Social Anxiety Barbarian Part 4: Deadspace and Beyond
This is a copy/paste of a fun little freeform roleplaying game my friends and I are playing together on a bulletin board on tilde.town.
Read along as our hero journeys into the memories of the dead, and from there into the void of the Beyond!
All posts in this series:
- Part one: At the mouth of the caves
- Part two: Cave Lads
- Part three: Lullaby for the dead
- Part four: Deadspace and Beyond
- Part five: The Owl's Haunt
Our hero entered the lair of the Cave Lads to retrieve a bunch a stolen ceremonial blankets and traditional costumes needed for the annual Festival of Remembering. They fought off and outsmarted a bunch of weird creatures and puzzling encounters and finally confronted the Lads and got the goods back. The Lads told our hero that it was all just a prank that they had been put up to by “the owl”.
Back at town, the Festival of Remembering is able to commence with the return of the stolen goods. People commemorate and celebrate the dead, and everything goes great until that night when the townspeople eagerly await the benign Forgotten Dead who are supposed to rise and enter the town looking for warmth and stories.
Only a handful of the dead appear, and they are suffering some kind of infection that is slowly turning them to stone. One of the dead draws an owl when questioned.
Our hero decides to go to the city of the dead, Lullaby, to investigate. There they find a member of the powerful Weavers guild collecting samples from one of the petrified dead. After a tense stand off, they agree to work together, and the enigmatic Owl comes up again.
We learn that the mushroom that accompanies the petrification process has been shown to, when burned and inhaled, plunge one's consciousness into a projection of the final moments of the person from whom the mushroom was harvested, and from there potentially to a shared landscape common to all the dead.
Our hero agrees to try the mushroom.
Which brings us to now!
101 ~dozens @ 22:27 2021/10/26
On the way to the Loominary, the weaver tells you everything they know about the mushroom.
When harvested from a body, it can be dried and burned, and inhaling the smoke allows you to enter the memories of the deceased on which it grew.
If you eat the mushroom (not recommended!) you gain the look, smell, etc. of a corpse. Humans and animals will view and treat you as dead even as you go about your business. The effect lasts for about 24 hours and/or until you take a bath.
At the Loominary, the Somnambulists prepare you for your journey.
Here's what they tell you about Deadspace:
You'll enter the memories of the deceased leading up to their death. The more you smoke, the stronger your connection to Deadspace. When the subject dies in their memories, your journey ends. You can change their memories (e.g. to prevent their death and give you more time) but doing so weakens your connection to Deadspace. When your connection breaks, you wake up weak, shivering, and vomiting.
From the initial memory, you can journey inward into the subject's deepest core memories. Or you can journey outward into deep Deadspace, into the Beyond. The Beyond is a shifting landscape with landmarks that are the same no matter whose memories you start from, suggesting that it might be some kind of persistant afterlife shared by all.
You meet your subject: one of the forgotten dead laid out on a cot. Its disease has progressed a fair bit: it is half petrified, but has been picked clean of the fungus. It has a wide gap between its two front teeth, and its left eye socket is so shallow you don't think an eye could have fit in it while it was alive. It looks at you pitifully and pleadingly.
The mushrooms have been prepared for you ahead of time. You lie down on some cushions and light the censer. The smoke fills the room and your lungs, and the sensation is unpleasant. It's like somehow falling asleep while drowning. Your heart races and feels like it will beat out of your chest even as your breathing slows and your eyes become heavy and finally close.
You jerk awake and find yourself sitting at a table in a busy tavern. There is lively music and chattering voices. The atmosphere is jolly and festive. A chorus of raucous laughing voices sings out behind you. You turn and see three friends playing cards. One of them is gathering up their winnings after winning the round. He's a gap-toothed young man with an eyepatch. “I swear,” another of them laughs. “You're going to rob us blind if you keep winning like that!”
102 ~bx @ 15:29 2021/10/31
WAIT BUT HOW CAN I SEE HIM, IF IM SUPPOSED TO BE HIM. I AM CONFUSE
103 ~dozens @ 17:01 2021/10/31
You are still yourself.
Deadspace is playing a sort of reenactment inside your head of his final moments based on his memories.
It's as though this is all a play, and you've suddenly appeared on stage.
The gap-toothed young man with the eyepatch retorts to his friend, “Rob you blind?” He taps his eyepatch. “Well, you'd be in good company!” The two of them laugh, while the third card player sitting at the table glowers and scowls.
“Tell ya what!” Eyepatch continues. “I'll buy you two another drink with the money I just took from you—haha!—and then I must bid you a good night!”
He waves at the tavern keeper, holds up two fingers, and then drops some coins on the table and stands up. “Goodnight, gentlemen!” He gives a little bow, puts on his coat, and heads for the door.
The sour friend glares at him as he goes, and the jolly friend calls after him. “Come back, Silas! You have to give us a chance to win our money back! Aw, fine then. Next time.”
Silas. You've just learned something that by definition nobody else has ever known: the name of one of the forgotten dead.
