Woke up this morning and just had to write this down. It's been a while since I had a dream that was this much fun.
We start an adventuring group in a fantasy world ruled by an Evil Empire--only I got the impression that what makes this empire so evil is less oppressive regime and more decadent corruption. Of these adventurers (four, I think; only two still stick clearly in my mind), the gun-slinging sorceress Islene is copped from my sister's Iron Kingdoms campaign (from which my plagiarizing brain also stole other elements). The other characters I seem to have invented, but one fellow, whiplash thin with floppy black hair and a red jerkin, also left an impression. Sadly, I don't know his name.
This band of merry rogues is doing their exploratory monster-killing thing in a deserted underground cavern when they stumble across a creaking rope bridge into a strange chamber. There are people in this room standing frozen like statues.
Curious, the adventurers start poking around. Either the spell that held them has grown thin with time or somebody pokes the right way, because a couple of them wake up. There's a knight, clearly glorious and noble, and a man who's kind of blurred out in the dream at first, and kind of keeping to the background.
These men, it quickly becomes clear, are from The Past--you know, before the Evil Empire. The characters refer to it as the Lost Kingdoms, the time before the empire conquered everybody and united the kingdoms under one rule. I don’t know how long in that past that was, but the adventurers are too young to have known it. The knight, it transpires, was alive back then and was someone's loyal and virtuous champion. He fought against those conquests.
Unable to wake anyone else in the chamber, the group decides to head back and tell somebody about this, because it seems important, or at least very interesting. The trek from the dungeon back to wherever it is they're from becomes very exciting, and the knight proves to be (naturally) a worthy fighter. The other guy’s not bad, either, but whomever’s POV I’m sharing develops some contempt for him, because he’s really trying not to get involved in things. He resists fighting—would rather run or hide—and he seems to only reluctantly go along with them at all, almost like he’d rather be back in that cave (except that clearly he wouldn’t). He fades into the background because the POV characters (the knight, I think, and maybe Islene) sort of ignore him.
They're floating on a boat down a small river (along what seem to be the fantasied-up streets of my hometown), when a mob of screaming armed men leap out of the house across the street from my grandmother's to attack. The knight’s prowess saves their lives from what seem, in retrospect, to be private soldiers. After that clears up, the knight suspects that someone's after them. Islene muses that the breaking of the spells in that chamber might've alerted whoever cast them in the first place. So they hustle back home, where they can talk to some other people who seem to be rather organized--not rebels, exactly, but a sort of protective militia. Apparently the Evil Empire is very lax about the whole "oppressive governance" thing.
Oh, a curious thing I'll mention here: it was a very visual dream. Everything was done in a Disney/Dreamworks type cartoon style, and things that were magic had the lines inked with gold rather than black. Created an interesting haloing effect. Islene had a set of magic robes or leather armor, as well as her guns. The man in red had magic boots. The knight glowed all over, as though he were saturated with magic...or on him, maybe it really was a sort of halo. He definitely had a paladin vibe. He's not a traitor or anything; he really is that super-awesome.
Once they get home, Islene (who's got some rank in this militia/underground military) has duties to attend to. The knight figures he needs to know more about what's going on, so he starts answering questions and learning what's up these days.
But the other guy, the one who'd been lurking in the background and seeming almost cowardly in his resistance to getting involved? Suddenly he comes into focus. He's dressed in deerskins with a bow slung across his shoulders. He's broad-shouldered, broad-cheekboned, looks Native American (almost Inuit), with a tattoo scrawled across one cheekbone (and possibly more following the contours of the other side of his face). His hair changes when I try to get a good look at him. It's black and shoulder-long and pulled back, but sometimes it's cut normally and other times one temple is shaved back into patterns. A little like my Kedrihm’Val character, except he’s bulkier, shorter, and less…odd. He’s like a barbarian or something.
And now he wants to go back to that chamber. It seems he's been quiet this whole time because he was doing a lot of thinking, and whatever it was about, he needs more information. He seems to believe that the key to whatever mystery is bothering him may lie back where they found him.
