Great. I’m in a desert. And it’s cold… wait, what is that? It looks like a giant prior world machine, and it looks like it’s actually functioning. I see people coming and going from the machine… Let’s have a look, shall we?
Fortune had me jaunt out of the strange structure that threatened to absorb me. I fear the others were not so fortunate. I have no idea as to what triggered my teleportation. Was it triggered by a heightened sense of danger? How often is this going to happen, and at what intervals? I figure a month has passed between the first jaunt and the last. I will need to track it much more carefully to see if there may be a way to control it…
I am now in the ancient machine city of Nihliesh which is in the middle of an area in the Beyond called Matheunis, the Cold Desert. The machine is comprised of three tiers so it’s essentially three cities, with each of the three tiers being presided over by a separate ruler. Now here’s something you don’t see in the Steadfast: Each of the rulers is a mutant. They’re the descendents of the Fahat, the mutant founders of Nihliesh. In fact, mutants are kind of a big deal around here, especially those with visible mutations. I thought I might have some leverage here as some people saw me suddenly appear in the desert out of thin air and once I realized that mutations are all the rage I tried to play it off that it was my mutant ability that made me suddenly appear in the desert. Since I don’t really look the part, that ruse fell flat. I’ve been relegated to the Second Tier along with the lowest caste, considering they think I’m a vagrant of sorts.
I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to get by while I’m here, maybe take on odd jobs and what not. One of the “Middlers” (that’s what they call the folks who inhabit the Second Tier. It may not sound pejorative, but it is, trust me) had told me of a way she made some quick shins being part of a confidential study of some sort. Enough to keep her fed for a month, she said. My options were pretty slim so I figured I didn’t have much to lose.
It turned out I had more to lose than I thought. This “study” would be better called “experimentation”. I was taken up to the Citadel of the Fahat where they injected me with some mutagen they developed. Within minutes I was wracked with some serious intense pain as my body started mutating! Eyestalks grew out of my chest, my feet transformed into multi-pronged bonelike plates, and my muscles became like pliable synth. It lasted for only ten minutes, but it felt like an eternity as it was the most excruciating pain I’d ever experienced in my entire life. But once it wore off, my body went back to normal, no worse for wear. My body, that is. Mentally I was blown out. I trembled uncontrollably for a good twenty minutes after and I slept for 56 hours straight. Apparently they want to find a way of weaponizing this mutagen to deliver upon those who dare launch an attack upon Nihliesh, as the temporary mutation would render them helpless and unable to fight during the process. I can confirm that it will absolutely have that effect.
Two days later I assumed I would be released to my own recognizance with a pouch full of shins. That’s not what happened. Instead I was transferred from the Citadel of the Fahat to some other secure facility… you know what, let’s call it what it was, a holding cell. Instead of scientists coming to retrieve me, they were operatives of The Three Swords, a clandestine organization under the thumb of Ni-chodoss, the ruler of the Second Tier. She got wind of my sudden appearance in the desert and sent to have me interrogated, to see if I’m a spy sent from the Pytharon Empire. After two more episodes of effects from that torturous mutagen injection they finally brought in a telepath and determined I was telling the truth. They could have led with the telepath, I’m just saying…
Now they’re telling me they will release me provided I agree to be conscripted into the defense force for the machine city. Apparently some returning explorers brought back reports of amassed tribes of abhuman Margr approaching from the southern reaches of The Black Riage. They say the Horde is devouring and plundering everything in its path, building up momentum to assault the machine city. After what they put me through I can’t say I’m delighted to aid and serve the Fahat. Their actions against me make them almost as deplorable as the abhumans as far as I’m concerned. Almost. Of course I lied and agreed to fight on their behalf, but my plan is to get out of here as soon as I can. There are some detachments of exploration teams heading out of here soon and I’ve managed to convince one of them to take me on. Apparently some huge object plummeted from the sky and struck down somewhere out in the middle of the Cold Desert. And now there’s a race to get to the site of the crash (?) and claim whatever’s there for Nihliesh. The Fahat have funded the expedition hoping they can retrieve valuable fulgerites, lybian glass, and other rarities, similar to what was found in another impact site several years back. They want to leave post haste to get there ahead of other contenders that might be coming from Aian, Milave and even a slaver caravan from Far Brohn, all of whom won’t walk away from any spoils without a fight.
It looks like we’re about embark on our journey into the desert. I will continue to take work where I can, up until I jaunt again. Until I can figure out how to stop this uncontrollable jaunting I will constantly have to find a way to survive as a perpetual stranger in a strange land.