Megathalin's Journal


My approach to Zek’Silura was largely uneventful, and unseen. I booked passage on the freighter Ochre Lady, which was unloading a portion of its cargo (apples from Bytopia) in Sigil before moving on to Zek’Silura to sell the rest and refuel. Bunked down with the cargo, there wasn’t much to see. When we finally arrived, I was advised by the captain to take the dock at a run until I was inside the Aegis. Sound advice as it turned out. However, it did mean that it wasn’t until I actually reached the outpost that I managed to get a good look at it.

I should stop and comment at this point as to why I left Sigil for this strange rock and people hanging in an empty sky. As part of my payment for running odd jobs for the portal hunter, Chell, she taught me the basics of the arrangements and natures of the planes and the portals that connected them. After one such job involving the delivery of a fossilized egg (a portal key to an undisclosed location) to a client, we sat done over a cake and she explained the nature of the plane of vacuum.

The plane of vacuum is largely empty, cold, and dark. Even more so is the Great Void that hangs in the “center” of the plane. It is supposedly a giant crystal of absolute nothing that consumes all that touches it. Zek’Silura houses a githzerai monastery dedicated to its contemplation. I hoped that their studies might contain some from fragment of lore which would help me understand the nature of my own dark blade and find the means to safely break it and release my intended potential.

My first act upon arriving was to scout out the outpost, which turned out to be four semi-independent regions all housed on a massive floating stone. The monastery and its associated shrine were directly controlled by the monks, but the other three wards: upper city, lower city, and the market, were run by members of the larger githzerai community that had sprung up to provide for the monastery. The monastery appeared to be supported by donations from the community, but additional funding came from the principal export of the outpost, a type of stone called gloomrock used to fuel many ships, including the Ochre Lady.

With an indefinite timeline, and a limited budget, I settled on quarters in the lower city. The accommodations in lower city are fairly spartan, given that most of the moneyed and influential pilgrims settle in the upper city. Lower city houses most of the outpost’s laborers, those who mine the gloomrock and work as porters and stevedores.

Since all the water used on Zek’Silura must be imported or magically created, it carries a significant market price that travelers may not be used to. Its use for ablutions must be appropriately frugal. Nevertheless, with a little time and effort, I was able to remove most of the clinging scent of the apples I had shared several days with before ascending the rising platforms that carry the laborers and visiting pilgrims from the lower levels up to the upper city and monastery. The locals call them elevators and they function somewhat like a large dumbwaiter. However, I wasn’t able to find any evidence of rope or tackle, leaving the method of their movement a mystery.

Bypassing the upper city, I made my way directly to the shrine, from which pilgrims have a good view of the Great Void. Housed in the shrine is the bow of a famous githzerai warrior who later in his life renounced violence. The aegis, which holds out the cold and emptiness that would outwise snuff out all higher life in this desolate plane is generated by magical machinery for most of the wards. But in the shrine itself, four monks at all times generate an aegis with nothing more than repetition of a brief chant and their own faith. Although speaking with several pilgrims it may be that faith is a poor term for their beliefs, which align more closely with a philosophy than a religion.

The Great Void is an impressive sight, it looms large straight overhead, a giant black eye in an already inky sky. I will be quite honest and admit that the sight of it unnerved me in a way that all of my previous studies have never done. No matter how alien and horrible the secrets of the Dreaming Beast’s pact may be, they were put in place by creatures that feared the both death and the future and are under-marked by an agency that we can understand. The Great Void defies all these things. It simply is. Or is not as we are told. It is a physical reminder of a sort of absolute, uncompromising nothingness that is difficult to comprehend.

Thoroughly shaken by contemplation of that darkness, I departed the shrine and made my way to the monastery proper. The monastery is solidly built of local stone, but unlike the cathedrals of Pholtus with which I am familiar, it lacks both sanctum and vestibule. The entire building is made of purely functional spaces, completely unadorned save for occasional contemplation points that demonstrate various philosophical points. After a brief conversation with one of the monks that greeted pilgrims as they entered the grounds and a small donation, I was given access and led to the library.