Silas will die sometime in the next few minutes.
What do you do?
104 ~Gaffen @ 11:17 2021/11/01
I EXAMINE THE THIRD CARD PLAYER, COULD THEY BE THE KILLER??
105 ~dozens @ 16:46 2021/11/01
After a moment, the jolly friend gets distracted with flirting with somebody at another table, and the sour friend discreetly grabs his coat and slips away after Silas. Is it him? Could he be the killer?
You follow him out and step into the night. It's dark and cold, and most people have the good sense to be indoors. You follow him up and down a few roads until he stops before a small stone footbridge and steps off the road into the shadow of a tree. Up on the bridge, bathed in the light of a lantern on a pole, is Silas. He sits up on the guard wall, gazing whistfully at the dark current as it rushes beneath him, dangling his feet idly in mid-air, lost in his thoughts. As you watch, the sour friend steps out of the shadow back onto the road. He reaches into his cloak and slowly creeps toward the bridge.
WHAT DO YOU DO
106 ~Gaffen @ 04:13 2021/11/03
OH NO! I TRY TO WARN SILAS HE'S IN DANGER
107 ~dozens @ 09:53 2021/11/03 [edited]
Sour Friend is almost to the bridge, and draws his hand from his cloak. He's holding something small, but you can't see what it is.
You call out just as he crosses over from the shadows into the pool of light cast by the lantern. “Silas! Watch out!”
They both whip around to face you.
Now that you can see them in the light, it looks as though Sour Friend has pulled a tobacco pipe from their cloak? He stands staring at you, momentarily frozen, scowl deepening into a surprised grimace.
Silas looks at you and at Sour Friend. “Lethe? What..” Lethe (aka Sour Friend) turns from you to look over his shoulder back at Silas.
Silas swings his legs back over the wall and hops down onto the bridge. “Lethe, who is that-”
You and Lethe both see it before Silas does. A plumicorn—a huge horned owl-like creature—swoops silently down and attacks Silas. Its sharp talons claw at his scalp and its hooked beak snaps at his fingers and wrists as Silas raises his hands to his face and falls backward against the low stone wall. Silas gasps violently, but the attack is otherwise eerily silent.
“Silas!” Lethe rushes forward as the plumicorn flies off.
Silas's hands and face are all bloodied, and he slumps against the low wall as Lethe runs to his side.
You have changed the memory. If Silas had still been sitting on the wall when the creature attacked, he would have easily pitched forward off the bridge and into the inky black water. You feel a brief wave of queasiness and your vision swims for a second as your connection to Deadspace degrades from strong to good.
Certain actions in Deadspace, such as changing a memory, weaken your connection here. When your connection breaks, you reawaken in the world of the living.
For now, Silas is alive, and Lethe is tenderly holding his hands and cradling his head, examining his wounds, a concerned scowl on his face.
109 ~dozens @ 11:55 2021/11/17 [edited]
You rush forward to see if Silas is okay.
Lethe scowls up at you while continuing to comfort and coddle Silas. You're starting to wonder whether that's just the way his face looks.
“I'm okay... I'm okay...” Silas blubbers. He has long bloody scratches on his hands and wrists and on his scalp, but none of them seem that deep or that serious. He'll be just fine.
The world around you wobbles and shimmers nauseatingly and then snaps back into place. You feel your connection to Deadspace weaken from good to okay.
Because in real life Silas died during the plumicorn attack, he has no actual memory of anything that is happening right now, and so Deadspace is struggling to maintain this memory, and to keep you in it.
You feel like you could hang out here a little longer and ask a few more questions at the risk of being ejected from Deadspace.
Or, you could venture toward either of the edges of Deadspace.
Imagine Deadspace as a donut.
From where you are currently, you could venture inward toward the “hole” into Silas's other memories. There, you could explore other core memories. Could he have formed memories after he died? Could you possibly find out who poisoned him and the other Forgotten Dead?
Or you could venture outward to the edge into the Beyond, into the communal deadspace shared by everybody. Its mysteries (and dangers) are uncharted and unknown, but might eventually lead you to other memory bubbles like this one.
Stay here? INWARD to Silas's Core Memories? OUTWARD to the Beyond?
110 ~bx @ 12:25 2021/11/17
LETS GO OUTWARD
111 ~dozens @ 17:57 2021/11/18
You step to the side and slip out of the world, leaving Silas and Lethe behind on the bridge, and emerge in the crimson void of the Beyond.
The Beyond has landmarks and denizens.
Although most of the Beyond is constantly shifting and changing, there are persistent landmarks common to every instance of Deadspace. This leads travelers to believe that the Beyond is a single experience and location shared by all the dead. Traveling between landmarks is pretty much the only way to progress through the Beyond and learn its mysteries. And if you're careful, and lucky, it can be done without provoking any hostility.
The denizens of the Beyond include the fleshless Hollow Men, whom you'd best avoid, and the enigmatic Ravenfolk, who can be bartered with.
