Petitioning for Immortality
by Jacob Skytte
This article concerns itself with the first step on the way to Immortality: The petition. The first part is a brief summary of info from Wrath of the Immortals, concerning the particulars of petitioning for Immortality. Following that are three specific examples of petitioning.
One of the best aspects of D&D is that powerful characters have a chance, before retirement (i.e., when their power grows too great), for one last great undertaking; a fantastic quest which may lead to the elevation of the character to Immortality. According to Wrath of the Immortals, there are ways of going about this. First, you should gain the attention of an Immortal. In order to "facilitate" this (in the most difficult way possible), the Immortals have hidden sacred sites all over Mystara, where characters can be tested. Just finding the location of an Immortal's personal Site can be a quest in itself.
Of course, characters should attempt to impress the Immortal once they reach the site, by bringing a gift or offering. This affords the DM many opportunities for adversity, as opposing forces may try to steal or tamper with the gift. And as the PC carries the gift to the location, the Immortal will test his or her mettle, to see whether the character has traits that are useful to the Immortal's Sphere of Power. These tests can happen at any time along the journey, and so the journey to the location becomes another adventure in itself. Tests usually involve judgments about the character's honor, trustworthiness, dedication to the Sphere, bravery, mercy, and so on.
And finally, if the character at last manages to reach the Site, he or she will wait and meditate while the Immortal decides the outcome of the character's tests, whether their gift is impressive, and the worthiness of the character. Then, perhaps, the Immortal will appear to hear the character's petition for Immortality.
This is a brief summary of what can be a quest which takes up years of game time, and has multiple layers of encounters, adventures, and danger. Thus, any overviews of Immortal petitioning methods and Sites can only brush the tip of the iceberg, as far as quest ideas go...DMs, let your imaginations run wild!
Site of Verthandi
Verthandi was a Hierarch of the Sphere of Time, a very powerful Immortal. He was obsessed with the passage of time, and constructing artifacts and items that could keep track of time or influence it. Verthandi disappeared many years ago, apparently travelling to a more interesting time period. Still, his Site stands, and it is possible to make a petition.
Learning of the Site
Since Verthandi no longer has any active followers, learning of the site can be difficult. One option could be to seek out a former matriarch of Verthandi, Padmini, who now lives out her old age in Minrothad. She is slightly mad, and while her stories may seem like ramblings, she does know of Verthandi's Site, and may drop clues to some of the Tests among streams of profanities and general complaints about the world today. Otherwise, it could be possible to learn of Verthandi from followers of other Immortals of the Sphere of Time, or to seek information in libraries.
Verthandi's site is known as the Island of Yesterday or the Island of Tomorrow, depending. It is located at exactly 180 degrees longitude, depending on your perspective. That is, if you believe that 0 degrees runs through Thyatis City (the Thyatian meridian), you will find the Island south-west of the Tangor Peninsula of Skothar. If you believe that 0 degrees runs through Sundsvall (the Sundsvall meridian, as the maps of Mystara in the Rules Cyclopedia and Hollow World boxed set indicate), you will find the Island south of the Tangor Peninsula. The Island usually appears close to equator, or at least between the Tropics. It can also be found in the Hollow World. The Site is known as the Island of Yesterday if you approach it from the east, and the Island of Tomorrow if you approach it from the west (reverse east/west in the Hollow World as usual).
To find the Site, you will need to make a journey, where you use some device to keep exact track of your current longitude. If the device fails or if you become convinced that it doesn't work properly, you will be unable to find the Site. At least the final 300 miles should be travelled by ship, or you will be unable to find the Island.
The proper gift for Verthandi should be the device used to find the Site. This device should preferably be newly constructed and have some improvements over existing devices used to keep track of your longitude. If the device also keeps track of time, so much the better. The device may be mechanical or magical in nature, but should preferably be both, and have contingencies for the failure of either to function properly. This will be tested on the journey.
During the journey there will be times when the device seems to fail or be confused. If it depends on the appearance of the night sky, there will be long periods of clouds (unaffected by weather control). If it relies on magic there will be strange periods of magical failure. If it is mechanical, gears will freeze, springs will break, etc. If it relies on time-keeping, it will run too fast or too slow at times when the character is watching. Only one such incident will happen at a time. If the device depends solely on a single such function, the journey will likely end at that point. If it has contingencies for such failures, it is up to the character to repair the device or remove the opposing factor that confuses the device, so that it functions properly by the time another function is tested. Opposing factors could be a Beholder that affects the device with its anti-magic ray, Elementals that gather clouds to obscure the sky, storms that knock over the device, etc. This constitutes the Test of Resourcefulness.
