Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Without Malice

John Masefield was not a great poet.

He kind of was great, just interspersed with 'good' and 'maybe slightly flat sometimes'. If you took all his great lines and put them in one book he would rival the great romantics, but they don't all appear in one book.

In this case my affection for his character and inner nature means that his flaws make him even more likeable to me, an achievable man you can imagine meeting rather than an ariel talent.

A Kirby-esque force of positivity. A self-taught poet who rhymes like a child and doesn't care at all. Boxing fan, ex sailor, probably the most hard working and most quickly forgotten poet lauriat we have ever had and, if you combine his love of adventure, the imagination, sometimes violence and THE SEA, you get a very D&D poet.

From 'Wonderings'

I do not know the day, the month, the year:
it was a green time, when the sky was clear;
I was then five or six, in open air,
When suddenly a doorway opened there.
An ecstasy discovered that my mind
Had every wonder that I wished to find,
Limitless strength, to see and create,
A wealth of phantasy, past telling great,
Power to call at will, to see and sway
Peoples and creatures infinitely gay,
Things in perfection, landscapes, forests, seas,
And I, who summoned, king of all of these,
King of a world to enter when I chose,
(O desert spring, O rock-delighting rose).

Instantly then, I summoned, to my joy
The tiny people suited to a boy,
A fairy people, who, in daily dreams
Provisioned ships, and sailed, exploring streams,
Familiar streams, but past the points I knew,
Where undreamed fruits and unseen flowers grew,
Where, in some bay, they purchased priceless things,
LIttle Green Hairstreaks', Purple Emperors' wings,
Crest feathers plucked at night by indian men
Scarlet from woodpecker, or gold from wren,
Or blue-green flash, or golden-tawney gleam
Dropped by the 'fisher skimming down the stream.

Yesterday Malice died. Malice Aforthough the white elf assassin who has been playing in the same game with my characters for.. not sure. Maybe two, three years? I know he's seen three of them come and go so far and I remember carrying around his petrified body for a loong fucking time till we could get him un frozen.

I've spent more time with this imaginary person that I have with many real people. It's weird that he's dead.

(Of course being dead isn't that big a problem at level 11+ but, thanks partially to my errors he's converted to green slime and then de-evolved to two mutually incompatible evolutionary ancestors, so he's more dead than dead really.)

Anyway, the following from Masefield seems appropriate, in all his somewhat-creaky, sometimes inspired enormously (to me) likeable self;

From 'The Ending'

And as she advanced, towing southward, those watchers of ships,
Sang from their places a song of the outgoing spirit
A cry to all farers on ways upon water or earth.

"Adventure on companion, for this
Is God's most greatest gift, the thing that is.
Take it, although it lead to the abyss.

Ceaselessly, like the sunlight, life is spilled
Into these channels till the purpose willed
Meet with the End that is to be fulfilled.

A little hour is given to apprehend
Divine companions from the mortal friend
From mortal hearts, a life that cannot end.

Go forth to seek: the quarry never found
Is still a fever to the questing hound,
The skyline is a promise, not a bound.

Therefore, go forth, companion: when you find
No highway more, no track, all being blind
The way to go shall glimmer in the mind.

Though you have conquered Earth and charted Sea
And planned the courses of all Stars that be,
Adventure on, more wonders are in Thee.

Adventure on, for from the littlest clue
Has come whatever worth man ever knew ;
The next to lighten all men may be you.

Adventure on, and if you suffer, swear
That the next venturer shall have less to bear;
Your way will be retrodden, make it fair.

Think, though you thunder on in might and pride,
Others may follow fainting, without guide,
Burn out a trackway for them; blaze it wide.

Only one banner, Hope: only one star
To steer by, Hope, a dim one seen afar
yet naught will vanquish Hope and nothing bar.

Your Hope is what you venture for, your Hope
is but the shadowed semblance of your scope,
The chink of gleaming towards which you grope.

What though the gleam be but a feeble one,
Go on, the man behind you might have none;
Even the dimmest gleam is from the sun.

All beauty is. No paradise of flowers;
No quiet triumph of perfected powers;
It lives in the attempt to make it ours.

