They appeal to the Caliph of the Kingdom of Dreams, a mysterious and inaccessible land to the far west, for aid. The Caliph can't be bothered and dumps the request on a subordinate, who dumps it on someone else. Eventually, a group of freshly-released prisoners, debtors, political radicals and general weirdos are on their way to the Castle of the Sleeping Eye, where they are instructed to take the ancient route under the Mountains of the Moon to Yoon-Suin, and, of they survive that, to go to Syr Darya, report to its rulers and offer any assistance necessary with their nightmare situation.
And also to write down everything they see and send the information home. To which end, they have been gifted magical paper which, when burnt, returns to the brazier of an official functionary in the Caliphs service.
(I bribed my players with XP to make them write session reports.)
These, are those reports.
Zouaf the horrible dwarf is Scrap Princess
Firouz the pornographer bard is Ian Reilly
Ibny the drug addicted surgeon is Zedeck Siew
Golshan the Nightmare cultist is Sam Zeitlin
Banu the wizard is Richie Cyngler
Ashtar the lotus cultist is FM Geist
May your reign continue and justice be upheld. May the journey I go upon may quickly resolve the rumors of my guilt.
Our group includes:
Zuaf, short in stature but not lacking in authority. I am not sure of his intentions but sometimes the Law works in mysterious ways. He has bold, and I fear cruel, but has led us ably as someone of his status should.
Ipni, a learned man. He is a pleasant fellow though he seems to love substance much.
Golshan, a strange worshipper. I wish I could say he was the strangest traveller, but alas we walk a curious road and there are others, curiouser, upon it.
Banu, a wizard of sorts. He has a serious air, and does us a service despite his lower status.
(There are others with us, but as you know, the nature of the great Kingdom of Dreams means people may drift in and out of reality without sign or warning and so our number might be quite different next time I write to your Holiness)
Lastly I, Firouz, a humble and much-maligned Artist and servant of the Law.
(I really must protest the accusations of indecency, lawless perversion and keyhole-peeping that are even now being levelled upon my name by anonymous cowards and soulless fools! They know nothing of Art! They misunderstand and misrepresent the holy Law! They are malicious; lunatics and tyrants all! They fear the human form -- the pure Love contained within! They wish a plague upon my house and a fire to consume my Work!
By the five prophets I swear my return will have me vindicated and those charlatans exposed-
[This continues for another page or so.])
We came at last by caravan to the Castle of the Sleeping Eye. It is a strange place, for it is by strangeness the men there survive their delves into the Vertical World. They grudgingly accepted us, seeing as your sign the Silver Bird and Red Scrolls, upon which even now I am writing, and they took Zuaf to survey the canoes and supplies with which we were to be equipped.
Golshan, Banu and I went to interview our potential guides, but quickly muddled things as Golshan quite offended the logical Sato Nogal with his queries about nightmares. Banu made a deal with the blind salamander Glamoko, and we spoke with a scheming man named Charkniz, but did not take his deal.
Finally, I met a wonderful woman who knew me by name! She spoke of this world of forms and illusions within which we live and called to me as an equal - I knew at once we must follow her into the depths! Jaskina, my friend!
We set out
[The text here is obscured by multiple hand drawn illustrations of a pale, naked and eyeless humanoid in multiple poses, many of a compromising nature. It is later joined by a few different humans - one is recognizable as Marduk, captain of the castle. Everyone appears to be enjoying themselves. A final picture includes an older woman with mismatched eyes]
Continuing on, we came to a difficult place - between a wall of skulls and bones, and one pitted and worn by pale rivulets. Our guide warned us to be quick and quiet as we passed the lair of a horrible beast, but nevertheless our attempts were in vain as there came a seed, milk-white and airy as down, floating toward us across the water. It came close to the other canoe and seemed about to land on our diminutive leader.
Despite none of us seeing such a thing of great device before, Zuaf seemed to intuit something about the skull and attempted to use is as a trap for the floating seed (Indeed, it was almost as if the mind of Zuaf had both seen the thing and its creators and had perhaps even illustrated them extensively). This backfired, as the seed stuck fast to his sour flesh and as it took root we all heard a terrible roaring and gnashing in the outer dark. Acting quickly, he did burn his own hand with the fire within that strange tracery and howled even as did the beast. What artifice did such a thing to my dear friend Jaskina? Such darkness hides in the deep!
Though it continued to follow for some time, after a period Glamoko told us we were beyond its reach and we were approaching his village. Safe for a time, we now relax - though as I entertained our hosts with my Poetry I did see some of my companions speaking with an old man who might be quite mad.
I continue my noble undertaking of abandoning my Earthly vessel in order to contemplate the many perfections of the soul upon my arrival in the land of lotuses, the land without hardship or death to secure you passage; preserving your reign for all eternity.
