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Gates of the Vitiatesby Jennifer Guerra
From the journal of Ander Collingsworth:
. . .And so it was upon this bleak morning that I set out on foot to explore the small stand of woods just north of my new country abode. The silence of Nature in her glory was stifling to such a lover of all things urban as I - damn the illness, that it exile me to this "restful" place! But I determined to acclimatise myself, by complete submersion if I must.
So, muttering complaints of muddy paths and large, blood-sucking insects, as visions of civilised amenities filled my head, I made my way through the wood, trembling at the thought of the wild beasts which were certain to be stalking me. So intently did I listen for the snarl, the gnashing of teeth in hungry mouth, that I did not see the glade until I stepped within its sunlit perfection.
I stood, gaping, taken totally aback. To be certain, clearings in woods are a tendrid a dozen, but this. . .this. A vision, of the afterlife, or of the elves' sylvan paradise, could only pale in comparison to this. The grass like shards of jade, dotted by clovers of sparkling emerald. the stream, babbling with the notes of a gold-strung harp as it plunged over a small stand of glittering rocks, the water vapour catching the light like diamond dust. Birds, of every hue, every shape imaginable, cavorting like children in the pollen-fleeced air. Their songs were a chorus of joyous spirits, unfettered for eternity. And, all around me, invading my senses with the welcome seduction of a lover's touch, was the scent of the myriad flowers there: cloying yet fragile, eager yet shy. This haven, my haven it seemed, embraced me, filling me with a sense of ease and peace unknown even in my own dear, sorely-missed home (which I had promptly forgotten in my state of awe).
Stepping fully into this surely sacred space, I quickly overcame the feeling that I had somehow intruded here. In fact, I felt quite welcome, warm, invited. Setting aside my cloak and walking stick, I stretched out on the soft lawn, wondering at the unnatural richness and vibrancy of the hues. I sighed, feeling the weight of recent weeks leave me, and lay back, staring up at a pale sun whose light was muted, yet clarified, to the softness of a painting, as though it shone through a sky made of crystal. I listened to the song of the stream, an enchanting lullaby. . .
. . .Some time later, I awoke with a start. I lay in the mud and leaves beneath a canopy of trees. The clearing was gone - try as I might (and I did; for a week after, I searched every waking hour), I could not find it.
I despaired that I had lost it. I raved in my obsession; I cursed Those who would not answer my prayers for guidance. Oh, one moment of perfection, and then gone forever!
But then finally, I began to realise through the haze that the sight of the glade had truly been a gift, a revelation of the beauty of Nature. Oh, I was transformed! chosen! that I - I! - a creature of the City and all its depravities, could see the truth of the world's beauty! I was joyous, zealous, blessed.
Ahh, but the blessing felt hollow at the core, even then. And as the days passed, an emptiness began to leach into my soul. A feeling of being lost, incomplete. I began to wake in the dead of night, sweating and gasping, from dreams I could not remember. An undefined terror grew within me, engulfing me.
In recent days, the terror as begun to twist within my spirit, turning into a darkness of unfathomable depth. I feel this darkness come upon me more and more frequently, washing over me in a wave of rage and pain and cold, cold hatred, deeper and deeper, until I lose my very breath. I know that I lose consciousness when this wave - this curtain of evil - fills me. This morning I awoke with blood on my hands. It was not mine.
I do not understand the connection (if any) between the glade and my descent to this state. But I know that never does the darkness descend more quickly than when I think of the ethereal beauty of that mysterious place. Perhaps some kind of insidious curse; or perhaps I am merely going mad. No matter, for I can feel it coming upon me again as I write. Should I kill again, I vow here that I shall take my own l--
The Vitiates, or the Corrupters, as these vile creatures are known, are a race of truly evil beings whose true origins are unknown, lost to the mists of time. In fact, hardly anything is known of them at all, as scholars daring enough to deliberately attempt contact never return from their search. What little is known of the Vitiates is garnered from mythology. The Vitiates are said by some to be demons; this explanation is belied by the fact that Baatoran legend presents the Vitiates as veritable monsters, something with which even the fiends frighten one another. [Note: If OD&D rather than AD&D cosmology is used, consider using the Vitiates as monsters of Outer Being lore; see Geoff Gander's Page for details.] Some sages speculate that they are minions of the most evil of the Old Ones. Others suggest that they predate the oldest of the oldest Immortals.
Myths and legends suggest that the Vitiates' goal is to cause unbearable pain and suffering to all mortal races, no matter how strong or how fragile these races are; that they somehow gain nourishment through this suffering.
The Vitiates are, indeed, vastly ancient and incomprehensibly evil beings. They bend their knee to no known God or Immortal. However, eons ago, they were somehow defeated and imprisoned by an unknown force, in a dimension from which even they cannot escape.
Over the following millennia, the Vitiates discovered the method by which their jailers had contained them: unable to imprison the Vitiates themselves, they instead contained the basic elements of the Vitiate home plane, a place of unfathomable evil, pain, and despair. Unable to live outside their natural element, the Vitiates were trapped. For no matter how corrupt was the multiverse outside their "cell," its evils paled in comparison to their own.
In another few thousand years of study, the Vitiates hatched a plan by which they might eventually escape their unbearable captivity: they would slowly and surely, bit by bit, corrupt the infinite worlds beyond until they were once again suitable for . . .colonisation.
To this end, they created the Gates.
The Gates are small areas which the Vitiates have managed through great effort to magically alter. Gates can appear on any world or plane at any given time; however, sightings are rare, as there are actually only a few of these in existence (so far).
Once connected, the Gated area (usually no larger than a small building or forest glade) takes on the appearance of the most viscerally appealing version of the local surroundings. That is, a small but inviting country cottage, a shop which fills the air with enticing aromas, or a perfect nature scene. This effect holds true for all affected realities; on Aacheron, for example, it might appear as a natural fortress or the perfect battlefield.
Any mortal being (for the Vitiates cannot - yet - affect Immortals) entering a Gated area feels a sudden, near-irresistible urge to lose consciousness. This is a relaxing experience (like falling asleep), and so PCs receive a saving throw vs spells (at -2) only if they attempt to resist. [Note: It is strongly recommended that you do not subject PCs to the Vitiates directly, as they will be destroyed or corrupted without hope of escape. I recommend, instead, that you use the Vitiates as a plot device, with the PCs perhaps learning of an NPC who has undergone this ordeal.]
Souls of victims are, once they lose consciousness, seized by Vitiate magics and drawn into their prison dimension. There, they are subjected to unspeakable tortures without mercy or reprieve, and without even the hope of death. They remain until their spirits are completely crushed - or, better, until they are insane, or filled only with hatred and a blind drive to inflict agony themselves, for "vengeance." Then, and only then, are they returned to their bodies, mere moments after they lost consciousness, and without a physical clue of what they have endured. They have no memories of their ordeal. And the Gate has, for now, vanished.
Soon, the broken and corrupted individual will succumb to his or her insanity or hatred, and they will begin preparing their world for the Vitiates' inevitable return. . .