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Origin of the Mek: The Strange Affair of the God Hallucigenia

by Cab Davidson

From The Memoirs of The Averyx, Immortal of the Sphere of Time, Patron of Alphatian Conquest, Lord of the Ghostwheel, etc.

The Strange Affair of the God Hallucigenia

This all happened when I was a young whippersnapper of an immortal, still working for my sponsor back in Old Alphatia. It was the first job I was given and turned out to be rather more important to my later existence than I had anticipated at the time. I think that my patron had decided to use this first mission to teach me the important lesson that even we immortals are, essentially, mortal, that even we gods of time can die. And back then we were running dangerously short of immortals of time, the energy mob had had rather a run on new recruits, so as well as teaching me a little humility (a lesson that never stuck!) this was a way of perhaps resurrecting a lost immortal of our sphere. Not bad going, if it could ever work out.

A creature had floated in to Old Alphatian space from far away, and I was given the task of finding out something about it. It turns out that my patron had already worked a great deal out about this beast, otherwise he wouldnít have given me the job, but had he discerned the final, horrible truth then Iím quite sure Iíd have been kept well away from the creature. Anyway, Iím getting ahead of myself. It was a metal chap, worked both on magical principles that were old hat in our parts, and technological ideas that were millennia ahead of us. It was very old, that much was obvious and I was to determine exactly who had constructed it, when, and (always the tough one) why.

The creature was enormous, twenty feet long if it was an inch, built sort of like an insect but more primitive. Chest (I canít say thorax or abdomen, the body segments were not that well differentiated) like a hooped metal barrel, with the strangest, stiff, stick like legs, each of which had full rotation at the shoulder joint. Six legs in all, alongside the strangest, most delicate, articulated mouthparts. The eyes, though, they were more advanced than any insect in old Alphatia. The beast had three of them, one massive eye with no less than ninety hexagonal segments dominating one each side of its almost comically small head, and a smaller, central eye with twenty segments on top between the two larger eyes. This gave the creature vision in all directions, the only blind spot being underneath its own body, and the optical principles on which these compound eyes worked would give it infinite depth of focus; an ingenious design for a construct, if one that would require massive attention to the visual processing powers of whatever kind of intelligence powered it.

The creature was floating in the void between worlds, rotating slowly using jet propulsion to orientate and choose direction. Approaching it was a difficult task, as every time I came close it would move to point its head at me and belch out a stream of gas, which in the void gave the effect of a squid disappearing backwards behind a cloud of its own ink. I had to work a little sorcery to get close enough to affect a capture, but with my new found godly powers this was no real difficulty. My guest was not particularly cooperative, and no attempt to reach any kind of inner mind or consciousness was effective. I eventually found what would best be described as a kind of interior command structure, a means by which it could be made to do as it was bidden, encoded in such a disarmingly simple manner (a numerical code consisting of two characters as dissimilar as light and dark, living or dead, or even one and zero, graven in such small scale upon a metalloid wafer such as to be invisible to any but a godly eye).
Iíll confess that decoding this strange, cold Ďbrainí took quite some time, and I had to delve through untold thousands of lines of this alien code before I came across the single word that was the key to unlocking this creature; that term, translated into a tongue that makes sense to mortal ears, is Ďmekí.

The key to this creature was in understanding how to access the code; once that was determined, it became not only passive but entirely cooperative. That allowed me to access the creatures memory, which was meagre but sufficient to allow me to trace the most Ďrecentí encounters it had had. It transpires that mek was not a unique individual, merely one of countless thousands manufactured to serve an immortal of the name Hallucigenia, who like me was of the sphere of time. I asked my patron, I consulted with many other immortals, but could find nothing about Hallucigenia. I could not summon him by his name and sphere; who could this mysterious god be?