When getting within 300 miles of the Island, the character must travel by boat. During this journey fierce storms will arise to oppose the character. This constitutes the Test of Persistence in the Face of Adversity. Should the character manage to fight the storms, it is passed, if the character yields, he will be swept into the sea, and thrown ashore on the Island, having failed the test.
The Island itself is a serene location, a small (some 2 miles from shore to shore) piece of land amidst a vast sea. While storms can be seen around the Island, the Island itself is calm and the sky is never clouded. No mortal magic functions on the Island. The Island rises notably towards the center, where a tower can be seen. Between the shore and the tower lies a dense, forbidding jungle, a jungle filled with tropical life. Travelling through the jungle, the character will be opposed both by wildlife and natural obstacles, such as chasms and rivers filled with piranha. Passing through the jungle constitutes the Test of Bravery.
The tower at the center of the Island lies at exactly 180 degrees. This is the Tower Beyond Time. At this exact point of the world, you exist at both today and tomorrow (or yesterday), since you're at the (man-made) boundary between days. The Tower has two floors and a domed roof. There are no openings, except a huge wooden door at the base of the Tower. At the entrance a thick book lies opened to a page bearing the character's name. The character is supposed to write a proper entry concerning the nature of time and the paradox of this place in the book. The character can freely browse the book and read other entries, but copying them is considered cheating! This constitutes the Test of Wisdom.
Inside the Tower Beyond Time, time has no effect. What this means is that a character inside the Tower will not age, need sustenance of any kind, require sleep, etc. Time does still pass, it just doesn't affect anything inside the Tower. The first floor is filled with books, stacked all around the chamber. At a desk sits a woman, writing. Seeing the character, she will look up, hope and despair in her eyes. She will explain her situation: Every person who wishes to petition Verthandi is forced to take the place of the former petitioner, waiting in this room until the next petitioner agrees to take their place. The woman has been waiting for the last 50 years for another person to arrive, and it is her writings that fill most of the room. Taking the woman's place constitutes the Test of Mercy and Charity of the Heart.
Should the character agree, he will be forced to spend all of his time in this room, waiting for another petitioner to appear. The room contains plenty of writing materials (and new ones will appear at times), and the character will likely spend most of his time writing (or reading) essays on the lessons of time. If the character leaves the room, he will have failed the Test of Honor and Trustworthiness. If he did not agree to take the woman's place, this Test will also be failed. Any amount of time could be spent waiting, that is part of the Test. Kind DMs could rule 1-12 months pass, it would be likelier that between 5 and 50 years pass before another character who's willing to trade places appears, especially since Verthandi is no longer an active Immortal.
Finally at the top of the Tower, the character will have reached his goal. The domed roof displays images from throughout the past and some of the future. Looking closely the character may see clues to future quests and to the Path of the Dynast. Waiting here for the proper amount of time (which could be anywhere from 1 to 100 days) is the last of the Tests. This Test is also influenced by the character's actions throughout the quest. This is the Test of Dedication to the Sphere of Power.
At long last (presumably) Verthandi will show up. Verthandi will appear as a huge image across the dome, blocking out all other images. He will appear as an ageless being of the same race as the character, seeming both an infant and broken down with age, constantly in change. He will appear to be floating amidst chaos with whirling clouds, strangely colored lights and lightning, and echoes of distant sounds, such as screams and insane babbling, being heard. The character will be affected by a Paralyzing Aura attack, but will be released if he fails his save, unless he is clearly hostile. This is the moment the character has been waiting for. He is now free to present his case to Verthandi. Should he be accepted as an Immortal candidate, Verthandi will explain the Path of the Dynast to the character, and disappear back into the time stream. Depending on the character's performance, he will find himself back home, or appear back on his ship (which will be restored if destroyed during the storms). The character will not be able to find Verthandi's Site ever again.
