Fireborn: Dark Phoenix

An Interview with a Presence

Following James’ recommendation (and the fact that Rotis cannot be trusted to accurately portray what happened) I am giving a potted summary of what our investigations found.

The prophet said that the spooky red ghost was afraid of us, and since we were essentially more trouble than it was worth, it released us. Though he stated it wasn’t defeated. Merely cowed and fleeing. He has also become more, and more blue in tone by spending time with us. As if being with people has made him more… peoply; less ghosty. The prophet also mentioned that the memories here are only of those at the moment of death, and that some with the true knowledge of what this thing is or was, left and escaped. Thus meaning their memories are not captured here.

We enquired about the kobold who also escaped the ship with us. The prophet suggested that they couldn’t be reached by conventional means, but since the spooky red ghost was fleeing, all barriers were down and we could now reach places we couldn’t before. Though he wasn’t sure how long this would alst, and that we should probably be quick about things

The room the fight happened in yielded very little. All the elven corpses vanished, although the smoking mummies remained. The monitors were mostly smashed but showed a variety of scenes for deserts, to bar rooms, even Trynshm. We hypothesise these are memories of those absorbed by the dreamstate.

The large metal cylinder was also less than fruitful. After one button press on it’s control panel, all the monitors turned off and a series of smaller metal cylinders rose from the platform around the larger one. The could not be detached, but could be pushed downwards, whereupon they would spring back up. Marius hypothesises that it is some form of power source. Though the workings are unknown.

Beyond this room was just a repeating set of sarcophagi over and over. So we gave up and returned to the main chamber.

Rotis opened a portal to the kobold survivor. We were taken to a white room lined with monitors. There was a table and chair, some dirty dishes, and a bed with an old emaciated kobold in it. They sat bolt up right when we entered. Once the portal closed the only exit was a door behind us, which had no handles, or means of opening, and sounded more like a wall than a door. Attempts were made to open it. The attempts failed.

The kobold (who said his name was “Engineer”) was quite senile, and also an echo like entity, much like the prophet when we first met him. Getting straight answers out of Engineer was quite difficult, so for the sake of brevity I’ll just list what Marius believes the whole story to be:

The ship was travelling from “home” (which is very far away) to “somewhere,” names of both are unknown. They were leaving “home” because it wasn’t safe, it was dangerous. More details weren’t available. The ship was attacked by the “alien hexapods.” Their motivation is unknown and unclear. But I think they had something to do with the ship crashing. The spooky red ghost (which Engineer called The Presence,) was originally attached to one of the Hexapods, but seems to have attached itself to the Engineer. Engineer escaped the ship and landed on warm sandy beaches. There might have been other survivors, but we think they all departed in separate directions. Engineer wandered for a very, very long time, and eventually came to the ziggurats. They were already abandoned when he arrived, and it is implied that the 4 armed (hexapod) on the throne was already here when Engineer arrived. Engineer referred to the mummies as “The Wrapped.” There was apparently a 7th pyramid, but it is buried beneath a landslide at the far end of the valley.

He then spent an indeterminable (but implied to be a very long) time translating the inscriptions. Eventually he went to ziggurat 6 (or pyramid gamma as he called it), and descended to the lowest level by the same route we took before we ended up in the ship dream. He entered what he called room 18 and found a single sarcophagus sized for a child, or kobold (we couldn’t open it in the dream, implying no one had ever looked inside.) It was here that he believes he fell asleep. In actuality it is more likely he died of extreme old age, or just from being horribly, horribly depressed at all his chums having died in the ship accident.

He then thinks he woke up in the small white room, having been saved by his friends, and that everyone was now miraculously alive! They even built a tier 3 medical facility to help him get better (though this was then moved?) We think it is at this point he entered the dream state. The Presence also apparently kept him safe, and alive, and sometimes visited him. He also mentioned having “spies” who told him things. I suspect this are some from of the spectres we’ve seen, that wandered around looking at things and gathering experiences.

After a great deal of circular and confusing conversation, Rotis seems to have managed to trap the senile Engineer in a logic loop of things which couldn’t be real and the whole room and Engineer vanished. Leaving us in the aforementioned room 18.

We had a conversation with the Prophet, and some accompanying visions, of him entering this room and “tearing out its [the presence’s] heart.” This involved him entering the room with a bloodied knife and opening Engineer’s metal exoskeleton skin. Whereupon a lot of old, decayed skin and bones fell out. A thin red mist attached itself to the Prophet and then he clutched his head. I believe this was “the presence” attaching itself to the Prophet in much the same was as we believe happened with Harding. The Prophet knew that there was power here, that’s why he came, apparently he got the information from a partner (a mage), but ultimately betrayed any agreement they had and took the power for himself as the mage would be have been a “dark god.”

The majority of the sun-like imagery, the absorbing of memories, and a progression towards unity seem to have been “inflicted” and impressed upon the presence by the Prophet because of the violent nature of him “tearing out its heart” and wounding it and causing it hurt.