My mek was designated number 10011, or nineteen in old money. I called him Ninny, it seemed to suit such an idiotic beast. One thing that ninny didnít have, oddly, was a sense of time. His mechanical brain yielded all manner of information, but regrettably the part that dealt with time had burned out, thus I couldnít determine how long he had been drifting in the void. I could view the few interesting events that had happened during this period; an encounter with a bizarre dragon like creature with multiple pairs of legs and several sets of almost comically small wings, sighting of a strange vessel containing green humanoid beings, but little else. The last interesting record had been a great battle, with thousands of meks (mostly resembling Ninny, with some other designs to which I shall arrive in time) arrayed against legions of almost fish like lizard men (for want of a better description) on the surface of a lush green planetoid or moon, orbiting a vibrant, glistening green blue-green world above. Ninny had been at the front line of the battle, and had slain many hundreds of his foes before finally succumbing to an Eldritch blast of quite unimaginable intensity from an enemy sorcerer. His time wafer had, at that time, been burned out, and the immense energy released had sent him plunging into the darkness of the void.

I knew that the key to understanding who or what had created Ninny lay in finding this world, and that further laborious decoding of what Ninny could remember must wait while I consulted the finest astronomers and planar geographers of Old Alphatia.

I guided sages in Old Alphatia towards finding this world, using some of my more subtle immortal abilities to persuade the most knowledgeable scholars to find this without knowing that they were working for me. A difficult trick, but one that I believe is vital if youíre to be good at this whole God lark. While awaiting the fruit of those labours I continued to delve through the memory wafers in Ninny.

Prior to the great battle that had sent Ninny into the void, his last memory was being opened up and worked on by some strange little fellows whom he resembled in many ways but who were tiny, between an inch and a foot in length; their mouthparts were sensitive and exquisitely small, the smaller ones capable of handling and modifying the coding wafers in Ninnys brain. Unlike ninny, with a body divided into two body segments and a head, the little chaps had between two and fifty segments, each with a pair of legs. I was struck by the images of these things, not so much by their primitive body form so much by their amazing uniformity of action, they moved as if motivated by a single intelligence, by a guiding hand moving each body, each mouthpart for a greater goal. They made no noise, no sound of any kind, instead communicating by means of changes in dim green light generated in their central eye. Ingenious, but rather hard for an outsider to decipher. Ninnies eyes were copied directly from these creatures, and they seemed able to hold many conversations at once among a dozen or more compatriots in all directions, which allowed quite staggering levels of cooperation on the most complex of matters. What was clear to me now was that Ninny had the most ingenious of creators, the rate and complexity of communication between them was very like the way that Ninnys own simple mind worked, and that by acting together in unison creatures with only the most limited of intelligence could achieve things of the most staggering complexity. What I was witnessing through the memory of Ninny was a simple, non magical and effective communal intelligence that could combine the knowledge, instinct and experience of literally thousands of individuals, but which would not be able to adapt to change with the rapidity of even the most stupid and docile peasant. Almost limitless capacity to acquire and disseminate knowledge, without the most vague concept of wisdom. Could this be possible? Was it likely that there might be creatures so inventive yet so primitive?

It was roughly at the point that my sages located the world for which I was looking; a distant planet, the second of eight in its system (now the third of nine, more of that another time!), with one major moon (two, actually, but we werenít to know that at the time). A world you now know as Mystara.

My next task was clear; a long, lost immortal of Time named Hallucigenia could be revived only one way; I had to find his teachings, and a new generation of mortals to revere them. For this I would have to travel to Mystara. This would recover a faded God; could I, a mere novice of time, recover a lost immortal for my sphere?

Distance is nothing to an immortal. I mean, really, we have all sorts of ways of travelling quickly from place to place, and once you've located where you want to go it really is the simplest matter to get there. Whereas if you're a mek and you're drifting aimlessly in the void then travelling as far as Ninny had can take a very long time. A very, very long time indeed.