Site of Ka the Preserver
Ka was an intelligent dinosaur in ancient times; he has become a powerful hierarch in the Sphere of Matter. Ka's great interest lies in preserving what can be saved. He was the chief architect behind the Hollow World. He is also thoughtful and enjoys the pursuit of knowledge.
Learning of the Site
Ka has many followers but learning of his Site is difficult. Oral legends tell of a great desert. What specific desert is meant varies, depending on your location, but the Desert of Izonda, the Aryptian Basin, or the desert of Nithia in the Hollow World are likeliest. Little else is known, except the strange phrase: "Do not look too long for the Site, let it look for you."
Since Ka enjoys preservation, a proper gift might be something that will endure or that already has endured. A diamond that was formed in the dawn of time would please Ka, as would an insect trapped in a piece of amber, or the scale from a long-dead creature enchanted as a shield. Since he also appreciates knowledge, a book of learning constructed of an enduring material would be perfect.
The journey to the desert will likely be a difficult one. The desert should be remote and require the petitioning character to travel through uncharted terrain. On the way there will likely be attempts at stealing or destroying the character's gift.
Once in the desert the character will have to figure out how to "make the Site look for you." A character who ignores this advice will spend much time trudging through the desert, but eventually find what he is looking for, but will have failed the Test of Resourcefulness. Passing the Test requires the character to figure out that the Site is actually a creature and devise a way to attract that creature. Any sort of prolonged pounding on the ground will attract the creature, a huge Desert Leviathan! The Desert Leviathan (from AC9: Creature Catalogue) is probably the largest land-bound mortal creature on Mystara, this particular specimen is a wormlike creature at least 500 feet long, with a huge gaping maw at least 35 feet in diameter! It will first appear as a ripple in the sand, and will then surface some 100 feet away from the character and approach quickly. Accepting this and awaiting it constitutes the Test of Bravery. At it's arrival it will loom over the character, then strike, swallowing the character whole.
Inside the Leviathan the character is confronted by a horde of smaller worms that constitute this particular Leviathan's digestive system. Anything swallowed by the Leviathan (mostly sand) is filtered by these smaller worms. They will attack the character, springing at him from all angles and the character will have to fight his way past them. This constitutes the Test of Persistence in the Face of Adversity. Eventually the character will reach what amounts to the brain of the Leviathan. If the character chooses to kill the creature, he will have failed the Test of Mercy and Charity of the Heart. If he presses on, the Leviathan will eject him, basically vomiting him out of its maw, and he finds himself in an underground cavern.
The cavern is lit by a number of fluorescent mushrooms, and it appears to have been formed by the continuous passage of the Leviathan. Some of the mushrooms will appear to gather together. They are actually a strange intelligent lifeform, and they will approach the character. They will address the character telepathically, asking that no matter what happens, he must agree to not interfere. They will then ask him to explain his purpose in coming here, and what has made him choose Ka before other Immortals. Giving a reasonable explanation constitutes the Test of Wisdom.
While the character is explaining himself, suddenly a group of Allosaurus-looking dinosaurs will appear from out of the cave. They will proceed to attack the mushroom creature, savagely biting at it and tearing it apart before eating it. If the character interferes, he will have broken his word, and failed the Test of Honor and Trustworthiness. If he remains still, the dinosaurs will proceed along the tunnels branching out from the cave. A new mushroom creature will form from the remaining mushrooms and explain to the character that this is part of a natural cycle, and that the dinosaurs bring needed fertilizers so that new mushrooms may grow. He is then instructed to wait for Ka, and that he may eat of the mushrooms and drink their juices to sustain him.
Depending on his performance throughout the Tests, the character will be graded on his Dedication to the Sphere of Power, the final test. If he has pleased Ka, the Immortal will appear within a hundred days. These days should be spent mostly in meditation, broken every so often by the appearance of the dinosaurs feeding on the mushrooms.
Ka will usually appear in his shape of a huge dinosaur. Upon arrival, the character will be affected by a Paralyzing Aura attack. Ka will have considered the petition (or other reason the character sought him out), and will give his reply. Should the petition be accepted, Ka will give the details of the Path of the Polymath. At the end of the petition, the character might be teleported home if Ka was impressed, otherwise he might be left to make his own way out of the tunnel complex, to find his way back home from the desert. Soon the shifting dunes will conceal the entrance to the tunnels.