Eventually Rotis grew bored with the Prophet and tried to blow him away, in doing so, he summoned the Prophet (Manx’s) brother. This caused the prophet to vanish. In an attempt to try and reach the actual presence itself, rather than these echoes, we kept badgering it, pointing out how all these echoes it was conjuring were dead. There was a lot of flowery imagery around mirror’s and reflections, and not knowing one from the other. And how it was questing for unity and how this was the afterlife etc.

Manx’s brother was replaced by Harding, who had also come to this room, and seen the vision and realised the Prophet was a fraud, and that he was the worthy one blah, blah, blah. Classic Harding self aggrandising wankery. He had some unflattering things to say about Radomir, and how he had come here only for fame and power and money. (Which seems to have worked as we all know Radomir is a famous explorer.) Harding implied that the presence has been attaching itself to people and driving them mad, as the experiences of the mad are so much more vivid and interesting. The presence is BIG on new experiences. Even if it ultimately seems to end up hashing out the same things over and over.

Rotis eventually blew away Harding, by shooting him in the chest at point blank, which caused the gunshot wound in his side to appear which was inflicted in the first fight. Harding was replaced with a small kobold child with white skin. This was the first imprint the presence seemed to have ever had on it. Though the details remained hazy. Things got a bit sad, and Rotis was characteristically unempathetic when Marius gave the little kobold a comforting hug.

From the kobold we learnt that the presence was supposed to protect and keep alive its “host.” It’s not sure what it is, or what it’s supposed to be, but it knows that it’s different from what it was supposed to be, and doesn’t think it’s supposed to be able to think. And only thinks when people are around. It has no memories before attaching itself to Engineer. It seems to see view it’s inability to keep Engineer alive as a failure, and appears to be suffering some serious GRIEF. Engineer died alone, and is thus likely the source of the ominous “Everyone dies alone catchphrase” This was further exacerbated by Manx “tearing out it’s heart” by disturbing Engineer’s remains. As a result it acts VERY hostile towards anyone who comes to the ziggurats. Mostly to try and prevent anything like this happening again. It doesn’t seem to have a good comprehension of mortality.

It also appears that Manx took the presence with him (which is very confusing as we thought we were talking to the presence), but the elves then appeared later and one of them was carrying it with them. It could tell because of how it shined? It then said that it wanted to sleep. Which caused the entire dream world to start to crumble into nothingness. So we left.

I am of the opinion that all the evil and violence we have suffered here and the hands of the spectre and the presence, are simply a result of something that is very, very sad, and incredibly lonely lashing out because Manx was a disrespectful, power hungry, asshole.

I think that the presence is still somehow tied to Engineer’s remains, and his exoskeleton (which is broken in some way?) and will continue to lash out at anyone who comes here. However, I believe that we could possibly help the presence, by assisting it overcome its sadness and grief. Ensuring that Engineer’s remains aren’t just a pile on the ground would be a start, and repairing the exoskeleton it is linked to (though this admittedly might prove to be a very long term effort.) If possible I think we should take Engineer’s remains, the exoskeleton and the presence with us. Not by force, but by consent. At its heart it is very lonely, and wants new experiences, which we could offer it. I suspect it could be a very helpful ally further down the line.

Now I’m sure some of us are in the mood to smash the spooky red ghost into a million ephemeral bits, but if we were in its position would we have acted any differently? Rotis is naturally in favour of unilateral murder and destruction, because he doesn’t understand it, and thus fears it because he’s prone to bouts of intolerance, paranoia, and extremism, as I’m sure you’re all aware.

Also, if we leave the presence here, its possible the Arcallians will send more people who will either die at its hands, repeating this awful cycle again, or manage to drag it away and inflict all manner of horrors upon it. In addition, if we are to find whatever this power or presence is out in the wider world, we are unlikely to be able to accomplish this on out own, without its help.

We should approach our next decision with patience, compassion, and empathy.


Rotis (still wobbly from sleep) listens to Marius’s account with a scowl. He snorts when the white kobold figure is mentioned, and spits:

“Unempath- ? Marius, you offered your affection to a shovel. A tool, granted one with some kind of mind. You didn’t rush to console ‘it’ while it assumed Manx’s or Hardin’s shape, did you? Don’t presume that when you gave the little kobold a grubby cuddle that it hadn’t positively wrapped you around its finger!”

Fuming, he glances at Aethyl before regaining composure.

“We cannot be naive. You appeal to compassion, Marius – was it compassionate towards the countless lives it snuffed in its vigil here? It is not your right to engender others to satiate your curiosity,” he gestures toward all the others present.

“Although, I consent. Whatever the risks may be. It is a… very precious fragment of our people’s history, it would be the done thing to preserve it,” his voice cracks. “So don’t you assume to speak for me, Marius.”

“In any case, it shouldn’t be left for the Arkalian army. I don’t wish to tell the Patriarch about it, either.”

He adds that it isn’t clear to him whether what the ‘it’ in question is the red ‘presence’ that bound to the kobold, or the metal ‘exoskeleton’. He thinks the latter, and that the former is what was taken by Manx. The dream itself oozed very powerful mind-magic, and something has been (magically?) raising the dead in the real world as well. But magic and machine should be unmissable, like oil and water. There could yet be some other force at play here.

[Rotis has said his piece and otherwise agrees with the ‘gist’ of what Marius says happened.]

An Interview with a Presence

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.