Dregoth Viginettes - short stories


#1

A Meeting of Champions

The former champions had gathered on a mountaintop mesa, stunning views of ice capped mountains all around. Such gatherings were becoming increasingly rare in recent years. Borys rages had become infrequent, and when he did rage it was now far from the lands of the champions, meaning that they were less reliant on each other for protection.

Keltis, lately called Oronis by his followers, was the first among the champions for this particular meeting, which meant that he had the administrative task of organizing discussions among the champions. “Now”, Keltis said, “Dregoth asks to speak”.

In his true form, Dregoth was a huge dragon, almost as large as Borys himself. For convenience he was in a smaller humanoid form. Unlike the other champions, his assumed form was not that of a human, but a draconic humanoid.

Dregoth started speaking. “Look around you. The world is dying. Rajaat was right in the sense that the world must be restored back to the Blue Age, his absurd delusions about halflings being the inheritors of that world notwithstanding. We were ALSO wrong. No one believed in the human cause more than me. Indeed, I was already at war with the giants before Rajaat found me and recruited me to the cause. But humanity is too weak…“. At this point many voices were raised in objection, and Keltis interjected, “Dregoth will be heard. Order”.

The other champions thus silenced, Dregoth continued. “Humans are too weak to survive. Think – we are not human. Our humanity is mere nostalgia. Humans do not rule themselves; we rule them. The model for the superior race is not the halflings or humans, it is us. We can create a race that will stand the test of the ages, using the biological material that we possess in our own bodies”.

Abalach-Re spat out a response. “Another Cleansing War, Dregoth? We’ve put that behind us. It was a mistake that we shall not repeat again”. Among the champions there were voices of “hear hear” raised in agreement with Abalach-Re.

Dregoth laughed, a booming chuckle. “A Cleansing War? Nay. We will raise up our new, superior race, created in our image to rule over the other, lesser servitor races. We can do this by transforming our favored human followers into the superior race”.

Daskinor replied to Dregoth. “Do whatever you like. Create your ‘superior race’ to sate your vanity but stay clear of Eldaarich or you will regret it”. Lalali-Puy added, “the madness of the change may be different according to the person experiencing it. Borys is raging, our friend Dregoth here is delusional”.

The consensus was clear. Dregoth had not a single supporter among the former champions of Rajaat.

“Small minded fools”, Daskinor raged at the other champions, “this world will die and everything with it unless we take action! At the very least, let us join to restore Athas to the Blue Age!”.

This was an old debate among the champions. The champions could do much to restore Athas, but unlike Rajaat they did not have access to the energy of the sun. They had to rely on plant and animal energy. If they wanted to restore plants and water to Athas, they would have to drain enormous amounts of animal life of their life energies, including that of sentient beings like humans. Currently the champions were trying to wipe out knowledge of magic so sorcerers stealing life energy from plants would disappear, and only then would they consider a project to restore Athas. Otherwise the illicit sorcerers would simply drain the new plant life energy as fast as the champions could create it.

“You may conduct your project in your own lands, Dregoth”, Keltis said, and then added, “the champions have decided unanimously that you are to cease your metamorphosis”.

Saliva dripping from his fangs, Dregoth screeched “you have no right! None of you!”.

“This is the reason why the decision was made. You can barely contain your rage. Your thinking is impaired. Follow the decision of the collective champions, Dregoth. It is for your own benefit”.

There were some final formalities, and then the meeting was brought to a close. All of the champions returned to their abodes, including Dregoth. Back in his palace Dregoth thought of the Planar Gate. He had not mentioned this artifact to the champions because this was perhaps his greatest advantage over them. For with the Planar Gate he would be able travel the higher worlds, places beyond the reach of even Rajaat. In his discussions with the psionic intelligence of the gate he discovered that these worlds, called planes, had in many ways far more sophisticated magical traditions than Athas. He would learn all he could and then fulfill his dream.


Dregoth What if
#2

Planar Travel

Dregoth had already used the Planar Gate several times. Now he had the information he needed, he set forth to the city of Sigil ‘the city of doors’, said to be the metaphysical center of the planes. He passed through the Planar Gate into a plane the gate told him was called ‘the Outlands’, and then from there paid to use a portal into the city of doors.

Sigil amazed Dregoth, and Dregoth was not apt to be amazed. There was an incredible diversity of beings. He noticed humans, of course, but also many creatures to which he could not put a name. Dregoth paused and stared when he saw a group of orcs walk by, a race that was extinct on Athas. There must be some universal principles involved in the creation of races , Dregoth thought. Certain forms and patterns of life repeat itself, even in places isolated from the rest of the planes like Athas.