All power is; but with retarding thrift
The watching Strengths administer this gift;
Man's paces as a spirit are not swift.

All that has been imagined from of old
Is, but more glorious a thousandfold;
The pebble lightens, and the clay is gold.

And you, the gray thing dragging on the sea,
Go as a man goes in Eternity
Under a crown of stars to Destiny.

Therefore adventure forth with valiant heart
Knowing that in the utmost stretch of art
Life communes with its heavenly counterpart."

So singing, the Watchers beheld her go on in the dusk;
The evening star brightened the dimness; Pentire dimmed down,
The lights of Land's End were beacons to show her the way.

Monday, 23 November 2015


Fire is change and the Plane of Fire is a halo of violent exchange between the other planes, rendering earth into magma and water into air, where time fades into distance and distance into time.

Seen from inside, it is a stable maze and the other planes flicker in and out of being, shifting constantly, real only as they burn or are the products of burning. From within it is a still and constant, though labyrinthine, layer to an ever changing cosmos, the roots of which are every fuel, every burning tree, every candle flame, every star, supporting ghostlike realities that rise up out of it like dark arches, tendrils of iron and soot.

An aleph of fire, of every fire that has ever been and ever will be, citadels of star fields spread like labyrinths, burning every colour of the star from its birth to its long, slow death, radial cities, bright and white and pure at the centre and yellow and fine a layer out and then the long low fields of infra-red that represent the dying of the star.

Some bounded by blue-white neutron maquis, the long gusting plasmic seas of a supernova or a fierce city wall of cherenkov radiation mixed with interstellar black, the sign of an eventual black hole.

The cities are like mazes, founded on ultra-dense materials and are one of the few stable places in the plane of fire. Out on their borders is the darkening maze, the place with no foundations where your footing can fall away at any time, you can disappear down into the dark beneath, never seen again.

But out there are small archipelagos of fire, the fires of worlds.

Most are blue-white jagged labyrinths made from every bolt of lighting in a cycling storm, all seen as one, wrapped around the low domes of the red tectonic mazes reaching down into the plane of earth.

But some have life. Living worlds have living fires, wild forest fires of wood and air, the fires of burning plains and sometimes burning cities, strange and unearthly places to the dwellers of the Plane of Fire for their foundations are truly cites, like those of the stars, yet made of fuel. The burning products of culture and thought are places of strange fascination to the beings of fire, signs of life and intelligence of an alien and impossible kind, fey citadels appearing in the wilderness.

And within them, burning people, real only for a moment on the Plane of Fire, coughing out brief prophecies in unknown tongues, then disappearing like ghosts, spiralling invisible into the carbon archways that bar the gateways to the plane of Air.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Shrinking the 5e stat block

This is me trying to turn the overloaded-as-fuck 5e stat block into something that doesn't make me want to vom.

As usual I am requesting that other people do my thinking for me.


Casey G came up with the following stat lines;

Moktar - AC 13, HP 15, Spd. 30ft, greatclub +5, 1d8+3 dm, 100 xp
Aggressive - As a bonus action, a moktar can move its speed toward a hostile creature.
Sick rock poisoning - most moktars in the cave have 4 levels of exhaustion.

Spider - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, stealth +7, bite +3, 1d6+1 dm+poison, 50 xp
Poison - DC 11 Con save, 2d6 dm if fail, ½ if save. If target reduced to 0 HP, the target is stable but poisoned and paralyzed for 1 hour, even if it regains HP.

Wolf - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, bite +4, 2d4+2 dm+trip, 50 xp
Trip - DC 11 Str save or be knocked prone.

Which I like a great deal. But, (as he pointed out) "They’re missing the ability scores, any saving throw proficiencies, and skills. Thinking a single “bonus” entry might work. Bonus +5 that applies to any appropriate skill rolls or save. Or maybe Bonus +3/+5 one non-proficient and one proficient."


Jeremy Murphy came up with this for stats;

"You can do all the stat in a single line by just putting in the bonus and a * if proficient.


That gives you all the info you need for initiative, save proficiency and skills."

