It's rare that a single piece of art influences me so directly, but this piece is so unique and evocative that I just couldn't help but incorporate it into Aquarian Dawn! It reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Zdzislaw Beksinski.
Michael K could tell you I've probably spent way too much time thinking about all of the particulars of this idea, and I've also discussed it a bit already on reddit such as on the SWORDDREAM_unofficial subreddit, so I hope it's actually coherent and interesting, and not just an overwrought mess 0.o.
It also draws some parallels to some of the ideas I had for the anti-mutants in Phantasmos, but I don't quite think they're compatible. I had always wanted to come back to the anti-mutants, I thought and still think there was a kernel of a cool idea there but I never got to explore it as far as I'd like. Depending on how I feel about the Whitemare / Cancerverse down the line, I may come back to the anti-mutants eventually as well.
If you are a player in my current Aquarian Dawn Campaign, this contains SPOILERS! PLEASE DO NOT READ!!!
So with that:
Beware the Whitemare.
Our legends are endless dead dreams. I awaken, and rest.
To die is to dream. May your dreams be ever pleasant. Sleep well.
What do undead dream?
The Machine Goddess Athena, The Dark Lord
Her skin is twilight like the cosmos, dotted like a ginger with the violet-hot light of stars and nebulae. Lines like shooting stars course over her skin, thinning and branching into symmetric fractal patterns, vein-like, violet-whiteness fading into her forearms and hands, and ankles and feet. She has three pairs of arms that move in tessellation. She is covered in metallic armor, smooth and seamless, with lines that reflect and refract in a geometric manner; chitinous. A series of violet-white tubes arch along her back, always bending in uncanny ways, appearing the same when viewed from any angle, appearing detached from space-time when she moves or when one moves around her, or like a dimension unto herself. Her hair is violet-white and composed of straight strands that split into branches, each splitting into self-same branches; frizzy, but in an unnaturally symmetric, perfect way. The upper half of her face is kaleidoscopic, like many shifting spidery eyes, each a reflection of her whole face in miniature, with kaleidoscopic eyes reflecting the whole again, ad infinitum.
Whatever the case, the fomoire, the remains of her Unseelie Court, grow increasingly mad and wish to die, as do all in the whitemare. The beings of the cancerverse themselves, the mutates, pteraghuls, and so on, are like idiot godlings, even in their brilliance, overwhelmed by the genuine euphoria, beauty, and symmetry of infinite recursive existence. One could argue that with the cancerverse Athena succeeded in her goal, and really did make a better existence, and it's only the whitemare itself, her twisted nightmare dream of endless self-loathing, that needs to end. The cancerverse has a will to life above and beyond anything else, even the mortal world. Perhaps the cancerverse and the mortal world are compatible, different but containing a piece of each other.
Servants of the Dark Lord
Whereas the Fey represent the beauty, majesty, and wonder in things, an abstract "magical" force in the universe, the fomoire are like bestial proto-fey or anti-fey; representing that which is ugly, disturbing, painful; or mundane, defeating, or hopeless. They are fewer in number than the fey, but generally more powerful. Each is unique, as if to embody the torment of one person, except there are so few of them; a reminder that You are not special and neither are Your problems. There was once an Unseelie Court that served the Machine Goddess at the highest levels, but they were defeated or displaced in the last war against the Empire of the High Age of humanity.
The marauding armies of the Machine Goddess, once organized under the Unseelie Court. While Athena rebuilds her forces in the Whitemare, remainders of her forces, who went into hiding during the peak of the High Age of humanity, have since resurfaced. The firbolg consist of fomoire warlords, drow, trolls, hobbs, machines, and denizens of the cancerverse. Firbolg are often mutated with cancerous growths and teratoma eyes, literally embodying the all-seeing panopticon of the Machine Goddess. They wear armor and weapons of blacklight stone, with linear and fractal patterns carved into their armor or on their skin; a Mandlebrot "eye" equivalent to a teratoma. Those firbolg hordes under the direct influence of the Machine Goddess carry her emblem; an aegis shield, within which is an interwoven multitude of ouroboros with repeating patterns on their scales replicating the pattern of the interwoven ouroboros.