By my calculations based on his rate of travel and how far he had come, Ninny had been adrift not for thousands or tens of thousands of years, but for something in the region of three hundred million years. Now you're used to Mystara being quite a special place, your historical knowledge probably goes as far back as Blackmoor, or to the Carnifex menace. Or perhaps you're thinking of Ka the Preserver as the oldest thing around. But let me tell you now that Ninny had been around for over two hundred million years before the egg that became Ka was even laid. When you hear tell of some of the older immortals not knowing how old they are or how they came to be, they're not kidding, they really are immensely old creatures, but even they don't remember time as far back as that. Some of the senior immortals of time may know what was happening that far back, because they flit about observing (and interacting, but I didn't tell you that) a lot more than they'd admit. My point here is that Ninny pre-dates Mystara being a 'special' place, at the time the ranks of immortals were not swollen with the alumni of the worlds ages past because in a very real sense there had as yet been none.

A thing you need to know to make sense of this tale is that the line between mortal and immortal was not always so well defined as it is now. In fact the distinction between the two, the imposition of a transition marking a barrier from one to the other, is a very recent thing indeed, dating back only a blink of an eye relative to the age of Ninny. It was only with the advent of many sentient races, capable of gaining power and skills, that the ranks of immortals swelled to the point where real harm would be done to populated worlds by their presence. One or two creatures rising in power to become immortal is no problem, many of them doing so and battling among themselves on a world really is. So the distinction between mortal and immortal, and the strict hierarchy among our ranks, the two work to protect mortal existence from us and us from each other. I would speculate that the oldest existing immortals merely became self aware some time on what was formerly the one, linear path of power before these rules came about, and that their rather extraordinary personas (view, for example, Ixion and Thanatos) are in part the result of a self awareness that never really existed in mortal form.

But I digress. Time had passed on the world now known as Mystara between Ninny being blown into space and my arrival on Mystara. Three hundred million years, or thereabouts. I came to Mystara to investigate this just over four thousand years ago, and I did so as quietly, and surreptitiously as I could so as not to alarm the immortals of this world. Already it was apparent to me that Mystara was a special place indeed, with a powerful, potent pantheon of gods overseeing and protecting it, and I could not merely blunder in and poke my end in without causing problems.

You must imagine my amazement at what I observed. Remember, I had resided in old Alphatia, a place where humans dominated. On Mystara I saw a young race of savage Beastmen ravaging a land called Hyborea. I saw an amazing race called Elves in the middle of an epic migration. Dwarves. Gnomes. All manner of races I had never seen, in a world that was not one world, but which had at its core a tiny star and another set of creatures on its inner surface. I watched, I observed, I searched for the writings of the god Hallucigenia, and I found nothing. Instead I turned my attentions to the moon, where I had seen the battle.

Now, the moon, or Matera as I learned it was known. I had seen it as a green mini-world around a sparkling planet in Ninnys memory, but on my arrival it was apparent that it was dead. Not merely uninhabited, but dead, with nothing growing, no life, no possibility of life. I could not speculate as to what had caused such a change, but I could continue my research there. I hoped that I would find the battlefield, and that there may reside some magical or physical residue of the ancient battle. Now, at last, fortune started to favour me for my persistence, and I found the most extraordinary thing.

A great city had been constructed on the site of the battle. Not only a city, but an entire pocked plane of existence had come to exist there; a city of the Gods of Mystara, a place that you know as Pandius. And this city was ancient, and its presence (and immortal protection) had seen the site of the battlefield untouched for countless millennia.

Needless to say, I could not simply dig under the City, but I could extend my consciousness into the rocks and dirt to seek what I required, and so long as I remained on the Prime plane and used powerful but mortal magic to do so then the chance of my detection would be minor. I found what I sought, and I could not have dared hope for such a fabulous find; another mek, buried hundreds of feet beneath the surface of the moon, dead, but with its memory intact. I immediately constructed a copy of the mek to replace it, and transported the real thing to a far away plane that I occasionally use for my own research projects. I could scan the memory wafers at my leisure.

