Super Dungeon: Pupsilludo’s Tale
This theme reveal was written by Alice L., Theme Master of Super Dungeon 2022.
When Pupsilludo was once again aware of his surroundings, he noticed three things. One, he seemed to have all of his appendages intact. Good. Two, he was definitely, absolutely, not in the meeting plane anymore. He was in so much trouble. And three, most importantly, he was faaaaalllliiiiiinnnnngggggg!
“Ahhhhhh!!!!” As he sped toward the misty floor below him, Pupsilludo flailed his wings desperately, forgetting two important facts: one, he was in the form of a Kenku child and hence couldn’t fly, and two, he was a god and hence could fly with magic, not wings.
Thankfully, it seemed as though Pupsilludo wasn’t alone in this strange new place. With a fwoosh! he was suddenly picked up by a stream of air, saving him from a painful crash landing. After a bit of tossing and turning, Pupsilludo found himself gently set down on the…ground, he guessed? It really looked more like a layer of clouds – he could even see his claws sink slightly into the springy vapor.
Where…? Looking all around him, Pupsilludo saw an empty, cloudy space as far as he could see. Yet the place looked vaguely familiar. Had he been here before? Think Pupsilludo, think!
However, Pupsilludo didn’t get much time to search his memory for the place, as he was suddenly interrupted by a voice from behind.
“Huh. I thought you’d be bigger.” With a start, Pupsilludo jumped around, looking for the source of the sound. Standing behind him was a strange figure that seemed to be made out of the air itself. But it didn’t look like a standard air elemental – it had four long appendages that ended in claw-like things and a head adorned with…fur, maybe? Three pairs of wings sprouted from its back like Aarakocra, and it wore a long flowing garment. All in all, it was a very weird and foreign looking being. And what gave it the right to judge Pupsilludo?!
“What do you mean you thought I’d be bigger? I am perfectly fine as I am! And also, who are you? Where am I? What are you going to do to me???” Having said his fill, Pupsilludo paused to take a breath, the sound of his words still ringing through the empty landscape. The air spirit seemed to be unimpressed though, simply cocking its head to the side as it regarded him.
“So many questions…are all the little bird people as loud and demanding as you?” The spirit gave Pupsilludo no time to respond though, simply continuing on. “But I suppose I do owe you some answers – I did abduct you and drag you to an unknown place, after all.” It was a bit hard to tell, given the whole made-of-air business, but Pupsilludo was at least 90% that the spirit gave him a snarky smile afterwards. What a horrible, rude spirit! He thought. But he also wanted answers, so he pushed down his pride and continued to listen.
“I’ll answer your questions in order, little one. First, why did I expect you to be bigger? I meant no offense – you’re quite cute as you are – but gods tend to be…you know, bigger.” At this, the air spirit gestured at a point far above Pupsilludo’s head. “So I was simply a bit surprised that you were so small and young looking. How old are you anyways, little god?”
“Old enough.” Pupsilludo was not amused. Appearances could be quite deceiving! And he wasn’t about to give his true age to some random stranger air spirit. That seemed ill advised.
The air spirit shrugged nonchalantly. “If you say so. Size doesn’t matter for the purpose I need you for anyways. Next, who am I?” The air spirit cocked his head in the other direction and tapped one of his appendages against his chin, seeming to think. “That is a most excellent question. I know who I once was, and the names I was once called – Lord of the Air, Keeper of Secrets, The Unseen One, The One that Sees All, and so many more – yet I do not know what I am now, for who I once was I seem to no longer be now.”
Pupsilludo looked up at the air spirit blankly. “What?” The spirit was now talking like Vicnaritas on his most riddle-y days. He had no time for such nonsense! Pupsilludo still had questions he needed answers to!
“Hmm.” The spirit scrutinized him carefully, then sighed. “It seems you do not recognize me. Oh well, my name is not that important. All you need to know is that I am a denizen of this place, and that I have something quite interesting for you.”
“What? That’s not an answer at all! Answer me prop-” Pupsilludo’s rant was abruptly cut off because he suddenly lost all the air in his lungs. What a mean spirit! It wasn’t playing fair!
