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Alphatian Wormhole Commuter Transport Systemby Jeff Daly
"When a people have peace and prosperity for too long, they can be sure some goober will come along and ruin it. Either he'll go and start a war, or he'll sink a heck of a lot of money into some weenie project. The nice thing about Emperor Alphas III's wormhole, is that it does free up a lot of the airspace around the major cities."
--Sage Malvulian speaking at a lecture in the Sundsvall University.
During the reign of Emperor Alphas III, a long peace held. As a result, society began to crumble. The old politicians found new ways to cheat the government out of more money. The youth of the day became interested only in their own hedonistic pleasures. It seemed that Alphatia had expanded its borders as much as possible, without major effort. The Emperor knew that something was needed to get the people focused. A major undertaking to divert lots of hitherto wasted energy.
He knew that war was out of the question. Past emperors would simply pick on Thyatis or some other barbarian kingdom...which had been fine for a time. But now the barbarians were learning too much from the Alphatians. Emperor Alphas III certainly did not want to go down in history as a Kralion X...often known nowadays as "The Inbred". No, he wanted a much greater legacy. Perhaps something as unimaginative as "The Great", but better would be something like "The Innovator" or "The Excellent".
And so it was that he began to consider powerful enchantments and what might be of benefit to society. His task was a daunting one. Alphatians, as magically powerful as they are, are not used to thinking of useful applications of magic. He pondered the wasteful, though ingenious, flying apparatuses which flew overhead every day. The many flying castles, towers, and ships, not to mention the multitude of carpets, brooms, and mortars and pestles, made the skies overhead cluttered and dark. The frequent collisions tended to be a problem too.
Emperor Kralion X had actually declared the skies above any major city to be off-limits to all but military vessels. That had gone over real well! Wizards fumed and seethed over the regulation. Alphatians, not being used to even their emperor being so bold as to regulate spellcasting, began to talk treason. Half a dozen Council members were ready to challenge the emperor to a duel. This was the situation which had lead that one to seek war...mainly as a diversion to domestic distress...
No, banning aerial traffic was not the way to build a legacy.
After much consulting with many top advisers, Emperor Alphas III declared a quest. The adventurer to bring forth a unique travelling vessel would inherit a king's ransom in gold. It mattered not that Alphas had not yet decided WHICH king would give up his ransom...the adventurer could be betrayed my legal or physical means, whichever became necessary.
Around this same time, high level wizards in Shraek began tentatively exploring the Dimension of Nightmares. One of them, Hulio the Archmagist, found a unique beast which he dubbed the "phase worm". He found that this worm had the extraordinary ability to change its own flesh structure during travel. At rest, it was soft and fleshy and of the general size and shape of a purple worm. It had a dull grey body with numerous sphincteral orifices. When moving, and its movement rate was incredible, its flesh would shimmer and change to a smooth, hard, blade-like quality. Finding the beast to be docile, Hulio used a light protective spell to enter the creature through one of its sphincter openings. Its biological systems were soft and cramped at rest, but would contract and pull back during travel, leaving an almost hollow interior. It occurred to him, for some reason, that this creature could be considered a unique travelling vessel.
The emperor was pleased with the presentation of the creature. He ordered 1000 of the worms to be captured and trained for use.
Slowly it dawned on him that this did not truly solve the transportation problem. Rather, it merely added to it.
So he ordered built, a vast wormhole network which would connect the major cities at various stations. The creatures would be used to travel from station to station.
Phase Worm/Astral Worm/Silver Worm
What no one realises actually, is that the phase worm is but the larval stages of a creature which looks like a silver cockroach. It is intelligent, and while not necessarily evil, will certainly be very angry if it ever escapes the control of its captors. The Alphatians maintain special spells of subjugation over the creatures now...but if there was ever a major calamity (ie, WotI) perhaps an even greater disaster could result...
Travel Shield Spell
This is a 2nd level spell which grants protection to the caster against the mucky interior of the phase worm. It grants very little else. Non- spellcasters unfortunately have to deal with the muck.
These stations are long in construction with vortices at either end. The phase worm speeds into the station through one vortex, coming to rest at a platform where the mages and their servants can board. As it slows down, its skin changes from sleek and steel-like, to soft and fleshy. Holes open allowing travellers to board. The mage in charge of the worm will then make a last call for boarders, and prod the worm into movement. It starts slow, but before it gets to the next vortex it is moving extremely fast.
Tickets are purchased in 100gp denominations. A portal is located at the entrance point which will not allow a person through without a purchased ticket.
The entering vortex automatically deducts 100gp from the ticket.
The Wormhole Network
One could, theoretically, go from any vortex to any vortex via the network. Floating guard stations within the wormholes help to ensure that no one does this. Permanent gates within a heavily guarded building in Sundsvall allow these guards to get to work everyday. Another major factor is that the worm "pilots" certainly want to be paid and will not attempt to circumvent the process. Finally, there are guards and devices stationed in the stops themselves which will attack without remorse anyone attempting to fly through a vortex without a worm.