And he's right, that is an elegant notation and I think you could work out almost all of what you need to know from it. The resulting entry would look a bit like this;

Wolf - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, bite +4, 2d4+2 dm+trip, 50 xp
Trip - DC 11 Str save or be knocked prone.

Which is by no means offensive, BUT I hate it anyway, not because it's bad but because I fucking hate the idea of counter-referencing monsters stats while fighting them. Also I refuse to re-read the 5e rules before addressing this problem.


So I came up with the following bullshit;

Wolf - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, bite +4, 2d4+2 dm+trip, D 3d6, 50 xp
Trip - Str save or knocked prone and grappled.

The only really meaningful addition there is the 'D' number I just made up which are just the dice you roll whenever you need any other number.

This would come in four ranges depending on the kind of monster you were running.

Wieners                   - 3d4
Most things             - 3d6
Badass things          - 3d8
Uber-badass things - 3d12

So it would replace:

  • Stealth
  • Initiative
  • Perception
  • Saves
  • DC values for powers

If you really want to model skills then maybe add a d4 for each skill.

You just roll it as and when you need that number and only then.

The excuse for this is that combat is chaotic and things are changing all the time so maybe this Orc is just having a really bad  or good day.

You lose a LOT of fine detail and perhaps rob monsters of some of their structural identity and makes in-game knowledge less meaningful, (i.e. certain monsters are tough with high CON but dim with low WIS etc)

The benefits are the customary OSR benefits of chaos, its always worth trying some nutso tactic because its just possible you might win, the bad guy might roll a 3 for its save, so it favours improvisation, invention and courage/risk taking over planning and careful knowledge.

Any 5e-experts (5xperts?) feel free to let me know how quickly this would go horribly wrong in the comments.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The River of Drowned Queens

The Virid is a big river, slower than a sleeping snake say some.

It's always hard to cross. At its origins, spewing from the karst of the Sifir, the black cracked desert of the Caliphate of Holes, it rockets forth crook-necking its way through angular steep-sided canyons of unstable scree. The stones slip-slide under the foot at forty-five degrees and though the jagging of the canyon shifts each month, and tonnes of stone must fall into the rocketing spume, the river never fills.

Even here the faint murk of its dark green water hazes up into a sun-reflecting fog that blurs the daylight into splinters but lets through the light of stars

For a thousand miles it runs, widens, deepens, heating up and slowing down. The dank intensifies. On summer days the river casts its smog-self like a skin, or the green ghost of a snake tracking it from the sky.

At its mouth the snake is wide enough across that silty islands in its midst have grown their own ecosystems, which crash together in slow motion over years as the flow deposits and picks up wuth unpredictable lick.

Some have been the base of micro-kingdoms.

Although these kingdoms do not go on very long, because the Virid drowns all Queens that cross its banks.

You can still here them there, moaning in the silt, and see the glimmering glitter of their crowns and gems turning and tumbling in the tangling ooze.

Its bad to cross the river in the day. Even if the day is cold, it might suddenly heat up and should the Virid's virid murk rise up it will shatter the rays of the sun into kaleidoscopic fragments, sending prickles of frustrating gleam networking back and forth, the river so slow by now its impossible to tell which way it runs. You could be trapped for hours there till the night, listening to the sad cries of the drowned queens from under the water, hearing their tales of the kingdoms they once ruled, of their great castles, great beauty, of their dynasties long passed.

The Queens don't come up above the surface of the water. Probably. There is always the feeling that they could if they wished. Nobody dives for the gems in the silt or for the tarnished crowns.

Sometimes the fishing people on the Virid's banks find a single gem inside the belly of a fish or trapped in the claws of a crab. It is always always thrown back in without delay, with apologies. Refusing to obey this rule is one of the few things that can enrage these tribes, in every other respect, despite their differences in race and language, they are extremely egalitarian people. There is no possibility of a King amongst them, and definitely not a Queen. Not even a homecoming Queen or a Harvest Queen.

They tend not to use nets. The fat flatfish with the wrinkled eyes and the pearly crabs for which the river is known, all tangle and intermingle with the bones of the drowned Queens and it is rude and frightening to disturb them and to pull them up out of the silty beds in which they cannot sleep, but only wait, looking at the shadows of the fishing boats on the surface of the water and waiting and whispering their tales.