The companions I am to travel with leave much to be desired in their breeding, demeanor, carriage and religious observance—yet vastly surpass your negligent servants in the Castle of the Sleeping Eye. The Castle is staffed by heretical, coarse, obscene men. Their hostility towards the divine mission you have entrusted us with screams for correction. I humbly suggest that their children be boiled in order to promote greater reflection upon your inspired divinity rather than indulging in the low cunning of rutting rats.
My companions are as so:
Feruz (a scholar, gentleman and appreciator of the arts although his hands are of such appearance to challenge belief in beneficence. He is well learned in song and anatomy).
Ipny (a self styled surgeon who seems lax in his bodily glorification for your holiness and is offensive to your sight)
Banu and Golshan distinguish themselves with the meanness of their upbringing and the slackness of their jaws. Under my tutelage they will become worthy of offering their lives for your glory.
I caught up with your dogs in the settlement of (complex to translate to English: the things that grope blindly in the darkness of hunger). In the party’s employ are Glamoko (a mean specimen of the breed) and Hotep (a gentleman and conissiour whose presence has greatly improved our chances of survival far from your benevolent gaze). Resentment between our mongrel servants was resolved and we traveled downriver where we were set upon by the flash of razored fish. Hopelessly surrounded, Golshan and Banu feebly struggled with the creatures—armed with their intellects—as Feruz had the good sense to recite the wisdom of those who came before—we took the advice of Byztbzky, another mongrel in the menagerie of my baggage routine and held out our arms and like the miraculous Lotus Saint who first informed us of the land beyond death and work where none hold dominion: we were whisked away to another place.
The gnom-on have a city of stark and gemstric singularity. Their practices are fascinating especially the becalming of the mind which seemed to benefit Ipny; I will ask him for the secret to effectively performing the surprisingly adroit techniques of these misshapen men in their limbo like existence away from your beautific gaze but equally distant from Arcadia. Making our exit, we resumed traversing the domain of Angra Mainyu and his snares in the darkness.
Banu, having been vastly improved by the becalming practice and came upon a diplomatic and massive creature combining the sacred aspect of Sobek. The creature was, despite its misshapen form; complex, wise, accommodating and aware of you and your power. He mentioned some untouchable creatures formerly of your domain who had fallen out of favor in your sight and sent to linger here in the Stygian darkness as punishment for their transgressions and offered to assist us in bypassing contact with something so singularly unclean. Santonolas art Nogal is a scholarly creature whose appreciation for the fine and luxurious is masked by his hideous form; however, Banu, Ipny, and our porters has too little faith in your benevolence.
They have arrived shaken but still whole enough to serve you diligently.
Your Humble Servant,
ASHTAR (After some cannibalism and moderate insanity.)
"For the Caliph, Whose Power Extends Across the Surface and All Below, THERE ARE POWERS THAT LURK IN THE CORNERS THERE ARE POWERS ARRAYED AGAINST US the disobedient members of our party came rushing past pursued by the meager remains of humans aboard boats. They spoke against you and they died, screaming, our magics rendered us invulnerable. DROWNED MEAT WAS WASTED IT COULD HAVE BEEN MEALS THE REST LOOK FAT AND SUCCULENT LIKE PIGS MY CLUB COULD CRUSH THEIR SKULLS LIKE EGGSHELLS. Baneful magicks afflicted us from the servants of the demiurge in the dark. We harvested bodies and made warmth, we harvested flesh, it was as cold bacon DO I ADMIT I LIKED THE TASTE, I WISH TO PARTAKE AGAIN, I DREAMED OF A LOTUS UNFOLDING AND COPULATING SKELETONS FELL INTO MY MOUTH. I had a conflict over my wish to preserve the skull as evidence of how falling away from your influence causes malformation. THE SKULL WAS MINE I HAD CLAIMED IT IT WAS MINE IT WAS MINE AND HE WAS CHASTISED. We continued, our enemies did not. I WILL EAT EVERYTHING THAT DWELLS IN THE DARK, THE LIVING WORLD SHALL PUPATE IN MY MOUTH. We saw a great gate and abandoned the river, to continue our pursuit of the land without work or death. We encountered an oily and malevolent bird THERE ARE THINGS IN THE DARK AND THEY PUT THINGS INSIDE ME AND I WISH FOR THEM TO STOP we feasted upon it and it did not feast upon us. we came to a small entrance in the rock and i crawled ahead. we had the advantage of a map in flesh. THE ROCKS HUG AS EMBRACE OF DARK. We moved through silence and darkness, hunger, rocks, noises lead by the true map until our guide snapped and rushed up a vertical shaft. EVERYONE WILL SNAP THE DARK IS ABSOLUTE BUT I WILL NOT FORGET THEM THEY WILL DWELL IN MY BELLY FOREVER. He was cornered by some crystaline bleaters. i caved one in and we were rewarded with another map I AM A KILLER OF ALL DULL EYED SHEEP Hotep I LOVE HIM NONE BUT I SHALL EAT HIM, NOT BUT I SHALL POSSESS HIM accounted well for himself. THE SHEEP ARE MACHINES ARE SHEEP ARE GLASS ARE SERVANTS OF THE MACHINE INSIDE ME.
