Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Vṛtra's Saliva (An Alchemical Process Involving A Series Of Crystal Spheres)

A sphere begins to fill with moon drops.

Shrendek, Chapter Seven

If you are a magus in possession of a copy of the Shrendek Manuscript, you would be well-advised to avoid chapter seven. It describes a simple process to procure pure droplets of moonlight, a supernatural substance possessed of many wondrous properties. The ritual is easy enough: after an inexpensive ceremony invoking aerial spirits, a series of hermetically sealed glass spheres fills with a mysterious fluid, milky and luminescent. The fluid boils down to a few so-called moon drops. This would not in and of itself be problematic, except that the moon drops are actually the reality-corroding saliva of an otherwordly obscenity.

The Unfortunate Truth

Though their invocation is unfamiliar enough to fool most wizards, the aerials invoked in the first part of this spell do not exist. If a second party has a detect magic spell active, they will note that nothing supernatural is occurring during the process. The second portion is more strange: it seems to be a naturally occurring para-scientific process for a series of hermetically sealed glass spheres to fill with this liquid. Any time correctly-designed glass spheres are arranged correctly, they will eventually produce moon drops, ritual or no.

Moon Drops

This strange substance has all manner of applications: it dissolves most non-living materials (alchemically treated glass seems to be the exception, though if concentrated it will also dissolve that), it reduces the spiritual damage caused by revivifying spells (half XP loss, perhaps), consuming a highly diluted portion of it allows a limited form of prescience, and it is useful in the manufacture of magical armaments. Most interestingly, the drops prolong the natural lifespans of toads and other amphibians by a seemingly indefinite duration. Given some time and effort, a bright wizard might modify the drops (or even themselves) to achieve a sort of immortality. Alas, wizards who investigate that possibility tend to meet their end rather soon.

The Poisonous Multiverse

We live in one universe amidst a multiplicity of possible universes, wending this way and that. Most of those universes are filled entirely with moon drops. The drops drip down the sides of all possible universes seeking the tiniest of cracks. Slowly, slowly, the drops fill that reality, dissolving bits here and there before boiling off.

If an enterprising wizard creates more than a gallon or so of the stuff is in one place, though, something strange happens: the droplets will collapse into a single point, creating a puncture wound in the continuity of the universe. This puncture manifests as a slowly expanding pinprick-sized portal, called a lacuna, that emits a constant stream of more powerfully concentrated moon drops. These drops will dissolve even the treated glass that can normally be used to contain the drops. Indeed, they will dissolve anything.

The lacuna doubles in size, each day, streaming corrosive moon drops in a steadily increasing stream. After approximately thirty days of unchecked expansion, the portal will be sufficiently sizable for a Fang of Vṛtra to enter.

Like this but with a thousand limbs.

A Critical Mass

The Fang is terrible. It resembles a toad with a hundred limbs, topped by a great maw that spews great geysers of moon drops. It is fast, can perceive everything that occurs within a mile of it, and is capable of puissant probability manipulation. It grows rapidly, eventually approaching the size of a castle. The creature squeezes through the lacuna, awash in moon drops and rabidly destructive.

A Fang can usually kill tens of thousands of people and desolate the surface of a small kingdom before it is eventually worn down and destroyed by the waves of adventurers and servants of the gods sent against it. Even disposing of the corpse is a difficult task: it must be mixed with thousands of pounds of salt, consecrated, and burned. Otherwise, it will return to life within a day or two.

A month or so after the first Fang enters the universe, another emerges. The next in just a two weeks, with the time lapse halving after each further emergence. Eventually, a Fang will emerge from the lacuna every few seconds. For all practical purposes Vṛtra has an infinite number of Fangs.

Closing The Hole

No known process can close the lacuna. If a clever spellcaster were able to somehow craft a concentric series of orichalcum-glazed glass around it despite its continual acidic emission, it would considerably slow down the speed of expansion, making the emergence of the first Fang something that will happen in a decade rather than month. The gods and their servants seem unable to close it, perhaps because even a god cannot affect universes other than that in which they reside. Wishes might allow one to travel through time and prevent the lacuna from opening, but cannot themselves close a lacuna.

Dealing With It

Necessarily, moon drops do not dissolve the Fang or it's bodily materials. It is therefore possible to use the materials of the Fang's hide to fashion equipment capable of withstanding the exposure. It's not entirely impossible to make off with one of the creature's limbs while it is distracted, to treat the skin with a wash of magma or other extreme heat, and return to the creature bearing armor capable of withstanding it's venom. That ought to make killing them easier and buy the players some leeway.

The Fang-hide can also be used to handle newly created moon drops. I suppose it is possible that the players could devise some sort of hidebound pipe to stretch from the lacuna to a portal to still another world, though I doubt that world would thank them. In any event, this merely delays a symptom of the true problem.

Terminal Velocity

The lacuna will not stop expanding. Eventually, the mass of moondrops will exceed that of the planet where it is located. If any of the planet even remains by that point. The actual moon will be drawn into the drops, dissolving in a rush of foaming rock. Some time after this, the drops themselves will begin congealing into more Fangs of Vṛtra, adding to those still streaming endlessly through the lacuna.

Given still more time, long past the point where intelligent life is possible, the moon drops will fill the entirety of creation's space, swelling it like a pustule, swarming with an impossibly large number of Fangs, ready to bleed over into the next reality. Indeed, this is what is encountered if some enterprising soul devises and implements a plan to enter the lacuna to investigate the far side: an endless, universe-sized ocean of universal solvent, swarmed by Fangs of Vṛtra.

Hit It And Quit

Really, the only hope your players have is planar evacuation. They certainly can't kill Vṛtra, whose unspeakable bulk stretches across an uncountable number universes, leaving no room even for the laws of physics to function there.

Well, I hear the outer planes are lovely this time of year.

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