For the same reason, lobster pots and eel traps above a certain size are never used, a fisherman might return to their trap  in the night and find a Queen in it and that could be frightening and embarrassing.

Crossing at night is better, if the sky is clear. It's cold and the haze is low and, for some reason, it does not blur starlight. Even the Queens are more quiet, they whisper to the fishers of their lost loves and the great romances they had before they were dead, and again they speak of their lost beauty.

There are a lot of Queens in the Virid, almost every dynasty in this Uncertain World has lost one or more to its waters. It's not clear how this happens since its always been called "The River of Drowned Queens" and one would think they might avoid it, but circumstances tend to conspire; pursuing armies or vengeful suitors or parents, act of madness, wild and dangerous hubris, sometimes the drowned girl does not know she is a Queen. Once a Princess crossed the Virid at midnight and never reached tho other side. Later it was discovered that her entire family had been killed on that very same night thousands of miles away. As the only remaining heir she had become a Queen in the middle of the river and it took her then and dragged her down into its bright green heart.

It's always green in the centre of the Virid where the water is deep, tendrils of veridian weed dance and curl in the murk beneath the keels of the boats.

Despite the large number of Queens recorded to be lost, the river seems almost over-full. There are a lot of Queens down there. Some suggest they were washed out of the Sifir when the great temple fell. Others say the Virid runs through many worlds and that all drowned Queens, wherever they are sunk, wash inevitably into its waters.

Legend says that if one Queen ever crosses the Virid, or navigates it from source to sea, the spell and curse upon it will be broken and the bones of the drowned old Queens will be released and a mighty flood will wash them all into Jukai bay, forming a shoal of bone, broken sceptres and murky jewels.

A tempting and interesting idea to the rulers of Jukai, and the tribes of the Melanic Moors, though both decry any belief in the legend.

The Queens beneath the surface know it though and they cry out for the shadow of that one who will come to touch the rivers banks.

She has not come yet.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The year was bad but this is good

Uncle died, lost my job, injured my foot, also global jihad intensified. It's been rough on me and, from reading my G-plus feed and just the news generally, it’s been fucking rough on you as well, layoffs, illness, depression, breakups, breakdowns and in Zak's case he didn't even win every Ennie possible.

There were some he did not win, and for him that's the equivalent of a limb spontaneously falling off. Inexplicable.

And yet into this river of shadows, into this storm of wrath without boundary and despair without end, like the golden bow of Apollo kindling joyous hope within the hearts of men, I fire the fire-bright burning arrow of my genius yet again.

False Readings is LIVE
Click here to buy an e-book

Why? For the money?


Pretty much. Pretty much for the money.

BUT. For other reasons also.

I wanted to work with Paolo since I screwed him out of the False Machine book. (It may one day return but the business of proofing and laying it out would be a nightmare, especially finding illustrations for the sculpture articles, it really wouldn't work without them.)

I wanted to have a kind of grand assessment of my fiction writing, in a sense to see if it is worth continuing in that vein.

Everything else was going very slowly and I didn't want to bring out just one book this year. (Veins and Medusa Maze are both in layout with different people, BFR is being written, expect them all in 2016.)

I wanted to see if, having read them in a proper format, anyone wants me to continue. The Snail Knight stories are going to get written whatever happens but as to the rest it's up in the air. it depends on reader response. If you want to find out what happens to Fiddlin' Joe then contact me, but be aware if I do the next three sections of that story I will be charging you, they are a nightmare to write.

Click to buy from Amazon UK
And I think the stories are good, or at least interesting and no-one was ever going to really read them on the blog. You don't read fiction on the internet, you need a book, or at least a digital reader.

The dual-second-person thing I'm pretty sure no-one has ever done before. The Snail Knight stories are, I think, really good, the fragments of verse are a bit uneven but everything has something interesting in it. Something that gives it a kind of right to exist.

(If it makes you feel any better I spent fucking HOURS on the poetry bits, and a long time on the rest. I do not write fast.)