Also remarkable was the fact that Dregoth could look up and see other parts of the city hanging upside down. Dregoth supposed that where he was standing would be upside down to the people over there. The normal rules of nature were in abeyance in the planes. Truly, a remarkable place , thought Dregoth.

On this occasion Dregoth has chosen a human form, albeit a giant of a man. Standing close to seven-foot-tall, he had the body of a god of strength and youth. He wore clothes in the style of a Guistenal nobleman, eschewing armor but armored nonetheless in a very potent psionic inertial barrier, invisible to the eye.

An odd looking fellow with ashen skin, two small jutting horns on his forehead, and razor-sharp teeth approached Dregoth and said, “greetings, berk. I see that you are new to Sigil and in need of a guide. I am Nalzor Slin, master guide. May I ask where you are headed?”.

“I am looking for the curio seller, Iphegor Mandes”, Dregoth replied.

“A silver piece and I shall take you to him directly, and also tell you of the various places we see on the way”.

Dregoth agreed and went with the tout. Within a minute or two Dregoth had thoroughly delved into the mind of this Nalzor and found out what he intended. A tout this Nalzor is, but he was also a some-time criminal. Dregoth was being led into a mugging. Nalzor would also have his purse taken from him in the mugging, but it would be returned to him later, along with his share of the proceeds from mugging Dregoth. He also learned the meaning of berk , which meant fool in the dialect of Sigil. We shall see who the fool is shortly, berk, thought Dregoth.

The tout was pointing out this and that place, when he turned right into an alley way. When they were in the middle, they found themselves surrounded on both sides by toughs. The toughs were a mixed-race group. Dregoth saw humans and other creatures that were humanoid, but Dregoth did not know what they were called. The lead tough was a devil known as a barbazu, according to the memories of Nalzor. They were evil spirits of the dead supposedly, something Dregoth could believe given the diabolical leer of the ringleader.

“Give us yer jink or get put in the dead-book right fast”, said the devil.

“He means give him your money or they will kill us”. Nalzor handed over his purse to the devil. “Quickly, no amount of money is worth your life”, Nalzor added.

“Friends should not mug friends”, Dregoth said smoothly as he placed a psionic compulsion in the minds of all present, “surely a misunderstanding”.

“It wouldn’t be right, Mazza!”, said one of the muggers, and many other voiced their agreement. Mazza the devil said, “I don’t know why, but you are alright. Nalzor, why’d you bring this cutter to us?”.

“I thought he’d be a good mark. Now that I got to know him, I can see that was a mistake. I’m sorry, Dregoth”.

“This place is full of criminals. A new person like me, a clueless , could get into trouble if he fell in with the wrong people. Would you cutters mind escorting me to the shop of Iphegor Mandes? I am especially curious about where you are from, Mazza. The Nine Hells, is it? Perhaps you can tell me on the way”.

Thus charmed, the group of muggers became protectors of Dregoth on the way to to Iphegor Mandes’ shop. When they reached the shop Nalzor returned the silver piece to Dregoth, insisting that he could not charge a good friend for directions. Mazza told Dregoth where he could be found if Dregoth wanted to have a mug of Baatorian ale, saying that he was looking forward to seeing his ‘good friend’ Dregoth once more.

Dregoth then entered the shop.


#3

Iphegor’s Curio Shoppe

Dregoth’s information had been correct – of course it had been – he’d taken the information right from the mind of the Outlands merchant that offered to sell the information to him. Information thus obtained, Dregoth told the merchant that he had changed his mind.

The Iphegor’s Curio Shoppe was a genuine purveyor of magical trinkets and occult arcana. All around Dregoth were the auras of magical items, from faint auras of minor items of no consequence, to those auras shining as bright as the sun. Iphegor himself was there, and he welcomed Dregoth to his shop. “Welcome to Iphegor’s Curio Shoppe, I am Iphegor”. Iphegor was a plump human male, more than a foot shorter than Dregoth. Like Dregoth, there was more to Iphegor than meets the eye. Dregoth could see past the illusion presented by Iphegor. Beneath the illusion of that plump man, there was naught but a white skeleton entirely free of flesh wearing clothes, an undead creature.

“I am called Dregoth. I will speak plainly. I seek knowledge of lichdom”.

“Master Dregoth is very well informed. You have come to the right place, for I have such knowledge”, Iphegor said in an ingratiating voice.

