Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Tale of Vo

The Vale of Vo looks pretty enough, but that is because the carnage is invisible. The valley is a demiplane or pocket dimension bound by two tall mountains and a ring of hills. Its small stands of forest and orchards of fruited tress are divided and crossed by cobbled paths and clear brooks and streams; a bucolic tranquility only visibly marred by the strange craft that has crashed awkwardly across it's middle, leaving a scar in its wake. The vessel, too, was injured in its arrival; its torpedo shape is broken along is width, leaving two colorful, enameled chrome sections: nose and tail.

Art by Al Williamson. The ship before the crash, perhaps.
No inhabitants are visible in the Vale of Vo, because every animal in the valley is invisible. They are made so by eating the fruit of the trees: the dama-fruit. The dama-fruit is roughly tear-drop shaped and a pinkish color striped with yellow-green. It's flesh is like a papaya's in texture and tastes something like a grape mixed with a apple with hints of fond childhood memories and notes idle summer days. Consuming of most of one fruit will make a man-size creature invisible for 2d6 hours. Regular consumption of the fruit (at least 5 days) will lead to invisibility for 2d4 days after the last fruit was eaten.

The inhabitants of the valley have had to adapt to this condition. Bats have filled the niche of birds, and some of these sing eerie songs in the dappled tree canopies. The primary predator, the dread bugbear, uses smell to find its prey--which is an imperfect method, but good enough to make the bugbears a great threat to the vale's human denizens.

The humans call the bears "bugbears" because they are something out of nightmares, but also because they make an at-first-faint hissing, buzzing, rustling, droning sound that reminds one of insects, but in truth sounds more like mostly-static on a radio. If one was the stand near a bugbear for long enough (this would not be advisable) one might come to discern a tone behind the surface noise that swells and subsides, and this might precede a low, warped, and crackling voice or voices that would be near unintelligible (if truly there at all) but might repeat numbers or nonsense phrases before being swallowed again by the tone and the noise. Sometimes the voice (or voices) is said to cut sharply and suddenly into the static and to say something with great insistence but no greater clarity.

The occurrence of the voice has lead one group of humans in the Vale to assume the bears are gods or at least speak for the gods. These are the Vozerai. More on them tomorrow.

[freely adapted from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum]

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