It’s the Alchemists Laboratory school of art rather than the painters. The abandoned lab of an Alchemist isn't a singular cohesive work, but its interesting, you can wander about at your own pace, pick things up, fiddle with them, wonder about their context and, since you can't be sure what anything is, you don't know if it’s broken or valuable, tarnished gold or polished iron pyrites.

Even fools gold can be fun sometimes, and you need fun don't you? So, if you like the idea of breaking into the laboratory of a mad old man and looking through his stuff then you will  probably like this.

Happy 2015 everyone.

Click to buy from Amazon US

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Six Experimental Men

Six steel sarcophagi, vertical and equidistant, two to a wall, doors heavy but unlocked.

Within each is an Experimental Man. They have no memories and no names. They understand the language of Fire and that of the PC's. Each man has a ceramic key in the centre of his chest. Turning the key activates the man.

Each man is mad and soon to die. When they awaken they roll morale. For every turn they are awake and every question they are asked, make another roll. On each failure an activated Man advances in his madness by one degree.

All stats are as follows unless otherwise stated in the description.

Armor chain, Move standard', 2 Hit Dice, 8hp, blow 1d6 damage, Morale 7.

MAN #1 (Armour - none)

Hollow glass with candles jammed to the inside like an iron maidens inward-facing spikes. Activation makes the man 'breathe' in and the candles ignite. Each candle-flame is a tiny fire-imp making furious abacus-calculations.

Mathematician - Deals easily with logic problems and quantifiable numbers. May provide PC's with knowledge the DM thinks they could have worked out already but have not.

Madness - 1-Counts visible things. 2-Counts invisible things. 3-Counts continously. 4-Demands others count. 5-Attacks any unevenly-numbered things (people, fingers, bricks).

MAN #2

Pure black anthracite with a circulatory system laid out on the surface of his skin in sulphur.
Activation makes the sulphur burn blue and the anthracite glow a deep, dull red.

Prophetic - Can deliver prophecies in a number of words equal to the level of the asking PC. These need not be absolutely predictive but can be created by the DM using their knowledge of this module in its entirety. Every prophecy requires a reaction roll.

Madness - 1-Sees own death at hands of PC's. 2-Asks them to leave. 3-Demands they leave. 4-Asks why they want to destroy him. 5-Attacks PC's madly.

MAN #3 (Regen 1hp per round)

Stacked ceramic discs like a man sculpted from standing coins. Activation makes the coins shift like leaves as a hidden current animates them.

Magic detection and dis-spellment. Immune to magic. Can detect magic once per turn. Can cast dispel magic at will, this requires a reaction roll.

Madness - 1-silence, he will not speak unless spoken to. 2-Isolation, he sits in a corner and will not move unless persuaded to. 3-Self harm, he disrupts his own field and claws out his own ceramic discs. 4-He either throws himself into an electrical field or casts dispel magic on himself, collapsing into a pile of dead disks.

MAN #4

A sheet of thin blue steel etched with a labyrinth of criss crossing straight lines. Activation makes the steel unfold into an origami-man with a face shaped of modernist gaps.

A Thief. This man has all thief skills at 5 in 6 (83% in AD&D)

Madness - 1-Searches the tomb for objects to steal (he is immune to electrocution). 2-Pickpockets PC's. 3-Hides from and tracks PC's. 4-Backstabs and robs PC's.

MAN #5

A man of terracotta with plates of toughened glass, you can see inside he's full of soil with micro-tunnels running through. Activation awakes a colony of burning ants, glowing like specks of flame they dash about inside his shell, visible through the glass their movements sketch the semblance of a face.

A Swordsman and adventurer. The man is bold and fearless, he attacks and moves as a Lvl 7 fighter.

Madness - 1-Seeks out difficult challenges, ants trickle from his mouth. 2-Refuses to ignore very difficult challenges, more ants escape. 3-Relentlessly attacks the most overwhelming challenge possible whilst compulsively vomiting burning ants.

MAN #6 (Armour plate & shield, HD10 d8/d8 damage)

A huge dull-blue ceramic ogre, eight feet high, bound with bands of riveted iron, with a featureless hole for a face and a mask of dark-black glass raised like the visor of a knight. Activation causes a roar like solar wind or radio noise, the face swims with blinding blue-white sunspots and the black visor lowers to protect onlookers from the light

A Poet. This man dreams of another world, one made of and shaped by fire itself.