Site of Noumena
Noumena is a Hierarch of the Sphere of Thought. He originates from the culture of Nithia before its downfall. He was a great military strategist, but his main interest lies in solving puzzles.
Learning of the Site
Followers of Noumena have a hard time. All of their sacred texts and ancient oral traditions are in riddles and puzzles. Just reading a holy text is a matter of figuring out codes and solving riddles. To actually learn of the Site, the character will have to intensively study the texts of Noumena, follow hidden references to other books, and learn old tales and myths from his followers. Eventually the character might be able to discover that he needs to find a certain tomb in the Emirate of Nithia in Ylaruam.
A proper gift for Noumena would be something very puzzling. A children's toy, such as a puzzle-box would be sufficient, but something that is so mysterious that no other being has been able to unravel its secrets would be preferable. Of course finding an item so mysterious and puzzling that it will challenge Noumena's intellect will be a grand quest in itself.
Travelling to the tomb should not present too much of a problem. There may be thieves who have learned of the valuable gift the character is carrying, and who will attempt to steal it. Tomb-robbing is forbidden in the Emirate of Nithia, so the character will have to go quietly about his task of locating the tomb, or he will have to seek permission to create a dig site. Either way there will be loads of trouble from local authorities and bandits. Overcoming these satisfactorily constitutes the Test of Persistence in the Face of Adversity. Note that the character may also attract the interests of hostile forces such as Barimoor (an Alphatian wizard questing for Immortality in the Sphere of Energy), the Magian Fire Worshippers (followers of Thanatos, who worship elemental creatures of fire, and are competent in necromantic and fire magics) or agents of other Immortals (who wish to prevent the character from learning of ancient Nithia).
Eventually the character should have created a dig site where he will reach the tomb. Arranging for a way to either make the workers forget the place or to reach the tomb without outside help constitutes the Test of Wisdom. Failing to do so, any person seeing the tomb will be affected by the Bead of Oblivion (an artifact that makes people forget their knowledge of ancient Nithia) if they travel within 24 miles of the royal tombs of Surra-Man-Raa, forgetting about the dig. This will also affect the character should he enter that area.
Inside the tomb, the walls display warnings about traps and undead guardians. These are not idle boasts. Passing through the deadly tomb constitutes the Test of Bravery. Note that many of the traps can be safely avoided by correctly deciphering clues found throughout the tomb. Eventually the character will reach the burial chamber, in the middle of which stands a sarcophagus. The chamber is strangely devoid of treasure or markings.
Inside the sarcophagus rests not a mummy, but a number of broken tablets. The character will have to reassemble the tablets properly to read them. Should the character succeed at this, he will find instructions telling him that to reach his final goal, he should travel straight upwards. He must not reveal this information to anyone, and shoud go about his business in absolute secrecy. Finally he must destroy the tablets and leave them in the sarcophagus. Following these instructions constitutes the Test of Honor and Trustworthiness.
Noumena's Site is actually located inside a small asteroid that is magically held in orbit precisely above the tomb, well above Mystara's Skyshield. Finding and reaching the Site without revealing anything to others are all parts of the Test of Resourcefulness.
Finally reaching Noumena's asteroid, the character will find that it has a small Skyshield of its own, so that the character may safely breathe during the visit. The asteroid is an approximate sphere, about 200 feet in diameter. A tunnel leads inside it. Inside the asteroid are a number of chambers containing numerous puzzling items. These are all Gifts from previous petitioners.
A golem inhabits the chambers, cleaning and maintaining them. The golem will explain that the character should wait for Noumena to arrive. It also explains that the air inside the asteroid is not replenished, and ask the character to sacrifice part of his soul to provide air for the next petitioner. Accepting to do this, the character will pass the Test of Mercy and Charity of the Heart. What exactly happens when you lose part of your soul, is up to the individual DM. The character may reclaim it, if Noumena is particularly impressed, or otherwise if the character eventually becomes an Immortal.
Depending on the character's actions throughout the tests, Noumena will consider whether the Test of Dedication to the Sphere of Power is passed. He will appear within the next 100 days if suitably impressed, otherwise the golem will let the character know that Noumena will not grant the character an audience.
Copyright (c) 2001, Jacob Skytte. Used by permission. All rights reserved.