They spoke then of various requirements for the process. Iphegor brought forth a book titled Lichdom, the Way to Immortality , and the author was Iphegor Mandes himself. “May I?”, asked Dregoth, and Iphegor assented to Dregoth opening the book. The book outlined the process of becoming a lich in specific terms – the phylactery , the potion , and the ritual . Dregoth was only interested in the phylactery. For the potion and the ritual, Dregoth had his own innovations that never would have occurred to Iphegor.

“I will buy your book, but I wonder – do you have a phylactery that I can see?”, Dregoth inquired. Iphegor presented the palm of his hand, and upon it materialized a phylactery, a dark brown and gold square box.

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Iphegor informed Dregoth that this was a spent phylactery, the spirit of the lich long since fled. Therefore, it was safe to examine. Dregoth informed the shop owner that he would cast a divination spell to better see the nature of the phylactery. Dregoth gathered the energy effortlessly, for unlike Athas, magical energy was everywhere on the planes. Dregoth could not take energy to cast spells from plants and animals here even if he tried.

The spell cast, Dregoth marveled at the ingenuity of the construction. He saw how the soul of the creature attuned to the phylactery would go to the phylactery if its physical body was destroyed, and how the soul could inhabit another corpse, changing it to resemble the original body.

Satisfied, Dregoth paid for the book and left Iphegor’s shop, starting his journey back to Athas. He had much work to do.


#4

Death and Undeath

Dregoth’s haste in performing the ritual turned out to be fortuitous. The other champions fell on him just two days after he successfully completed his preparations for his unique form lichdom. The attackers were Abalach-Re as the instigator with Kalak, Nibenay, Lalali-Puy, Andropinis, Tectuktitlay, and Hamanu following. He was surprised that Daskinor had not been a participant, because he had believed that Daskinor was set against him. Apparently not.

Dregoth cast his mind back to the ritual. Dregoth had followed the steps in creating the phylactery as outlined in Iphegor’s book, but as for the potion and ritual, he had his own ideas. Athas has close promixity to the Gray, and therefore Dregoth believed that he could become a hybrid kaisharga, a undead creature native to Athas but lacking a phylactery. The occult knowledge in Iphegor’s manual would allow Dregoth to combine lichdom with kaisharga, creating a new undead hybrid with the advantages of both.

Instead of the potion outlined in Iphegor’s book on lichdom, Dregoth had painstakingly prepared a fruit from a tree of death. The ritual Dregoth also changed – instead he opened a gate to the Gray to take in the energies of that plane.

Dregoth opened the gate to the Gray and ate the fruit. He could feel the necromantic energies infusing his entire being. Any normal, living creature would have died right at that moment, and become undead. But Dregoth was already immortal, and his body was able retain life. Dregoth felt a chill in his very core, perhaps his spirit, and suddenly he felt an intangible connect to the phylactery that he had created. He knew that if he died, his soul would go to the phylactery.

It did not take long for Dregoth to have to use his phylactery. Two days after the ritual his living body was destroyed, and he completed the transition into a kaisharga lich. It took Dregoth more than a week to get used to his disembodied state within the phylactery and reach out to a nearby corpse for his soul to inhabit. Once his spirit had possessed the corpse, it rapidly changed to resemble his now true form – an undead dragon.

Dregoth looked around Guistenal. It had been destroyed utterly. Not only the city, but the fields surrounding the city had been drained of every mote of life energy. Life would never come back to Guistenal. Dregoth found a few survivors, just a few hundred out of the hundreds of thousands of people that had lived in his city. He took them far below the earth, into the caverns where he had some followers that were excavating an ancient halfling settlement, and where the Planar Gate was located. In this place Dregoth had his friend, and blood relative, Mon Adderath supervising the work.

The people in the dig rejoiced to see Dregoth ‘alive’, for they had heard that Guistenal had been destroyed and they expected the same to happen to them. To the survivors, Dregoth announced that they had come through a crucible, and that the survivors were his chosen. Soon they would be made into a superior race, destined to rule the lesser races.

And thus, time passed. Dregoth created the first, failed generation of Dray, and finally perfected the process, creating the second-generation Dray. All his followers were turned into Dray except Mon Adderath. The immortality that Dregoth had previously granted Mon Adderath had the curious effect of making Mon Adderath unresponsive to Dregoth’s spells of changing.

It was after Dregoth had created his second-generation Dray that Dregoth spent much of his time on the planes, learning different traditions of magic and seeking advantages against the other former champions. For some decades, Dregoth was based in Sigil while his Mon Adderath and his templars ruled Guistenal in his stead, with Dregoth only occasionally making an appearance.