Madness - 1-asks wide-ranging questions about PC's and the world. 2-becomes ever more absorbed with questions of fire and investigates environment to discover more. 3-Becomes subdued and reluctant to communicate. 4-Opens own casing releasing strand of pure blue-white plasma that burns through immediate area for 3d6 damage before disappearing, leaving empty shell behind.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Twelve Issues of Fantastic Four #2


As the Fantasticar passes 'beneath' the world-tendril they see before them what look like pearls, globes of pale white light scattered on the midnight-dark material. Behind them, the remaining sunlight sheets past in columns of red and gold.

The Fantasticar lances forwards on a pillar of ionic fire, yet the vast scale of these incalculable structures make it seem as if it only drifts, like the gleam of light travelling along the needle of a compass is it turns slowly in the dark.

The orbs of pearl are city-globes surrounded by vast radial fields of something, fields shaped in elaborate jags, "Like the star-forts of Renaissance Europe, but on a vastly greater scale", muses Reed.

Closer still and the 'fields' are revealed as gigantic crowds, but not of living beings. These are the empty ghost-like body-shells of beautiful insectoid women, each with four back-bent spiderlike legs, two sharp mantis-like arms and two smaller grasping arms held under the head like the limbs of a Tyrannosaurs Rex. The body-fields stand in innumerable rows, not only empty, but somehow half-real, like shadows or memories.

As they pass over the inner borders of the crowd the FF witness an incredible sight, one of the insect shells fills inwardly from some unseen source, glimmers a pearly white, comes to life and begins to walk towards the whit city-globe.

While Reed advises caution, Sue Storm doesn't hesitate but leaps from the Fantasticar to hail the wandering woman.

While Sue speaks to the recently vivified insect-lady, the rest of the FF investigate the city ahead of them. Between them all they discover that these are the cities of the Nuns of Destruction, a memory race created by, and feeding from, the lost cultures and dying energies of the annihilated civilisations on the sun-side of the world-structure.

These sombre women age backwards, coming to life in the darkened fields outside and born with the encoded knowledge and experience of millennia of the highly-cultured mega civilisations that formerly made up the Omnistructure.

The tragedy of their all knowing existence is that everything they say and do, every movement they make, every piece of culture they produce, from the simplest thought to the greatest work of art, will be an echo of something already done in the ancient societies long passed. Not only that but for every complex action they take, for every sophisticated idea they have, their expression of it will be the last time that idea or action takes place, they feed and exist, literally, on the final destruction of those cultures. With their movements and their words they spell out the dying memories of worlds.

As they 'age' they grow smaller, younger and more supple. When their destined mother emerges from the darkness outside the city they know their beginning/end is near. They shrink into a grub, and then finally into an egg the same colour and shape as the city in which they live. Finally their 'mother' absorbs them into her own body and they disappear.

The Nuns of Destruction know exactly how many generations of their race are left, they can see them waiting in translucent ranks outside, and they know that their numbers will eventually decrease until only a handful are left, who will then shrink in age until nothing at all remains.

The FF ask them to help then in their quest, to no avail, the Nuns of Destruction have little interest. Until Sue Storm, speaking to 'Ebed', the freshly created/uncreated Nun she met outside, realises that there is one aspect of their memory-lives the Nuns cannot play out.

Combat. The fatalistic Nuns do not fight and there is a galaxies worth of transcendent combat-knowledge that must go unacted, and therefore and expression of life that must go unplumbed.

In return for their help, Ben Grimm challenges the entire city to a fight, and the battle is on!

The FF must fight against a city of Insect Women wielding extra-cosmic close-combat knowledge gleaned from a thousand different civilisations, a battle in which each style, tactic or blow may be struck only once before being forgotten for all time.

The FF manage to survive the city-wide throwdown and in return, the Nuns of Destruction tell them of the vast creature that recently passed overhead. They are not sure what it is, it cannot have existed in the living age of the Omnistructure or they would know of it, but they suspect it has something to do with the terrible Cannibal Cultures and the Nightmare migration of their tractable cities to the world stem and the Chrysalids of Strife.