This mek (1100100, or number one hundred, hence I called it 'Hunny') had belonged to the religious caste of its creators, and it had been constructed with the capacity to transmit religious messages, of a sort. And the religion of Hallucigenia was different to anything I had encountered before. You see, Hallucigenia was not just the immortal, Hallucigenia was the name of the entire species. It was if Hallucigenia was the name of a consciousness that spread out from a central point, with decisions flowing out and information flowing back (through the strange optical communication used by these creatures). The creatures themselves were the eyes, ears and part of the information processing power for the entire collective, whereas Hallucigenia was the source of inventiveness, of wisdom. Or, in other words, communal intelligence without shared consciousness. Fascinating, and along with the name and sphere of the immortal (and some basic ceremony information on the memory wafers) sufficient to track down some likely mortals. Remember, a forgotten immortal can be recovered again if mortals start to revere them from lost teachings; was I about to summon up a lost god?

Now, one thing that few immortals seem to grasp is that the multiverse (note, I said multiverse, not universe) is swarming with intelligent life. I cannot for the life of me fathom why so many immortals see the need to create a new life form when exactly that life form exists somewhere already, and all you have to do is find it. There are an infinite number of outer planes in the infinite sea of the astral plane, so somewhere the critter you're looking for exists. I myself have discovered hundreds of intelligent species, and I had already (even in my short immortal life to that point) found just the race I needed, a species so staggeringly gullible that it would be most easy to take some from their homes, impersonate Hallucigenia, give them the rituals they need, and stake the place out until the old god was summoned. Piece of cake. So I set up my sting, and waited... And waited... But what appeared was not at all what I had expected. No, not what I had anticipated I'd see at all.

The immortal who turned up, incorporeally at first and then in full manifestation form, did not resemble Hallucigenia at all. In fact, the creature was reptilian, a squat, mean looking four legged beast with a sail of tissue suspended between bony protrusions on its back. Curious thing, looking quizzically at the worshippers. I knew instantly that this was not Hallucigenia, this was something else, something darker, something entropic. I also knew that I was, in this place, hopelessly outclassed by any kind of experienced immortal; I was after all a novice. Oh, why had I been so very careless?

I conjured my own manifestation form and faced the other immortal. It turned its cool glare on me; it dawned on me now that it had used its aura to paralyse the mortals, that it had been awaiting my appearance. With a wave of a hand I transported the mortals to safety, and circled slowly across to the other god.

Something that few mortals appreciate about immortals is that we can, if we choose to do so, open our minds up for other immortals to allow the most rapid communication. Thus a conversation that may take an age to relate may actually take place in a heartbeat. This was one of them.

"What is your interest in Hallucigenia?" asked the other, his mind reaching for mine to establish contact. I couldn't hope to beat this other immortal (who I could sense was immensely powerful), so I accepted this.

"I've been tasked to find out who or what Hallucigenia is. And I'm curious. I've found a mek that has the teachings of that god. Who are you?"

"Who am I? That really doesn't matter any more. Know that you have given me immense joy in finding the mek, however, and that my long journey is coming to a close. I will tell you the tale of Hallucigenia, as long as you promise to share it? Will you spread the word of him?"

"I will. By my known name and my true name I swear it. What do you mean by your journey coming to an end, who are you? What are you doing here?"

"I'll tell you. Remember this, because soon I'll not have the power to run any more; I can stay here only moments before I have to leave. So heed well.

"I am, or was, Hallucigenia. I wandered an age in the murky waters of an ancient sea, a dumb beast with no understanding, no inkling that there was a wider world. I occasionally met another of my kind, to mate, to battle for territory, or even to feed from. But my existence was meaningless, until one day, I became aware. I cannot describe it in other terms. I learned to manipulate matter, to work magics, to improve those around me, and with time I learned to extend my own wisdom through communications with the others, until my extended knowledge could spread across the entire world. But I could do more, I found I could leave my body behind and create another, I found that I could travel enormous distances in an instant. In short, I was an immortal, but I knew nothing of what that meant.

"I drove my 'people' on to great things, and I came to view them not so much as individuals (they were dumb creatures at best) but as an extension of my own intellect, as my own physical form. And yes, eventually they became merely expendable, each was an insignificant part of my own greater whole. And, ultimately, that was my undoing.