The library was somewhat larger than that of a studious local lord. The walls of an entire room approximately three arm-spans to a side were filled from top to bottom with their accumulated lore. The center of the room was filled with tall desks around which one could stand and read. Although some of the material was bound in books, both leather and cloth covered, it seems that the githzerai monks have a preference for scrolls. Much of the wall space was covered in a honeycomb of scroll slots. I should probably remind the reader at this point that all this material in the library had to be imported as no trees or animals natively provide the raw supplies needed to produce the quality leaves on which their lore is recorded.

Unfortunately, the three days spent studying revealed little of use to me. As I probably should have guessed, the majority of their writings were dedicated to history and philosophical contemplation. While the Great Void featured largely in the writings, little methodical or arcane research had been recorded. Lacking the political ambition and large holdings of the church at home, they gave little space even towards mundane and practical matters. What little I did find was not encouraging. Multiple mentions were made of things called spheres of annihilation and to their potential connection to the Great Void. This was mostly addressed from the philosophical angle, but it did note that they appear to be both natural and indestructible. It appears that they are not related to my blade, which can be manifested at my will and could not creditably be described as natural in origin.

As such, I had resolved to quit this place, possibly to return to Sigil. The taste of hope was in my mouth, and although this lead had not panned out, Chell had mentioned that the planes were nothing if not vast. Some secret of power was out there, if even if I could not unlock my own potential, surely there was something that I could bring home to earn Grandfather’s praise or secure my family’s place against both rivals and the Pontifex. It may take some time to secure passage out. The return journey is more expensive than I anticipated. The dangerous nature of the gloomrock prevents returners from paying for general passage in the hold of most outward bound ships and I had not prearranged any departure.


If you wish to understand the seer, there are four things that you must understand about the art of seeing:

One – A fortune is not a pronouncement. The fortune cannot change what fate has in store for you. Only your actions can do that, although for those laboring under dire fates, sometimes not even the greatest action can do that. But take some comfort from the knowledge that nothing the seer does can worsen your fortune. When the seer casts a fortune, what she actually does is read the threads of fate that tie each person to the world around them.

Two – The tools are mostly just for show. Whether it’s runes, tealeaves, bones, cards, or even something as grim as entrails, the tools are principally there to for the benefit of the user. They focus the client’s mind on the questions at hand. With enough experience the seer can just look at the client and read the patterns, but the novice benefits from the extra concentration and time that they bring.

Three – Divinations are not the same as seeing. As noted before, seeing comes naturally. It is the process of looking at the world around the client. Divination magics center around rituals designed to bend the natural workings of the world to either petition a power with questions or to scry at a distance.

Four – You must be born with the talent to cast fortunes. No matter how much you try, if you are not born with the gift, you will never be able to cast fortunes. Although, this is not the gift that it may be made out to be. The seer can never cast her own fortune.

Do not expect the seer to tell you exactly what you want to hear. If a seer asks questions of you or attempts to please you, he is probably a charlatan.


My approach to Emphyrea was markedly different from Zek’Silura. Having enlisted into the crew of the former Haunted Lantern, renamed the Mejor Que’nada, I observed our approach to this grand air city from the deck of the wyvern shaped vessel. After the Psurlon assault on the outpost, I had hoped that the trip to the elemental plane of air would be as uneventful as my ride on the Ochre Lady.

The ship’s lack of a skilled navigator proved to be a major liability to our travel. Distance appears to be a mutable concept on the planes, with two ships having the same origin and speed arriving at wildly different times as a result of only slight bearing differences. The passage between Zek’Silura and the planar gateway to the plane of air might have taken a skilled navigator a week to traverse took our ship a half month.

Extending the passage introduces more problems than just maintaining stock supplies. Most of the major trading hubs, such as Emphyrea, provide a safe haven to vessels within their sphere of influence. However, the separation between these trading ports is vast (in fact, it appears to be infinite, although such claims are difficult to prove) and much of the time spent travelling is subject to attacks of monsters and pirates. And the crew of the Mejor Que’nada seems to have made themselves enemies of the demons even before the incident of the crystal. As such, it was with the hounds of the abyss on our heels that we passed out of the plane of vacuum and into the plane of air.

Like Zek’Silura, the city of Emphyrea is an earth-burg floating in an otherwise mostly empty sky. However, there the similarities end and the long list of differences begin. Where Zek’Silura is dark, a black isle in an even blacker void, Emphyrea is dominated by light colors. The stone that underlies the city is a light grey that seems to gleam in the endless field of blue sky. Where Zek’Silura is small, holding only a few hundred across several conclaves, Emphyrea is massive, far larger than any of the cities of my home, though as I have been given to understand, still not the size of Sigil, of which I saw only a small portion. Several smaller islands have been tethered to the main body, each of which is as large or larger than the whole of Zek’Silura.

