to regenerate to some degree, but was locked down pretty quickly by overwhelming numbers on our part.
Selene was able to both protect me from the burning of the cursed robe and remove it from me, Sarenrae’s glory!
The children – a boy and girl – remembered nothing of how they got to the camp, but they knew Rasputin. They knew him as some kind of healer, having healed their father, who despite that had apparently died later on. I inquired if the little girl was Anastasia. She confirmed that she was and that she and her brother, the boy, were both royalty. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that there mother was dead. For now it was just important that they were safe.
Oddly, the boy resembled one of the animated dreams that had attacked us earlier. What were these children doing here and what was being done to them?
As I pondered the boy’s incorporeal doppelgänger I couldn’t help but be reminded of something else I had seen earlier that day. Before retreating to the Hut to resurrect Fenn, I had stepped outside the cabin alone to see one more nearby structure. It was a spring of water surrounded by various statues of unrecognizable men and women. The spring flowed unnaturally as in the current wintery conditions it should have been frozen. I leaned over to look into the waters and save my own dark reflection looking back. I turned to return to my companions, but noticed that my reflection lingered momentarily in the waters, my face contorted and sinister, a monster from a nightmare. Hollow eyes had replaced my own and seemed to be gazing into me rather than back at me. Then it was gone and I expeditiously returned to my companions.
Witchcraft. Blood. Dark Reflections. Death from Life. Life from Death. All things repeating, endlessly repeating. Golarion, Triaxus, and Earth. Connected by ley lines and Baba Yaga’s bread crumbs. Are the Rider’s hunters or prey? What is the World Engine?