"I had existed, with my kind, for an unimaginable amount of time. Try to comprehend that during that period many other creatures had evolved on Mystara, and that my own kind was relatively primitive. They were mine, they were malleable parts of my own being, but they could not hope to survive against the newer life forms.

"Thus I created for my people the Meks. Or, I guided them to form the meks, and I used them to conquer other species, to eliminate those that were a threat, and to explore further afield; we colonised the moon on which you found my mek, we took life to the second moon, we colonised the fourth planet and met strange creatures on the other worlds, creatures seemingly defended by others such as me, and we did battle with them. But it was not those creatures that were my undoing, it was another species, on Mystara, which was my undoing."

Even in manifestation form, my skin began to crawl. Could this be true? Could this impossible tale be real? Who was this creature, this envoy of the sphere of entropy? I was in danger here, was he bespelling me with this tale?

"Know, truly, Averyx, by my own name and true name, I mean you no malice. You have brought me joy in my final days, and I thank you for it, and I shall bless you for it with my own power, if you'll accept. Do not fear me."

I relaxed a little, but I could not help feeling wary. Such a creature as this... Where was the story going?

"I thank you for your kind offer; perhaps I may give you an answer after you finish your tale?" I replied.

"Yes. Then I shall continue. The creatures on Mystara, the new races, the new species, they continued to progress at a merciless rate, with their own protectors, like me. And while I aimed to defeat them, while I faced them openly on the worlds surface, it became clear with each passing millennium that I could not win, that my own precious Hallucigenia would be no more. So I changed my meks, I made them stronger, I made them tougher, I made their metal casings more resilient. And we worked on new, horrible weapons; first they were weapons based on the fission of heavy metals, to create heat and light to destroy vast areas, and eventually weapons that created masses of radiation power and killed life forms without destroying structures and machines. And, for a while, for a few short thousands of years, my Hallucigenia were victorious. No other species could match us for our weaponry, we ruled the world with an iron fist. Tens of thousands of other species were destroyed, and their immortal protectors faded into nothingness.

"But ultimately it was our weaponry that was our undoing; I could not protect my Hallucigenia from this damage, while I could shield them from the blasts I could not protect them from all lasting damage. With each generation, less of my precious Hallucigenia survived, with each passing year we were less and less. And, eventually, it was apparent that I could not merely continue to bombard my enemies with our radiation weapons, and there was little uncontaminated material available to construct more meks to protect the hallucigenia from the fallout. We were beaten by my own ingenuity. The last half a million or so of my followers, living now on Matera as the radiation levels on Mystara were too damaging, were faced with legions of strange, modern, fish-like reptile creatures. Individually they were no match for my meks, but collectively they were able to adapt to changing circumstances faster than Hallucigenia could, they could modify their strategies to defeat my meks, and their greater wisdom had allowed them to produce the first really potent spellcasters in Mystaras history. We were outclassed, we were destroyed, and I could not face this.

"I chose then to become mortal. Little did I understand the consequences of this, an act that I saw as suicide (because living without my precious Hallucigenia was unthinkable) was, in fact, my greatest error. When a hierarch (such as I was, although the term meant little then) chooses to become mortal, the consequences may be more serious than you can ever imagine. In my last act as immortal, I set off every one of my weapons on the surface of the moon; I could not live without my hallucigenia, the pain they would face without me was too great, I determined that nothing and no one would live there, that the moon would become a dead, lifeless rock. I have regretted my anger for three hundred million years."

There was a halt in consciousness from the creature. In reality, the pause was a mere fraction of a second, but in such intimate communications between the minds of gods, such a pause is a lifetime.

"Even the most potent immortal cannot merely become mortal. When one does that, one is reborn as a new mortal with no knowledge of what has gone before. I was reborn to a devastated, damaged Mystara. I was a reptile, such as you see me now, but I was perfused with the anger of what I had done, I was defined by vengeful, destructive anger.