You are currently suspended in the crimson void. There's nothing above and nothing below, yet you can stand and walk as though on firm ground.
Nearby is the towering obsidian obelisk known as the Lighthouse, usually the first landmark seen upon entering the Beyond.
In the middle distance is something that stands on two legs like a man, covered in a cloak of glittering black feathers. Its head is the bleached white skull of a large bird with a long beak and large empty eyes. One of the Ravenfolk. It faces you and stands motionless as though waiting.
112 ~Gaffen @ 02:09 2021/11/19
I GREET THE RAVEN
113 ~dozens @ 11:18 2021/11/19
You approach the ravenfolk. It stands much taller than you.
Its voice emanates from somewhere within its empty skull and seems to envelope you.
“Greetings, Living One. Tell me what brings you here, and I will tell whether I can help you.”
114 ~Gaffen @ 04:02 2021/11/22
I SEEK KNOWLADGE OF A GREAT OWL, AND A BOTH CRYSTALINE AND FUNGAL BLIGHT THAT ATTACKS THE DEAD
115 ~dozens @ 08:26 2021/11/22
The ravenfolk nods.
“That which you seek are all one and the same. I will take you to them if you are willing to trade with me. The price is a precious memory. That of a loved one. Give the memory to me, and I will show you the owl.”
116 ~cymen @ 12:58 2021/11/23
I slowly shake my head Which memory?
117 ~dozens @ 14:33 2021/11/23
Which memory indeed. Name somebody who was special to you. A parent, sibling, friend, teacher, lover, etc.
: You, the hero of BBJ Quest. Not you the human reading this.
118 ~Gaffen @ 04:08 2021/11/25
HELP ME HEAL, RAVEN, REMOVE MY PREVIOUS LOVE FROM MY MIND
119 ~dozens @ 10:29 2021/11/25
You agree to the ravenfolk's terms and offer them the memory of your lover.
Your memories flow from you like water, swiftly receding until you stand alone on the dry, sandy shore of remembrance. Your heart stops aching, but is now less full.
The sorrow and resentment is gone, but so is all of the growth and everything you learned from the relationship about yourself and life and love.
There. You are free of pain, and completely ignorant of the hazards of love.
The absence of your memory is so complete that you don't even have the capacity to wonder if it was worth it.
120 ~dozens @ 10:47 2021/11/25
The ravenfolk seems to swell and take on new vitality after feasting on your memory.
They turn and lead you away from the Lighthouse into the expansive crimson void of the Beyond.
With the help of your guide and a little bit of luck, you avoid the Hollow Men with their chattering teeth and a lumbering slavering Void Beast that sails past a little too closely for your comfort.
You rest for a while by the Iron Husk, a colossal figure that is rusted and hollowed out, lying in scattered pieces. You ask the ravenfolk about it and they tell you that it is a dead god, that it walked the spheres and inspired awe and fear before being banished to the Beyond, where it was forgotten and eventually died.
You continue on and eventually come to a cloudy lavender pool.
The ravenfolk gestures toward the pool, “The owl resides in this memory bubble, far from the prying eyes of man.”
“I have fulfilled my end of our bargain. Fare well, traveler.”
The ravenfolk explodes with a burst of inky black feathers into a flock of blackbirds and flies away into the void.
You are alone in the Beyond next to a murky purple pool.
121 ~bx @ 06:59 2021/11/28
I PUT MY HAND IN THE POOL
122 ~dozens @ 07:39 2021/11/28
You reach your hand into the pool and swish it around a bit. The pool seems to be full of a heavy swirling vaporous mist. It feels kind of cool and maybe a little damp.
Thick ropes of purple mist swirl lazily around as you agitate them, but quickly settle back down as soon as you stop.
You withdraw your hand and inspect it. Looks fine.
I guess the ravenfolk was suggesting that the owl, and the answer to who is poisoning the dead, lies through these mists..
123 ~Gaffen @ 08:03 2021/11/30
DESCEND INTO THE POOL
124 ~dozens @ 09:08 2021/11/30
There's no wading into the pool. So you just dive in.
The mist gathers with alarming quickness around in thick ropes like a hungry animal, taking on substance that it previously lacked. You resist the urge to panic as it squeezes around you and hugs you tight, thickening and darkening from lavender to deep purple to black so that you cannot see and cannot move. Surprisingly, the mist rockets you upward instead of lowering you down into the pool. You brace yourself, barely able to breathe, and squeeze your eyes tightly shut until you feel your ascent start to slow and then come to a stop. As the thick ropes loosen their grip and then melt away into nothingness, you feel soft grass beneath you and see sunshine through your still closed eyelids.
You open your eyes and find that you have been deposited in a vibrant green forest meadow carpeted with wildflowers of purple, yellow, and orange.
The sun shines warmly and there is a gentle breeze.
A small simple cottage stands next to the treeline, near which two little girls are picking flowers.
Stay tuned next time for Social Anxiety Barbarian Part 5: The Owl's Haunt!