The Prison, this article, is a confession of a librarian’s clerk about a book bearing the same name within which can be found a gate to a recently established pocket part plane, again of the same name.
What a horrible way to spend eternity! Truly, I can imagine a worse fate in the Abyss, but that of Wielen Unrot is sad in its extreme injustice. Now that I have satisfied the geas of my parole, I find it cathartic to record her story and mine, based upon what she told me and the inferences I was able to draw.
It began in days now long gone. I could not determine the year. Having grown up in the forested hills around Lake Spendlowe, she became an unsung heroine as a Swanmae in the service of Ehlonna. As such, she was a reclusive fighter, more precisely a ranger, charged with protecting the tranquility and beauty of the Vale of Berghof.
She had the supernatural ability to transform into a large black swan with a band of white upon her neck. She did not tell me specifically how she came about that power, but I am inclined to believe that it was acquired through some cultic rite that involved the beautiful headdress and gorget of black and white feathers and fire opals, which she wore while in her human form. The garment was not like those sometimes worn by Flann and Olman warriors, but rather more like those adorning dancers in the follies that parody the same in Gradsul. Not that she appeared as either a savage or a chorine in her greenish-black platemail, made from the exoskeletons of giant dragonflies.
Had it not been for her need of assistance in curtailing a swarm of those monstrous insects, which had been mysteriously born of the Lake, Wielen would have never sought the aid of Karl Van Arthog at his lakeside villa outside the village of Kusnir. He was the last of the Guardians, a succession of powerful mages who wore the fabled magical glove called the Sentinel. The purpose the Sentinel was to protect the ancient Keep of Alderweg from its nefarious counter-relic, the Gauntlet. However, that item had been lost for ages and Karl Van Arthog had time for diversions. The Keep was by then little more than his private retreat.
But Wielen did seek his aid, and together they were able to save their beloved Berghof from the ravenous wings by working closely together. Too closely, as it turned out. Against both of their better judgments, they began an illicit affair, violating her vows to the Goddess, and his to his wife. To his credit, he tried to peaceably end their tryst. But within the high battlement of Alderweg, they quarreled, struggled, and she fell into the canyon of the River Gann below.
There she died, overwhelmed with a desire for vengeance cultivated in the seemingly endless moments of the long fall and overwhelming sense of betrayal. For she believed that he had intended to kill her and that he had no remorse for her fall from grace as well. Her emotions were so great, likely to hide her own feelings of guilt, that she did not simply die, but arose as a Revenant, an undead thing with no other purpose but to be the death of Karl in turn. FN2. Years of devotion to Ehlonna, which had earned her an eternal place in the Grove of the Unicorns, were meaningless.
Karl Van Arthog, however, escaped her wrath. A haunting hunt about the Keep concluded when he trapped the Revenant in the temporal stasis of a Leomund’s secret chest that he used to store certain white gems, which were keys to the Keep’s magical prison. There the Revenant stayed, its overpowering will for revenge strangely keeping the magical chest from dissipating into the ethereal plane as the stasis, in turn, kept the Revenant from decomposing, as they each would have otherwise done. Van Arthog took these secrets to his grave. Yet few secrets remain hidden forever.
After many years the Gauntlet was found and in an inexplicable reversal modified its essential purpose. It had been created to destroy the Keep of Alderweg. But after having taken it with ease, the Sentinel not being there to oppose it, the Gauntlet sought to be a worldly power projecting from the Keep. Ironically, in order to escape capture, for with the host that then wore it the Gauntlet could not hold the Keep, it fled into the magical prison from which it could not then escape. However, the Gauntlet was not bound by the stasis of the Keep’s prison, and while there rended it in ways unaccounted.
The prison was a variant of the imprisonment spell. One such variance was that the cells of the prison did not consist of any physical place, even though entrance thereto was necessarily from within the Keep and exit was possible only into one specific room of the Keep. While an imprisonment spell manifests deep underground, this prison was not so anchored. Likely, it floated ethereally, and as such, even with wards that undoubtedly existed and which long kept it functional, it was subject to forces that made it unstable. The prison consisted of four magical cells accessed by the destruction of black and white gem keys that were normally kept in an instruction book, the inside cover of which was nearly an inch thick with 36 compartments for holding the gems. This book has a rich, tooled leather binding with the words “The Prison” in gold leaf on its spine.
The contents of the book, operational details of the prison and the like, are now irrelevant as the inside front cover was transformed into a mirror-faced gate to a prison much changed through which any viewer will invariably pass. FN3. The same forces that drove the Gauntlet into the prison also released the Revenant, then the Gauntlet, and eventually brought together the Gauntlet and the Sentinel. That meeting resulted in their mutual annihilation in a brilliant and thunderous explosion, the energy of which did not dissipate on Oerth. Undoubtedly, it was this series of forces in an unstable environment that led, without intention, to the creation of the abode of Wielen Unrot, now simply call the Prison. FN4.