Truthfully, the adventurers didn't look around that complex as much as they could've. It was a cavern, but it was clearly settled--luxuriously so--at one point. There's that rope bridge they passed over, stretched across a chasm, but there was also a sort of amphitheatre layered with rotting carpets and cushions, and more than one room draped in moth-eaten tapestries and curtains. The room they found the people in had a few chairs and benches in it, a little like an abandoned solarium. Certainly there are more secrets to discover in that place.
Well, Islene can't go with them, and the knight thinks he’s in the right place, but the rest of the group is still curious about that cavern. They decide to go back with the native guy to find out what else they can find out.
Coming over the rope bridge, they get attacked by monstrous cave wolves. This is why I remember the floppy-haired man in red, because he pulls an acrobatic stunt with the rope bridge that gets the wolves dead and the party to the other side of the chasm, but leaves them short one bridge. But they figure that’s okay, because they found a secret passage they can use to get out.
Only once they get inside, they only get a peek into the room with the statue-people before they realize the wolves weren’t random cave-dwelling monsters. They were guards. This place isn’t abandoned anymore; it’s swarming with celebrity bad guys. It’s like an evil wizards convention. That amphitheatre they only barely noticed before is now full of the stinking wealthy and sordid lounging about and chattering as if they’re waiting for a show to start.
And here we get a few questions answered about the world. Because it’s clear from the characters’ reactions that these are the movers and shakers of the evil empire. Mostly they are not themselves in official positions, but they are frighteningly powerful magicians. Many are old enough to remember the Lost Kingdoms and were, I gather, part of the reason the empire got off to a start in the first place. They supported it because they wanted to be allowed to do whatever the hell they felt like (such as not pay taxes, be beholden to laws, or be prohibited from raising the undead and performing ghastly human experiments).
There are too many of them here to explore in safety, and they can't be up to any good here. Given that, the adventurers just want out. Only they can’t get out, because it turns out that their back way out doesn't work. Before, they’d found a small antechamber with a secret passage leading back out of the complex. Islene spotted it...except it turns out that it’s less “she found it” and more “it only works for her.” It needs a magician to operate it. When a sorcerer presses the switch, the room actually moves like a horizontal elevator to take its passengers across the chasm. No spellcaster, no escape.
So here they are, stuck and wondering how the hell to get out, because there aren’t a whole lot of hiding places to sneak out via the antechamber. And while they’re attempting to lurk unnoticed in shadowed corners, they get noticed. It’s a sturdy, heavyset jovial fellow who almost seems too friendly to actually be an evil magician. Apparently he’s so tickled by the novelty of skulking adventurers that he doesn’t even feel threatened by them.
Figuring, I guess, that adventurers who’ve found their way into places they shouldn’t be are likely to be up on some good gossip, he chats them up and shares a bit about what’s going on. There’s to be some sort of auction. The assembled wizards are very curious about this little underground hide-away, largely having known nothing about it themselves, but it seems that whoever’s in charge of this place has something to sell—information? And those of the wicked sorcerer community who aren’t interested in buying at least want to know what’s up. But even the worst of the worst are a little intimidated by some of the names on the guest list—such as Asphyxious, one of the few malefic sorcerers who actually does hold an official position in the Empire (shut up, IK fans! My brain did it, it’s not my fault!). He hasn’t arrived yet, but he’s due any time...
Alarming news, especially to the native guy. But at this point, they’re “rescued” from the gossip-mongering wizard by two others who come traipsing by—a square-framed bull of a fellow and his elegant dark-skinned, pale-haired, gossamer-cloaked lady companion, who practically herds the group of adventurers off like a sheepdog.
This, it seems, really is a dubious sort of rescue. The fellow they were talking to is a truly horrid individual who was likely to do something unfortunate once he got bored...but this new pair isn’t especially better. The lady did her good deed, it seems, because she knows the native man and wants to find out what he’s doing here, alive, after all this time. He bargains to give her information in return for her getting them out of here. She agrees, and activates the room, coming along with them for the ride to talk.
“Do you know what happened to the prince, [name I don't remember]?” she asks him.
“He was supposed to marry you,” the native answers, by way of indicating that’s the last he heard.
“Yes, but he didn’t want to. He loved you,” she replies. At which point I realized both that this is why the native man was locked away in that room, and also that whatever happened to the prince was instrumental in shaping the world as it now is.
And then my alarm went off and I woke up.