"And, once again, I was wandering the world as a thoughtless beast. Until, again, I don't know how long after, through years of taking solace in torturing and devouring more creatures than any that had gone before, I was once again self aware. But this time I was perfused with an altogether darker energy; I was an immortal again, I was in the opposite of what I had been. I was as you know me to be now, an immortal of entropy."

I interrupted him. "You were immortal, you became mortal, and then immortal again? Surely the odds of that..."

"You are correct," he replied "I believe I was the first to do so, since then there have been a handful more. But you must factor in one further thing, I had been an immortal for a staggering amount of time, and I was the most potent of my sphere. The 'ruling hierarch' in modern terms. I had gone as far as a creature is meant to go, but now I was to go further

"I was by this point insane. I do not by this mean angry, I mean, insane. The realisation that I had destroyed not only my own race but countless thousands of others hit me in the instant that I became immortal, and I set about a killing spree unparalleled in the history of Mystara, eventually being defeated by other more potent immortal guardians of their races. In my shame I remained on my home plane for aeons, revered only by a few beasts on outer planes. Almost forgotten.

"But I did, eventually, return, and I became the protector for my kind, such creatures as are known as Dimetrodon, and the primitive rodent like creatures that followed them. And in those creatures I had great allies to further the goals of my sphere; I had hit the equivalent of the entropic motherlode.

"It is not the carnivores who shape the land, nor is it the herbivores who by grazing plants determine how life develops. It is the parasites and the scavengers. No creature can survive if its eggs are not protected against them. No species can last if it cannot fight off at least some of those who would parasitise it. I became the patron of such creatures as steal the young from mothers, of those who drain energy from the living, of the underdog scavenger and parasite who is universally hated and feared. I became the god of the lowlife, of those who are self serving to the detriment of others. And I revelled in this.

"Slowly, I once again rose through the ranks of the immortals, but now there were others, and there was the beginning of an immortal structure; other immortals of entropy such as Thanatos and later Hel observed me and hated me, as even though our goals were similar, that is the nature of beasts of entropy. And, slowly, I gained in power on Thanatos and I have for millions of years been his rival. That is until recently, when finally the Grim Reaper has found a means to defeat me, a means that I neither understand nor can counter. I am, in a real sense, dying; I find that when I try to disassemble my existence and once again gain mortal form, I cannot. "

"Thanatos has learned the truth about me. At his hand, I am to die, yet I do not know how he does this."

Again, the creature paused. The reality of this was hard to grasp; this creature had been alive in one form or another for something approaching three hundred million years, possibly longer. A third of a billion years. And I had found him in his closing moments? I had encountered this fascinating (but frightening) creature at the very twilight of his existence? The irony of discovering an entity of staggering age just as he was about to die... Well, to an immortal of time, this was high tragedy indeed.

He continued, "Thanatos had discerned something about my age, and about the nature of life before his time. He knew that there were ancient gods who had held mortal life so cheap that they were willing to sacrifice entire races, that this was in fact the way that things were then. And the awesome destructiveness this could create truly enthralled him. He pieced together this history, showing patience that only he has, and ultimately discerned my past. In itself, that is incredible, but his next action baffles me.

"He created artifacts. He poured power into them, weakening himself to the extent that I became dominant over him. He handed me control over the sphere of entropy, he made me the most potent immortal, and gifted the artifacts to me. I did not and do not understand his strategy, but the effect was simple and devastating; I was within an hour surrounded by black orbs, each around five feet in diameter. Orbs of nothingness, floating slowly towards me, disintegrating everything they touched. I banished them one at a time, sending them to the Astral, to outer planes, to the elemental planes, then travelling myself to other places and realities, but each moment more come. I used all of the power in the untrusted gifts of Thanatos, and more of my own, yet I could not escape them. I am faster then the blackballs, I am more clever, I am wiser, I am more nimble, but on they come, with no remorse, never tiring, never slowing, never failing.