I was drawn into the Prison because I was the first to attempt to read the book after it had changed. It had been donated as a historical curio to the Princes’ Library in Monmurg where I worked as a clerk. It is surprising, but I remember more of the details of Wielen than I remember of the otherworld that I entered.
In the first part of my journey through the Prison, I was lost in a seemingly endless maze which was constructed of impossibly tall cliffs through which flowed a sinister creek. This was no oversized canyon complex, but a literal maze. I came upon several box canyons where the water simply seeped into the ground. I was hunted through the maze, but by what I cannot remember. The thought of it haunts me even now for I do not forget things easily.
I do recall that somehow the canyon maze opened eventually into a beautifully lakeside meadow surrounded by fragrant mixed woods, within which I was able to glimpse sprites and other sylvan creatures. There the air was crisp but lovingly tempered by warm sunlight. It was there that I first saw Wielen Unrot who approached by water as a swan and then changed into a graceful warrior before my eyes. We talked for hours and picnicked with the service of the woodland creatures, but eventually she told me that I had to cross the water to an island beyond if I wanted to return home. She directed me to a boat that had been hidden in the rushes and was gone before I launched.
The island rose to a tall hill upon which there was an imposing black and white crystalline hall. I passed through a graveyard to reach that hall and I know none rested in peace there. Despite that, my only true travail was crossing a copse where every tree bore nooses that danced to catch my neck. I do not doubt that the island had many other dangers, but I was fortunate enough to avoid them.
As I entered the hall, it became clear that it was a court and I was to be judged. The shadows and beasts of the dark hall did not fetter me, for I supplicated, but I hate to think of what it would have been like had I fought their fiendish grasps. They dragged me before the high bench upon which sat the animated broken corpse of Wielen Unrot in shattered plate and blood stained and broken feathers. More animated than her dead body was the fire in her eyes as she read from my mind ever misdemeanor and slight I had ever committed. And as she recited them all back to me, minor as they were, I felt as if I would deserve any punishment she might command. But in the end, she gave me a choice: leave the hall by the door through which I entered, or take her hand so that I may return home under parole with a geas to pass on the book to one that I knew would be more likely to bring before her Guardian Karl Van Arthog. Although I cringed, I took her hand and she pronounced, “Fram cweartern theostre, feran!” FN5.
I found myself sitting exactly where I had been when I first picked up the book. I could have sworn that I spent a full day and half a night in the Prison, but the sun had not moved across the sky and I knew no time had passed. I though it might have been a day dream, but I knew better for I could not help myself but to go directly to the city’s temple of Ehlonna and deliver the book into other hands.
Footnote 1: Although the term is fairly frequently used, I have been unable to find on the internet any standardized definition of “pocket plane”, although there are a few informal, divergent and sadly limiting ones. I have not confirmed it, but this suggests that the term has not been formally defined for the game, which might be for the best. For the term I have used, “pocket part plane,” I am satisfied with the following supporting definitions.
“Pocket universe”: a universe or reality completely separate from ours which is much smaller, may have different natural laws, and may be artificially created.- Science Fiction Citations, http://www.jessesword.com/sf/view/1090
, noting the term as antedating 1946 and providing one citations as 1983 G. GYGAX Deities & Demigods of World of Greyhawk in Dragon Mag. Jan. 27/1: “No one knows where (or when) Istus makes her abode. Some savants postulate that there is a nexus linking the other planes of existence to a pocket universe which only she, and her webs of fate, can enter or exit.” See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocket_universe
“Pocket part”: A pamphlet used to update the contents of a book, such as a code, digest, or treatise, between publications. Pocket parts are usually inserted in the pocket at the back of a book, and should always be checked when present. – E. B. Williams Library Tutorial, Legal Research Definitions, http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/tutorials/definitions/pocket_part.html
Footnote 2: “Wielen Unrot,” despite being a rather humorous name for a revenant, translates from old English as “bondwoman sad.”
Footnote 3: See Module UK3, The Gauntlet, pp. 24 and 25 for a description of the contents of the book. As with the operation of the prison through the use of the gems, there is no saving throw against entering the Prison through the mirror-faced gate.
Footnote 4: The factors that lead to the creation of this pocket part plane, all of which exist in UK3, are the modified imprisonment spell without a physical place; the physical proximity of the prison exit to the Leomund’s secret chest; the unnatural preservation of the Revenant and the Leomund’s secret chest; the rending of the temporal stasis of the prison by the Gauntlet, necessarily implied by the duration of imprisonments (stasis) and changing of the Gauntlet’s host between cells (rending); the variance of purpose of the Gauntlet; the release of power at the destruction of the Gauntlet and the Sentinel; and continued overpowering will of the Revenant at the climax of these events.
Footnote 5: The phrase, “Fram cweartern theostre, cume,” was provided in UK3 as the command words for opening the Leomund’s secret chest. It translates from old English as “From prison dark, come” and clearly relates to the storage in the chest of the white gems to release prisoners. “Fram cweartern theostre, feran” translates as “From prison dark, go/travel.”