I remain optimistic that we shall soon pass into the land of fragrant blossoming lotuses where there is no death, no work.
I SHALL DWELL IN DARKNESS ETERNAL
Your Humble Servant,
(this was exclaimed to Acolyte Jungne, who was in the middle of cleaning the room where things are sacrificed in the Temple of Chandra Khanevala, Goddess of the Risen Moon in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon in Sughud in Yoon-Suin, when the Iron Portal to Doom opened and the PC's, almost all of them naked, starved, greasy and electrocuted (one mind-wiped, others insane) emerged. Jugne ran away.
" ... so after Ashtar smashed the electric crystal sheep creatures she winked out of existence which beggared belief but by then I'd gotten used to such impossibilities happening the Vertical World is terrible but thankfully we found Zouaf Bey, oh praise be to god, he seemed unhurt, and with our salamander guide we traversed more tunnels, expertly guided, and while there were these clam turtles that knocked their shells like crockery and pursued us we scrambled up the tunnels, and even the paraplegic Golshan made good speed, and with oil and cunning Zouaf foiled those turtle creatures, surely out to eat us as all do within that place, but afterwards Zouaf's wisdom failed him, mayhaps he was possessed by some madness, for when we came upon a cavern filled with mummies and treasures - I believe these mummies were your folk, as their writings are in your alphabets - he went up to a mummy and stabbed, wherefore many things happened, and I put on this girdle to hide my shames, and the mummies exercised foreign sorceries upon us, bewitching Golshan and Zouaf and one of the salamandermen, and I threw my belongings in a panic, and cast a twin of myself, hoping to confuse those malefactors, and praise be to god for Ferouz had the presence of mean to marshal us all away to safety, but here Golshan's leg failed him, as we scaled another tunnel to safety, and his girth made retreat impossible, thankfully Ferouz stood with me, and held the creatures off until I could clamber to safety - by this point Zouaf Bey had gone on ahead, seemingly unfazed by the touch of the undead, praise be to god - and afterwards starving, scarring, half mad, hearing the machines in the walls, in our blood, finally we arrived at this gate here, is it the Eaten Moon, I cannot read your pictograms very well - but regardless we are all thankful, though you are clearly heathens, your guise is familiar nonetheless, and there is sunlight here, oh praise be to god, praise be to god, we are saved, you have saved us."
says Ibni, hugging the monk."
Hotep is gone, I am isolated, desolate. I know not where I was but I vanished and the divine mandate preserving him as my consort wavered. Sacrificing him may have been the cost for me to enter paradise, but what a cost. What is a land without death or work with no one to share it with. This is a lie, but a comforting one. The priestess expounded upon her heresy. Her order holds a vigil watching the vertical world to avoid lunar incursion. Their patron (a corruption of the true lotus form of the godhead) ate a moon ziggurat and spat it below the earth. This is a passable understanding of the exodus to the second kingdom overseen by you, the all powerful caliph; i serve as your instrument.
[AFTER TAKING A BUNCH OF OPIUM]
Everything is perfect, everything is fine, this is paradise! There are no lotus blooms but this opium they give away freely is among the finest things I have ever tasted. The omnipresent vomiting is merely a distraction from my crystalline perfect mind like a steel trap and clearly immortal form. [Hazy scrawls and spatters of vomit]
[IN A SOMEWHAT LUCID OPIUM MANIA]
We are trapped in this monastery fed with the bodies of yaks and the nourishing powder of opium. We are ringed by yakmen and ice demons. I have realized this is not true paradise but an illusion. the way out is BACK into the Vertical World. I will retrieve my consort and should he be dead I will eat him, as we once shared the face of a mongrel posing as a human. I will taste flesh again. I will be in the long cold dark of this world. I will make the ingrates understand the importance. The lady priest with knives and opium is most intrigued by the proposition; I believe the minstrel can be converted to our enterprise. He has the mind of a scholar. His scabrous hands are hidden better in the dark.
[Final scrawl before burning the paper to send to the caliph]
IN HEAVEN EVERYTHING IS FINE
Ashtar Illuminated Seeker of Wisdom
P.S. Please, tell my miserable father that I have found the paradise that is promised and someday he will dwell in the dark beneath the earth hunted for sport as a fleshy failure reborn endlessly to experience the cruelty of strength.
All this random maze-related stuff is still for sale. For just under two more days....
My copy of Maze of the Blue Medusa
This fabric map by All Rolled Up
Maze Dice Tray by All Rolled Up
This Zak Smith Artwork
This, honestly, pretty odd, one of a kind Maze bathroom/wall tile