The spirit continued to talk as if Pupsilludo wasn’t gasping and wheezing in front of him. “Let’s see, what was your next question again? Ah right, what is this place.” With a great flourish of its six wings, the spirit spread its arms and proclaimed, “Welcome to my humble abode, the elemental plane of air!”
Following this statement, there was a moment of silence, punctuated only by the heaving breaths of Pupsilludo. The spirit stooped down to look Pupsilludo in the eye. “No reaction? Huh.”
Pupsilludo raised a wing to bat the spirit away, forgetting that it was made of air. Rather unfortunately, his wing simply passed right through it. Still, the spirit moved back a few inches, resuming its initial position. Glaring at it, Pupsilludo rasped, “Maybe I…would have had…more of a reaction…If you hadn’t…tried to suffocate me…a few seconds ago!”
“Well you seem fine now. Besides, you were perfectly safe.” It shrugged, seeming to remain just as apathetic as before.
“Yeah well it’s still rude. Besides,” Pupsilludo gestured to the misty terrain around them. “I’ve been to the elemental plane of air before with my siblings. Granted, it was a long time ago, but it didn’t look anything like this.”
“Well, that’s because you probably went to the part that is open to the public. The inner sanctum here isn’t so easy to access. It’s dangerous too – without proper elemental shielding, the sheer force of the raw elemental energy here would tear anyone – whether mortal or god – apart into smithereens. It is only through my power that you’re standing here, little one.”
Pupsilludo shivered. Was this serene environment really that dangerous? He certainly didn’t want to test it. “Ok, point taken. Now answer my last question – what are you going to do to me?”
The spirit smiled. “Perhaps the most important question of all, hmm? Don’t worry though. I simply want to show you something that may be of interest to you – and to me too.” As it said the words, the spirit began to dissolve, fading into the air around it.
“Hey! Wait! Where are you going?” Pupsilludo tried to grab at the vanishing spirit, but a gust of wind smacked his wing out of the way. “Pay attention and watch.” The spirit’s voice ordered. “You’ll see.”
“Okayyyy???” Looking around him, Pupsilludo saw nothing out of the ordinary. The cloudy floor curled around him, the ever present wind blew up strands of mist and – oh! The mist was coalescing into shapes. Wandering around, he watched as forms emerged – each with four long limbs and weird non-pointy claw-like things, much like the wind spirit. There were eleven total, and as the figures became more detailed, he saw that each was unique. This one had arms – so many arms that Pupsilludo couldn’t even count how many there were – that floated behind it and thin, delicate fish scales that dotted its skin. That one had a long thick tail, spotted like a salamander’s, and long flames that licked down its back. And that one wore more jewels than Lucretor!
Pupsilludo was so focused on the incredible detail of the misty sculptures (he swore he could see every scale on that one’s snake!) that he was unprepared for when they began to move. He started when the one he was in front of, half naked and with flaming chains, walked right through him.
“Where is Sciear?” The figure sounded both angry and exasperated, as if this was not the first time this “Sciear” had been absent.
“I am sure he is on his way.” The figure wearing way too many snakes for Pupsilludo’s taste replied, stroking one of the serpents encircling its neck. “He knows better than to miss such an important meeting.”
The answer hardly seemed to appease the half-naked figure though. He turned toward two of the other forms, one dressed in loose fitting robes, another with short hair and voluminous cape. “Anemos, Kaelentia, do you know where your errant constellation is?”
“We cannot control his movements, anymore than you can control where the wind blows. He will be here when he is here. No sooner, no later.” The short-haired one’s reply was curt. Pupsilludo wasn’t quite sure whether that’s Kaelentia or Anemos, but he tried to keep the names in his head. That’s three names now – Kaelentia, Anemos, and the mysterious Sciear, who had yet to appear.
But the scene wasn’t over yet. Another form moved. This time, it was dressed in chaste robes, much like those of priestesses, and carrying a lantern. It approached the half-naked figure and placed one hand on its shoulder. “Incendix, calm down. I’m sure he’ll be here soon enough. He has never missed a meeting.”