The most prominent feature of the city is its multitude of slender, graceful towers. Many of the buildings in the city are designed solely as towers. A few, including the massive palace at the heart of the city reach so high as to pass through the dome which otherwise regulates the comings and goings of vessels to the city.

As we drew closer to the docks arranged around the base of the dome, more individual towers began to come into focus. The tallest towers appeared to be cased in limestone so that each became a blazing spike of white carved, and in some cases painted, along the whole of their length with artwork and ornamentation. Clearly, the towers are intended to be viewed from both above and below. Equally clear is that a massive amount of trade flows through the city by which the elite can afford such grand gestures of wealth.

The lords of this city are the mighty djinn, beings of elemental air whose wrath is the storm and ambitions are as broad as the skies. Each stands twice the height of a normal man and flies at will. Mortal beings are beneath them, both figuratively and literally. However, in keeping with their egos, they take their role as lords seriously. When not roused, they are generally just and often magnanimous.

Although the djinn make up only a small percentage of the population, all architecture is made to accommodate their frames. Ceilings measure no less than fifteen feet in height in all but the rudest of dwellings within the city. Because the average household or shop rarely hosts a lord (many employ mortal agents for routine dealings), this extra space is often strewn with cargo nets so that the space may be used for extra storage.

Having landed, we took our liberty on the island as the ship underwent repairs. It was not immediately obvious from the sky, but even the shorter buildings in the city are built with large windows and open spaces designed to bring the exterior in. There is little distinction between the interior and exterior space. Strong shutters provide security and privacy against the dark of night and heat of day.

My first priority was to restock the provisions in the ship. Most of the crew is not human, and frankly, their sense of taste is suspect. While I had access to such a broad market, I could take the opportunity to stock a few luxuries that I had missed. In case I had not had enough of apples on the trip to Zek’Silura, when the Ochre Lady sold her stock, several crates made their way into the hold of the Mejor Que’nada. Surprisingly, the city provides a wide selection of fruits. What appear to be ornamental trees found in all sections of the city are actually potted fruit trees and nut bearing plants. A general lack of arable land forces such creativity.

What gardens there are, both ornamental and functional, are the province of the richest elite. The gardens provide a constant source of income since they can undercut the cost of bringing food in from out of plane and fresher than from other islands in the plane of air.

Because it can be hunted locally, meat makes up a large section of the local diet. It is commonly stewed together with a variety of large, mild radish and sold from street carts. I sampled some provided by a storm genasi vendor. The meat for this particular stew came from a bird-like creature native to the plane. In place of legs, it had a second set of wings and eyes on both sides of its beak. When he asked what I thought of the dish, I described its taste as shockingly tangy. I’m not sure why, but he seemed greatly amused by the response.

Having satisfied my need for non-malic foodstuffs, I wandered more widely in the city. It was at this point that I noticed that many of the upper structures were not accessible from the ground at all. When I questioned a local, I was informed that much of the wealthy population, who could either naturally fly or afford magical flight, literally lived above their tenants. Their estates span the upper floors of multiple buildings, insulated from the hustle and noise of the streets below. Each building in the manor is connected to the rest by narrow arching bridges that are designed more for a sense of continuity than actual traversal.

It was under one such structure that I found Three Diamonds Rarities and Curios. The proprietor is a fussy woman well versed in all things refined. Far from the center of the market, she sold an eclectic mix of luxury textiles, accessories, and vices. I was fortunate enough to find in her shop a cezve and cup set at a fair price. When I described the Turkic coffee I was familiar with, she was able to identify a suitable substitute. She introduced me to beans that had been grown on the slopes of the third layer of Gehenna. I confess little knowledge of that particular plane, but the beans themselves retain much of their astringency despite being darkly roasted.

I also acquired some information about the centers of learning and social structures in the city, but I will detail that later.

All in all, my assessment of the city leads me to believe that it represents a wealth of opportunities for my family. Once my more immediate concerns have been seen to, I will have to find a way of contacting Grandfather and passing on what I have learned.