#5

Life in Sigil

Dregoth bought a residence the Clerk’s War of Sigil, in a quiet street near the Hall of Records. Sigil was the perfect base for his aims in the planes. You could buy almost anything in Sigil, obtain almost any information, or at least find out where you can. Dregoth named his residence Guistenal Hall, a set a plaque with the new name at the front. Like most places in Sigil, Guistenal Hall was quite small – at least so it looked from the outside. Inside was a different matter altogether. Dregoth used his considerable psionic powers* to make the space inside Guistenal Hall far larger than what it would appear to be from without. By doing this, Guistenal Hall was in fact one of the biggest residences in all of Sigil on the inside.

Accompanying Dregoth to Sigil this time were some of his Dray templars. They were to guard his residence and find out whatever information they can on “the gods”, gathering religious texts and so on. Dregoth found Mazza the devil once more and made him a lieutenant.

According to Mazza, he and his group of street toughs had realized later on that Dregoth had mindbended them into standing down, and Mazza was not angry but instead impressed. When Dregoth met Mazza again, Mazza asked Dregoth to take him into his service. Dregoth agreed, and Mazza told Dregoth his story.

“I ran away from the Nine Hells”, Mazza started. “I’m not sure what happened, exactly, but one day I started wondering what was in it for me. We aren’t supposed to think like that as devils. Its all about the group, our unity, our cause of ‘LAW’ and ‘EVIL’, and while I am not against those precepts, and in fact I like them quite a lot, I realized that what was happening the structure of hell was designed to disadvantage bearded devils like myself, forever dangling the possibility of a promotion which is most likely never to happen. Most of the other beards don’t think too much about anything*, but I did”.

“So it was that one day I was walking about and what do I see? A portal! And I can see through it. It went straight to the Outlands. So, I just walked through the portal, and made my way here to Sigil, and I have been here ever since. I met you the first time around 50 years ago, I think, I had had lived in Sigil for another few decades before that, so I’ve been here almost a century”.

“I’ve had a few close calls. See, they call what I did ‘desertion’. But worse, they call it ‘spiritual treason’ because I am supposed to be consigned to hell forever for whatever I did in life, a life I don’t even remember. They say that you gravitate to what you did in life as a spirit, so maybe I was a cut-throat back when I was alive. Sometimes I assume I was a human in life, but I suppose I could have been a gnome, elf, ogre or anything at all”.

“They are after me. Some have deserted, but they ALWAYS get caught. Whether it’s a day, a week, a year, a century, or a thousand years, they always bring runaways back. And when they bring me back, they are going to throw me into the pit of flame. When that happens, the Mazza you know will be gone. I’ll be ‘purified’, again a cog in the machine”.

Dregoth laughed. “Let me tell you a secret, Mazza”, Dregoth said lowering his voice, “you are under divine protection”.

*Double dimension 4th level psionic power from page 98 of Hyperconscious Explorations in Psionics.

*The average barbazu has 6 intelligence, and Mazza had 11 intelligence at the time.


#6

Confrontation and Redemption

In the years that followed Dregoth changed Mazza’s physical appearance, although not his inner essence, into that of a Dray. In the service of Dregoth, Mazza became a templar of Dregoth, and was able to cast some spells. Mazza came to believe that Dregoth was a divine being, or at least close to it, for Dregoth had *bolstered Mazzas strength and mental abilities many times over.

One day Dregoth and Mazza were returning home from the Civic Festhall Sensorium, for that was the one place where Dregoth could again feel what it is like to have life, a feeling denied to him as an undead creature. It would have been a trivial matter for Dregoth to translate through space directly home, and even Mazza possessed that power as a devil, but walking through the streets was one of the few things he was able to… appreciate is the right word, for enjoy was not something he had been able to do since becoming undead.

They walked past the Hall of Records, and they could see the clock which indicated that it was two hours before antipeak, which was sunless Sigil’s version of midnight. Few people were out on the street, although the streets in this area were well lit. Guistenal Hall was at the end of a cul-de-sac street, and the two turned into the street. They were walking towards home when first behind them, and then in front of them, creatures materialized.

It was a pack of devils on both sides. Some of them were similar to what Mazza used to look like. The leader was almost translucent, seemingly made of flame and shadow. It stood 12 feet tall, had wicked claws, wings that looks like they could cut through armor, and impossibly long and sharp fangs. Dregoth recalled the diabolical leer that Mazza had when they first met – this creature had that diabolic look one thousand-fold.

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Dregoth knew there was to be trouble, so he *split his mind into two parts, both equally active and aware. One of his minds then manifested a power to give him insight into the nature of the diabolical creature before him. Pit Fiend, the psionic query imparted, along with other information about the powers of this pit fiend.