The exact origins of the drow are uncertain, but it is believed that they are either an offshoot of elves who chose not to leave for the higher realm and instead joined Athena, or they are the natives of what became the Cancerverse, or a hybrid species. They have grayish-purple skin, black, white, gray, or purple hair, large eyes, long pointed ears, thick humanoid body hair, and prehensile tails. They mostly worship the Machine Goddess, representing her machines, lines, and fractals with spider symbology. The tsuchigumo are their divine-military mystic corps, who wear blacklight stone or psionic masks like a spider-face. Their scout corps are driders, who ride mutated or biomechanical spiders. Some have even been fused into their spiders. Oni are drow with a teratoma horn, like a psionic third eye. They contain massive raw psionic power, but over time their psyches unravel, and they split into two monsters known as Yoma and Ashura, usually ogre-like creatures, one red-skinned and the other blue-skinned.
Cyclops (Starborn Golem)
Massive giants of blacklight stone, with linear patterns and fractals carved into their stone skin. They are powered by a large blacklight stone eye in the center of their face, capable of projecting beams of blacklight energy that split in fractal patterns. It is unclear if they were created by or discovered by the drow, or the Machine Goddess, or were creations of the elves that later became the drow. They are revered as demigod constructs by the elves, who believe they were created during the High Age of the elves. The name "starborn" is a misnomer; although the elves believe they were created in the celestial bodies, they were actually created or summoned by the science-witches who found the astrological equations hidden in the stars, inadvertently divining the Whitemare.
Massive, spindly humanoid creatures that can move bipedally but often choose to move like a spastic quadruped. They move freely between the Whitemare fractal dimension and the cancerverse. It is not clear if the dimension was named for them, or they for the dimension; if they were created by the Machine Goddess, and if so, if she created them intentionally, or how much control she has over them. They have extra-dimensional properties; crawling, compressing, and gyrating through spaces they should not possibly fit. They generally serve the Machine Goddess, but don't seem to be innately malicious or have any discernible intelligence or motivation.
The Twilight Treasurer Black Tom, and the Twisting Terminus
The mind-castle of the Machine Goddess within the Whitemare. A gothic, psychedelic, symmetric, kaleidoscopic spacetime of lines and fractals. It is full of Athena's machines and firbolg, but also independently operating fomoire, denizens of the cancerverse, and numerous other beings of independent allegiance and unknown origins, lost as in limbo. One is always being watched in the twilight terminus; most at first modifying their behavior as in the panopticon, until they reach a point of madness in which they care not at all for their privacy, or for any allusions of decency or proper behavior. Even if one could escape the Twisting Terminus, they would find themselves lost in the dreary Whitemare, or the vast flesh-desert of the Cancerverse.
The djinn are something "else", metaphysical forces like the Fey or Fomoire, but lacking an intrinsic "moral nature", or a material form. They are more like robots, things that can be programmed or manipulated. Servant djinn are sometimes referred to as daemon in ancient texts. The Machine Goddess has built biomechanical cancer machines powered by djinn energy. These daemons maintain her castle, the Twisting Terminus, and serve as its panopticon-wardens.
An extraordinarily powerful, mischievous, and arguably malicious or at least narcissistic leprechaun trapped in Twisting Terminus. He has been trapped for so long that none know his origins, not even the Machine Goddess, or Black Tom himself. Although powerful, he is quite mad, aimless, and has a tendency to get in his own way, and is seen by Athena as more of an annoyance than a true threat.
Those who meddle with Dark Lords in extra-dimensions may find a twilight token, a black coin with a four leaf clover on one side, and the face of a leprechaun on another. By rubbing together three twilight tokens in one's hand, a mortal may summon Black Tom to serve them. However, one often gets more than what they bargained for when dealing with Black Tom.