"My mind extends further than yours, initiate of Time, throughout this plane and into others, and I can sense the presence of the blackballs coming even now. I feel them coming from all directions; they are swarming through the dimensional vortex towards me wherever I go. I cannot escape them on Limbo, I cannot flee to any plane, any dimension, any reality. I cannot hide from them. They come, and they come, and they come, as they have been doing for years, and each time I face them I weaken more. I am tired. I crave an end to this. I find that at the end of my existence, I do not fear the final death, I merely fear that I will be forgotten; now I know that you have knowledge of this tale, I can rest.

"At this moment, I crave only the sweet rest of oblivion."

"Do not stand in their way, child. Let it be".

The mental link from Hallucigenia to was sundered by a great incantation that he summoned; the reality of the plane of existence we were on was changed, he had expended power to alter the fundamental properties of the plane in a way that I could not immediately discern. I extended my mind in all directions that I could, and for a moment I could sense nothing... But then, they came. Swarming through the fifth dimension, and simultaneously entering from the Astral, through Limbo, through the prime realities relating to each positive plane... Thousands of them. Black, cold, unthinking, mindless, never tiring, never slowing. Blackballs.

I felt a sudden elation, a lift, a massive boost of energy, and I realised that Hallucigenia had just gifted me his power. I was simultaneously joyous at how far I could see, at what I could perceive, and chilled by the infusing entropic force. And then the blackballs came into view, heading slowly, inexorably, towards Hallucigenia. I couldn't let this happen, and immediately opened gates to other planes to send the orbs away, only to discover that Hallucigenia had disabled such spells on this plane. I then tried to transport us away to another place, to discern that he had disabled that also; and teleporting, and fast travel, and flying... I had to think fast.

To this day I'm still proud of what I did next, futile though it proved to be. I knew that no kind of physical barrier could beat a blackball, that they would simply disintegrate everything in their path, that I could not impede them in any way. But I also knew that disintegration is, basically, just disintegration, its always the same thing, and I had already studied blackballs and could see nothing particularly specially about their means of disintegration. I knew also that Hallucigenia had aimed to keep us where we were, to allow the blackballs to take him, and that he would be unlikely to have stopped me working other immortal level magic. Infused with the power of a hierarch, I set about creating a new species, on the spur of the moment.

The species had to have a natural capacity to fly (as Hallucigenia had disabled magical flying), so I made it buoyant by means of having hydrogen pockets in a light, spongy body. I had no time for subtlety or design so I made the species spherical. It had merely to have one magical ability, costly, but necessary; I reversed the disintegrate spell, such that it would essentially reintegrate anything that it contacted (meaning it would repair disintegrated things much in the same way that hin blackflame turns burned ashes back to wood). I gave it the instinct to head straight towards a black orb... And set it off.

The explosion was tremendous; my whiteball (well, it was sort of yellowish) hit the blackball and became simply nothing. The hydrogen, however, exploded. It worked!

Hallucigenia turned to me and said "No, don't waste my power! You cannot win here!", but I did not heed him. I'm a god of time, you know, and when it suits me I can do quite a lot in a short while... I lost track of how many whiteballs I sent at the blackballs, of how many explosions echoed across the landscape. Soon even I ran out of power. But I was not done yet!

One of the advantages to being an immortal is that one may cheaply recreate mortal spell effects. I chanced creating more whiteballs through simple mortal magics, essentially a power free matter, and I dropped into an almost perpetual timestop to do so. I could churn out one heck of a lot of my whiteballs (each being essentially powerless, so an appropriate spell generated over seventy at a time), and I did so. And the blackballs kept coming, and the whiteballs kept hitting them, and the explosions kept happening until the air was thick and hot with the steam from the balls, and a constant wind swept in bringing more air to be exploded to more water. Even my manifestation started to melt in the constant, intense flame that ensued. And yet, the blackballs kept coming.

Now, I've had a few more encounters with blackballs since then. As you might imagine, an event like that rather sparks ones curiosity as to the nature of a creature, and what happened next is going to do the same for you.