The other figure angrily shook the hand off. “Well I, for one, am not going to wait idly by for his lateness. Need I remind you all that there is a hole in the sky?”
A hole? A hole?! This better be not what Pupsilludo thought it was…
“Ah yes, the hole! Though I’m more partial to calling it a rift.” A new voice broke through the conversation, and Pupsilludo looked up along with all of the forms. A new figure was slowly making its way down, with…six wings and a flowing garment? “Hey spirit! Where’d you go?” Pupsilludo shouted, but the spirit no longer seemed to hear him. Huh??? He supposed he’d have to figure it out later. Right now, he just watched as the spirit swooshed right past him and hovered over the half-naked figure. “And for your information, I was just gathering some last minute intel on that very subject. I’m sure you’ll all find it interesting.”
“Then you can start.” Pupsilludo turned to look at the new speaker – a figure with antlers like a deer, long flowing fur on its head, and fancy floor length robes. “Pray tell, illuminate us.”
“Gladly.” The six-winged spirit, now the center of everyone’s attention, rotated slowly with lazy flaps of its wings as it began. “I did a little investigation on the properties of the rift today – in fact, I was finishing up right before I came here. I discovered that it is, in some ways, exactly as it appears. It is a hole of sorts. I could throw objects through easily enough.”
“So it’s a portal, perhaps?.” A figure draped in a flowing gown with water cascading from their head interjected. “Do we know where it leads?”
“Unfortunately not. Once the objects entered, I could not find them again – not in the material plane or any of the hundreds of demiplanes I searched.” The spirit paused here, allowing the frantic murmurs to die down. Pupsilludo wished he was actually there – he was bursting with questions too!
But the spirit wasn’t quite done yet. “Hush, hush, there’s more. I found that though I could enter the rift, I could not pass through it – not even the smallest feather could make it through. Every time I tried, it felt as though a force was keeping me out, as vast and impenetrable as a wall. Moreover…” The spirit paused again, but this time, it seemed more…contemplative, as if it were reconsidering its next words most carefully. After a moment though, it continued.
“I know you will not believe me. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t believe me either. But you can go check for yourselves later. The rift itself…felt like her doing.”
A tense silence descended, but Pupsilludo barely noticed. His head was spinning with new questions, like who was this her? And also, who were these figures anyways? They didn’t look like mortals – but surely, they weren’t gods?
Yet another new voice jolted Pupsilludo from his frantic thoughts. This one came from the figure who seemed to be a weird amalgamation of plant and animal. “You’re right. It is hard to believe. After all, she-”
They’re cut off by the furious voice of another figure, and Pupsilludo whipped around to see the flaming hair of the salamander-tailed figure flaring. “Hard to believe?! It’s impossible! She has been inactive since the sealing 40 years ago. It cannot possibly be her doing. And how dare you mention her here, she who left us to deal with this mess by ourselves, she who-”
The voice abruptly cuts off – not because of some interruption by one of the figures, but because the misty figure itself was suddenly destroyed by a gust of wind. More gusts came, and Pupsilludo spun around in a panic, watching as the other forms were similarly destroyed.
What was happening? And why did the wind feel so much more…hostile now? Like it might cut his feathers if he wasn’t careful?
“My power wanes…” The voice of the spirit sounded right next to his ear, and Pupsilludo jumped in surprise. “For your own good, you cannot stay here any longer. Remember what you have seen, little bird. Until we meet again…”
“Wait!” Pupsilludo dug his talons into the clouds and reached out for the spirit, but his wings simply passed through the air fruitlessly. “Who were those people? Why were they also discussing a rift? Who is she? Come back! I still have so many questions for yooooouuuuu!” But alas, the winds were too strong. They swept Pupsilludo away from the spirit, and after a time, dumped him unceremoniously on top of the highest spire in Nidor.
Watching Pupsilludo depart his domain, the wind spirit cracked a smile before dissipating. The little bird person would have hardly been his first choice. But now, at least someone else knew. Now, there was hope.