All that happened in the moments before the pit fiend spoke. “Mazzarot! You look different, but your stench is the same. Its time you returned to hell, deserter. Oh, and don’t think you will be able to teleport away. We have the area dimensionally locked down”.

“I’m sorry, master Dregoth”, Mazza said fearfully. “You need not bother yourself on my account. That is a pit fiend, among the highest caste of hell”.

“Yes, master Dregoth ”, the pit fiend imitated, “Mazzarot belongs to Bael, Lord of the First! His eminence wants his property back”.

“This one is my believer. Any previous loyalties or ties to others were nullified when he swore himself to me as my templar. He is redeemed of his sentence to hell in his worship of me”, Dregoth stated flatly. “You will be returning empty handed – if you return at all”.

The flames around the pit fiend rose, and then it growled, “last chance. Do not interfere in the business of hell”.

Dregoth sent out a telepathic command, kill , and all hell broke loose. While Dregoth was hearing the pit fiend out, he had already sent telepathic communications to his templars in Guistenal Hall, and they came out under the cover of invisibility. Now there was mass combat betweet Dray and devil on the normally peaceful streets of Clerk’s Ward.

Mazza squared off against three glaive wielding barbazu, devils of his own caste. His three opponents worked themselves into a battle frenzy, and Mazza found himself beleaguered. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Dregoth facing the pit fiend.

A strange aura radiated out from the pit fiend. The aura was supposed to endanger fear. Dregoth felt strange. Suddenly he felt a righteous anger, a religious anger. “YOU!”, he roared at the pit fiend, “You have BLASPHEMED against ME!”. The pit fiend pointed a finger at Dregoth and spoke a word of stunning that had no effect on Dregoth. Dregoth used one of his minds to try to *crush the mind of the pit fiend. It did not kill the pit fiend, but the pit howled in agony. At the same time, Dregoth cast a spell of *crushing hand, bringing into existence a huge hand that was able to grab the pit fiend like a child grabs a doll, and started crushing the pit fiend.

In the name of King Dregoth ”, began one of Dregoth’s Dray templars as part of a spell which caused wounds to appear all over one of the devils, which then fell to the ground dead. Mazza had killed one of his foes, only to find that foe was replaced by two more. Ichor fell from his body from the many cuts he had sustained.

The pit fiend was shocked by this turn of events, but now more determined. He would finish them all, even killing his own underlings if necessary. Still locked in the grip of the crushing hand, the pit fiend prepared to unleash his most powerful spell – a meteor swarm. It might even burn down some of the residences on this street, but the pit fiend was in agony and beyond caring.

Dregoth was already in the mind of the pit fiend and saw what it intended. As the fiery meteors came flying from the direction of the pit fiend, Dregoth dropped his assumed humanoid form and became a huge, cadaverous dragon. Dregoth’s huge size kept the meteors away from the residences and other combatants. The flaming meteors knocked out some scales and sizzled Dregoth’s undead body. Looming far above the 12-foot-tall pit fiend, Dregoth’s claws lashed out at the pit fiend still being held by the magical hand, tearing great bits of flesh, shadow, and flame off the pit fiend. Then Dregoth’s great jaw gingerly tore off the head of the pit fiend. A fount of flame poured out of the pit fiends neck like blood, then it was still.

Their pit fiend leader dead, and a huge undead dragon before them, the remaining devils fled. Dregoth was glad to see that many enemies lay dead, and while his some of his Dray were wounded, none of the wounds would prove fatal after being magically healed – which the Dray templars could do themselves.

Mazza was on one knee in obeisance to Dregoth. “Is there nothing you cannot do, master?”, Mazza asked in awe.

*Mazza has 6 racial HD and 4 levels of Templar. Originally Mazza was an elite stat array barbazu with str 17, dex 16, con 16 int 11, wis 8, and cha 14. Dregoth used the fortify epic spell seed to grant Mazza a +5 inherent bonus to all his stats, which more or less convinced Mazza that Dregoth is a god. Mazzas stats after the inherent bonus not not including bonuses for templar levels are str 22, dex 21, con 21, int 16, wis 13, and cha 19. Dregoth used the transform seed to change the appearance of Mazza to that of a Dray. He hasn’t tried the metamorphosis spell, but Dregoth believes that it may be possible to turn Mazza into a real Dray (and thus un-damn Mazza from hell).

*The 4th level psion power, Schism, persisted. And the 8th level power hypercognition, to find what what the pit fiend is and its powers were.

*Psychic Crush, 5th level psionic power, augmented to 20d6 damage.

*Crushing hand, 9th level sor/wiz spell, of course.