The whiteballs stopped working.

It was immediate; one moment I was in a hot, wet inferno and the next the world was silent, and the blackballs just ploughed straight on through all of my creations, disintegrating them. To this day, I do not know how this happened, but I would postulate that whoever or whatever is controlling blackballs is not merely sitting back and watching, but is instead directly guiding them. Blackballs change with time. If you do something to best a swarm of blackballs then either the nature of the multiverse changes or the blackballs change (dare I postulate that this is the same thing?). They'll still get you, or whatever their target is, and in this instance that was Hallucigenia. He looked on at the battle, I like to think that he was moved by it, but he knew that the result was inevitable. But when the turning point came he merely waited, rearing up only at the last moment, and the blackballs were upon him.

The most chilling part was yet to come. I've seen immortals in manifestation form taken down (but not destroyed) by blackballs since then, and its simply a disintegration; the balls hit a body, it disintegrates, the mortals spirit is freed. This didn't happen; each blackball hit Hallucigenia and actually became part of him, each one engulfed another part of him, turning his body as if into the substance of the blackballs. At the point where there was barely a part of him left, I heard in my mind a plea for help "Please, no, don't let them. Not that. Anything but that. No. No. No.", and then nothing. Silence. Hallucigenia was black, but made of the inky void, and filled with stars, his body then seemed to become flat, then ghostly, and then he merely vanished. It was as if he shifted his dimensional status, moving first into the second through fifth dimensions, then to a nightmare status, and ultimately out to the dimensional vortex.

Hallucigenia was gone. The blackballs were gone. I stood alone on a ruined landscape, aware only that a new gate to the astral plane was to be found many miles from where I was.

Upon reaching the gate I found tree items lying on the ground in front of it; the first was a featureless black slate, I didn't immediately recognise it but I could sense that it was an immensely powerful artifact of entropy. The second was a single rock containing the fossilised remains of an hallucigenia, around a foot across, like a small, stone miniature version of a mek. The third was a small metal rack containing two dozen intact mek memory chips, literally years of work would be involved in deciphering what they contained.

Is there a moral to this tale? I don't know. Don't trust Thanatos, that much is true. Don't assume that you're not part of one of his schemes. But also, don't go conjuring up old gods willy nilly; Hallucigenia was changed by age, from being a destructive force willing to employ neutron bombs to further his goals into merely a (relatively) benign entropic immortal, but his tale contained mention of a plethora of forgotten ancient immortals who never underwent such a transformation. Leave them to their rest.

Also, do not assume there is nothing greater than us. I have never got to the bottom of what happened to Hallucigenia, but it is clear to me that he didn't merely die. I believe that he was taken somewhere. I am certain that it was not Thanatos that did this, that wily old god merely put Hallucigenia into a position where being thus taken was inevitable. No, whatever was directing the blackballs was responsible for this.

There are barriers that even we immortals are not meant to cross. Or, alternately, there is an ultimate challenge for us to face, we're meant to push that far, it is our destiny to try to break that barrier, and go the way of Hallucigenia. There is, ultimately, a paradox to our existence, we are the ultimate power and yet we're subject to certain magical and physical laws that we break at our peril.

A thousand years after this event, after my own people in Old Alphatia had decimated many worlds, I aided in guiding them to Mystara. A strict hierarchy of many immortals, infighting and squabbling though they may be, is better for the survival of all races and cultures than having a small pantheon striving to defeat one another. That was the lesson I learned from Hallucigenia, and the lesson I failed to pass on to my own people. Perhaps the moral of this tale is that we're doomed to make the same mistakes time and time again as millennia go by? Or perhaps the ultimate truth is that no race, no species, lasts forever, and that to try to make that so you ultimately destroy what you hold most dear?

Whatever this all means, I shall now relate more information decoded (laboriously) from the memory chips, the artifact, and the fossil. Herein ends the tale of Hallucigenia, what follows is the brass tacks on what he was and what he created.