As the FF travel deeper into the darkness, guided by their new ally, Johnny flies ahead as a living beacon, his flame burning plasma white in in infinite darkness, barely illuminating the black  (changed from red after Ben starts calling him 'Rudolph'.) Ebed is fascinated by the tales of Sue Storm which contain knowledge of a cosmos utterly unknown to her, a reality where knowledge grows and feeds upon itself like a frightening but oddly beautiful cancer.

On the distant horizon gleam sparks of fire and bioluminescence, sparks that lengthen, growing into slender towers, curved and spiraled and growing from the back of a multi segmented, many-legged machine of coagulated neon and black shell larger than the island of New York. A machine ambling into the darkness, projecting from its forward segment, ravening beams of nuclear force which briefly translate the dark under-matter into energy on which it feeds.

These are the Cannibal Cultures, last mad remnants of the Byzantine Over-Cultures, locked within their survival machines, driven mad, consuming each other in their madness as the great machines in which they dwell consume the very matter of the world on which they tread. Lifeboats for entire civilisations, yet lifeboats whose occupants know there will be no rescue or return, but only endless drifting and waiting for the dark. Within the great survival machines are painted with the blood and bone of their populations, the matter-translation engines heaving to provide their insane masters, products of one hundred generations of auto-phagic slaughter, with whatever their mad whims desire.

Now, for the first time, the Cannibal Machines seem drawn towards some meaningful goal, a pilgrimage of horror towards the Chrysalids of Stife!

Johnny and Ben begin planning a daring stealth-incursion into the Cannibal Machine but Sue points out that as it seems to be moving in a straight line they can jut project its future course and race ahead of its tiny little legs.

Once there they find the caterpillar-esque survival machines of the cannibal cultures transformed into vast chrysalids, the cities, their people, technology and culture are being boiled down by end-stage nano-technology and transformed into singular gigantic beings. From horror into horror, for these creatures, should they emerge, could only be the perfected expressions of the nightmare cultures that made them up, massively enlarged and now of entirely singular will.

And one has already emerged, an escher-angled kaiju motH of fractal obsidian, crawling around the centre of the worlds stem, the FF see this titanic being feeding of the corpse of a dead sun, and around its gigantic neck like a circlet of gems are the crystallised bodies of the missing children and, at their centre, the transmission machine used to open the portals to our reality.

The first Tetra-Deus to emerge has been experimenting with the ancient signals that were used to try to communicate with other realities, the original Pollack signals, has succeeded in opening a small portal.

It recovered the children and has been leeching off their brainwaves in order to widen the gateway to earth.

(Human minds are reality-organizing machines and therefore both key and natural 'fuel' for a gateway between realities, that's why cultists always have to kill people to get the gate open.)

This problem can be solved easily, muses Reed, by just taking the recovered signal machine and throwing it through the open portal with the children, that would close it. Of course, anything left behind would be lost forever...

A battle is on!*

Johnny weaves around the titan-being, blasting it with tongues of fire the strength of solar flares, barely scratching its skin, Ben jumping onto it, punching it right in the eye like an angry mote of dust blinding an evil god, Johnny, Ben and Ebed all leaping in and out of the Fantasticar as Sue alternately invisibles and shields everyone and Reed drives and whips people in and out of danger.

They seize the necklace and race towards the failing dawn.

As they blast into the sunlight, the god-monster smashes through the surface of the world-frond, blasting it like shrapnel. It's too fast for them!

Caught before the portal, the last light of the alien sun dying around them, the FF have to make a nightmare choice, they turn to face the ravening monster but, as ben and Reed glance between them they work together to fling the crystallised children and the transmission engine through the Pollack gate.

They succeed, throwing Eben the Destruction-Nun along with them. As the transmission engine exits the omnistructure, all the gates close. The children are safe, the world saved, but the Fantastic Four are trapped in in incomprehensible alien reality with no way out, and the only person who can tell anyone where they are is an alien women in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, utterly unfamiliar with our world, who can only deliver that message once.

To whom shall she speak?


*man, what happenened to Joesky?