Monday, 8 August 2016

The Glass Rooks (a sketch)

This began as my attempt to put together a project that took advantage of Christian Kesslers multi-level multi-coloured three-dimensional mapping system that exchanges colour for depth. Its the same one that I mentioned in 'The Glass Dungeon'.

It slowly turned into something else, probably not anything better than 'The Glass Dungeon', but a different mood and feel at least.

For a while I've had the vague feeling that I wanted to do a game or an adventure that was set in, and mainly about, the feel of evening, darkness and dusk.

Now this is a terrible idea for an adventure, especially a D&D adventure, which is better if its about activity, movement, anarchic restless scrabbling striving and desire, but I continue with it none the less becasue if you don't create anything at all for a long time then if you feel the need to write anything at all then of course you have to write it.


Rooks do an interesting thing. At the end of the day, when evening falls, all the Rooks in an area will fly to one particular field or flat area near their roost. They will gather in there from many miles around and they will pool themselves, sitting on the ground together, waiting for the last to gather in.

They wait there cawing to each other and then, after the last Rook has arrived, at time, they take off almost as-one and, in a huge stream of black birds, they flow across the darkening sky to their roost, usually a copse or wood of tall and ancient trees.

No-one is sure why they do this, or at least why they do it this way.

The idea is, a wizards tower or secret place made from, or accessed through, a gigantic flock or murmuration (that's starlings really I think) of rooks.

Obviously you can only get there at evening, and maybe the place itself exists slightly outside time so that it can access any evening in that place.

The ghost of a sorceress, a memory of a woman, moving over the fields at dusk and through dreams at dawn.
Something like this poem by Louise Bogan:

"The woman who has grown old
And knows desire must die,
Yet turns to love again,
Heats the crows' cry.

She is a stem long hardened,
A weed that no scythe mows.
The hearts laughter will be to her
The crying of the crows.

Who slide in the air with the same voice
Over what yields not, and what yields,
Alike in spring, and when there is only bitter
Winter-burning in the fields."

And knowledge of birds or of the patterns of birds somehow being important. The paths and patterns of birds in the air, Geese, Starlings, Gulls and Rooks, forms and kind of maze or history book, repeating and renewing itself, even if the environment changes. Paths in the the air and in time itself. An ancient pattern in the skies.


The Rooks are of black glass, they are prisms and under clear white light each carries a spot of rainbow counter-shadow at its core. At night, under moon or lamplight, they have an iridescent rainbow sheen. From a distance you can barely tell that they are glass, unless you're looking for it.

They live in the hinterland, dull country where nothing ever happens, and that slow. Maybe in an alarmingly flat fenland, a place with no hills, riddled with invisible dykes and brooks that trap travellers, with the unearthly stillness that flat land brings. Over maybe twenty miles of land, a handful of villages. They fly around and eat just like normal rooks. It's not clear if they breed, no-one has ever found a glass rook egg, so presumably these are still the original ones.

The glass is pretty tough but can be smashed. You need to pin the rook down on a blacksmiths forge and swing a heavy hammer straight dead-on, it shatters into fragments of of clear, white crystal glass. Feather fragments in the glittering mess. But the Rooks are valueless, hard to catch, most blows jut glance off and they enjoy escaping cages, in which case they simply fly back to the flats and roost.


It's a little like the webway from 40k except its like a cave whose walls are formed from a cloud or tessellated circling black-glass rooks and the whole thing is hanging in a kind of prismatic or incredibly bright-white dimension so if the rooks are ever damaged or removed then this terrible light shines in. A shadowed pilgrimage through the realm of the Prismatic Demons. Shadow and evening in this adventure always being good, and bright white light being bad.

A prison of radiating light. A gateway between worlds might be broken into from both ends.

The idea is that the palace, or tower itself, changes shape and configuration depending on what you do. So the whole thing is about the size of a comic that you can lie flat on the table, with a map on the right page and encounters on the left page.

Each map is multi-levelled, using Christians colour method rather that a diagrammatic method. If distances don't seem to match perfectly then that's just becasue it exists in non-space so its invisiblly non euclidian, but still accurate relative to itself.

So depending on what encounter you have, or what you do, you turn the page, in the game this means the Rooks forming the structure of the reality briefly fly apart and you find yourself momentarily hanging/falling through this terrible dimension. Then they come back together in a different format, which roughly measures up to the one before, so room 12 is still room 12 but now its a dining parlour with dense escher-rook wallpaper instead of a glass cavern, so the things you will find there will have to match the nature of the new reality.

And you need to master and understand the kind of ways the environment can change to win the adventure, so you can make environmental changes to, for instance, suddenly trap a threatening monster in a room with no immediate access to yours, or trap it in a locked room, or drop it down a shaft.

But every time you change the environment there is the possibility of something from outside getting in. And the nature and form of the outsiders re-interprets itself according to the perceived nature of the environment.

It could become any of these:

A cylindrical tower or keep in which the outer wall is an impenetrable storm of permanently-circling birds.

A country house - layered, square, maybe the rooks are its wallpaper and in the grain of its wooden floors.

A Theatre - big central open space & lots of little rooms arranged in rings around. Maybe the rooks are like bird-masked stagehands that invisible assemble the theatre-set around you.

A dungeon - made from stone birds, or the birds are embossed into the stone, or are fossils in every stone.

A river / waterfall.


Crystal lepers like escapees from Ballards Crystal World book.

Likeable comedy nuns

Sun monks, wolves with robes and masks like moons that let them speak but force them to obey.

Ape Roundheads with masks like burning suns that force them to act as men, lead by Gorilla Cromwell.

At the centre is a Prismatic Demon imprisoned there by the Sorceress. This is its domain and only its imprisonment by the Rooks allows it to exist at all. It's trying to outwit the PC's and escape but they need it for something. And in true Ggardner Fox style, it needs to be outwitted or trapped in each configuration of the place for them to win. It only needs to win once.

That's all I got for now.


  1. I can tell you why the rooks do it that way. They gather in the open, where they can see their enemies coming. Then they move together for safety through the more dense terrain to their roost. If they straggled into their wooded roost then hawks and such could hide in the trees and pick them off in detail like muggers in a dark alley.

  2. Do this after Lanthanum Chromate.