Even as humans can be, the Kel'Regar, too, can be touched by madness, and it can drive them to push to ends incomprehensible by the sane. The work of one such, Kararemi'ar'Salm'Torat, the Menangerie of Mad Creation, is a twisted, living structure, tormented by years of loneliness and incomprehensible need.
Jonathon Darwin gaped as he looked upwards at the sprawling mass of vines and branches. It existed, his contacts at the Kel'Regar commune had not been telling a simple legend. For a moment, he considered the wonders that must exist within, briefly wondering if his distant ancestor had thought similarly of first setting foot upon the Galapagos. But this was far more dangerous territory than the ancient Darwin had ever tread. Jonathon would have to be similarly prepared, were he to enter.
Standing deep in the untamed jungles of Regar lies Kararemi'ar'Salm'Torat, the Menangerie of Mad Creation. The sprawling body of the Kararemi is built of a dozen different species trees and plants, woven together into a living wall, continuous and growing, whatever central intelligence that once guided it gone, such that it now grows nearly at random, pushed and pulled by the jungle that surrounds it's leafy exterior. Upon the bark-protected walls lie a hundred or more portals inwards to the chaotic halls within, their thick, heavy wood springing away upon contracting vines to admit entrance at the slightest touch, then swinging closed to prevent exit - It is far easier to enter the Kararemi than to leave it. While some modern, heavy weapons can tear their way through the walls of the structure, the holes swiftly regenerate, and to carve an egress will likely take more firepower than most can carry easily. While it is within their power to destroy the entire thing, the Kel'Regar have chosen to leave this structure in place, for it serves to them as a grim reminder of the need to keep careful control over their creations.
Upon entering the Menangerie, the sense of the mighty and oppressive jungle fades, for this is a realm apart, alien to even the most experienced of the Kel'Regar, and alien to those that prey upon them. Here, the brilliant sun overhead touches only distantly, through the many levels tightly woven branches of the Kararemi, the deep shadow broken by cracks and shafts of searing illumination, while the weather drifts through that loose ceiling to fall upon the lichen carpeted floor. As the halls of the Kararemi twist and turn about each other, they rise into the air, and fall into the ground, turned about each other into all three of the spatial dimensions. At times, these wandering bends are sharp corners, and can go in any direction. However, while there may be no 'floor' to walk upon at times, holds for hands and foot are always available to climb, though the process is never easy.
Panting and sweating, Jonathon collapsed upon the floor of the vast structure, his eyes looking up at his companions. The two women, it appeared, were in even worse shape than he was, their lithe, muscular frames of the Kel'Regar hunters built for speed and instant exertion, not endurance. They decided that it was time to rest, and they would do so in shifts. For a moment, he closed his eyes, and began to doze, but was awakened before long by the sensation of his flesh burning where he touched the ground. It was with a shocked cry that he pulled away, tearing the filaments that grew from the floor into his very flesh. There would be no rest for them, it seemed.
The first of the hazards of the Kararemi are found within the walls themelves. Hungry for every kind of nutrient, tiny tendrils grow from the walls and floors of the structure, rootlets seeking any organic they can find to feed upon. While their growth is slow, and they are not a danger to any except the unaware, they make resting difficult within the vast halls of the Kararemi - any creature which is still for more than a few hours will be drained by the great plant that makes up the building, incorporated into its new growth. Yet, even as it takes, it gives, for the Kararemi flowers, and bears fruit, which is edible by most sentient races, provided that one can reach through the ceilings and harvest it before it falls, and is consumed. The vines can be cut, and they will flow with sap, which can be drunken, and provides nutrition as well.
But, those who wander the Kararemi will find that they are not alone, for a thousand twisted creatures also roam the halls. Here, within the Halls of Mad Creation, the rules of ecology seem to be suspended, for there is little balance between predator and prey, and creatures seem to only have a handful of others like them. Indeed, they are a jumble of parts, selected almost as if it were a child playing with the building blocks of life itself. Few of them will be outright hostile to other creatures, but most of them are hungry, and many have the rudiments of intelligence.
As the Kararemi is wandered, should the sentient survive those who live in its halls, a number of large, rounded rooms may be encountered, though they are thinner near the edges of the structure, and more common closer to the densely packed central cluster, where the Kararemi was 'born'.
Most common of the rooms are the Pools of Birth. Roughly ten meters in diameter, these Pools were originally early versions of the Wombs of Creation, although now, they have mutated slightly over the years, as new ones are 'created' by the ever-growing Kararemi. Now, subject only to the minimal control of the central 'mind' of the Kararemi, the Pools vomit forth random creations, a number of which are likely to be found near the pool itself, possibly even in the process of emerging from the vast expanse of blood-red fluid that stirs and sloshes about the pool of its own accord.
There, among the grasses, the abominations vied for supremacy. The first, a creature with a bovine head full of sharp fangs, with a lithe, reptilian body, nearly three meters in length, covered in scales of jointed chitin, snapped at its foe with twin pincers, in between lashes with the stinger-tip upon its tail, glistening with poison, trying to drive the scavenger away from its prey. The scavenging creature, meanwhile, lashed back with the dozen tentacles that protruded from its furred body, nearly round in shape, with which it lumped along with a gait like a gastropod, slowly retreating from its find, though it must have hoped that the poisoned tentacle barbs would find their mark in the flesh of its armored foe.
His first instinct was to record them, and Jonathon's camera was soon at the ready, before one of his companions tackled him, the other moving with liquid grace and speed to skewer the strangely shaped creature that had just darted at him, a strange flyer with two nearly spherical body segments, and broad, long insectoid wings. With it's bumbling shape and small size, it was clearly little threat, despite its dagger-like beak. It had likely just been defending its territory, he decided, and they began to trudge further into the room.
Next most common are the Observation rooms, easily identified by their enormous size, over 150 meters on a side, and the strange eyes that festoon the ceiling of the rooms. A wide variety of plant life grows upwards from the dirt-caked floor here, and here, the creatures are trapped within, for a time at least. Gravitating towards these rooms as sources of food, the plant-eaters often congregate here naturally, then are chased in by predators. They are then held here for several weeks to months, by doors similar to the entry, as whatever watches through the eyes observes the system, waiting for it to skew off balance in one direction or another, whereupon it reopens to the outside halls, to allow new creatures to enter from the Pools of Birth.
Periodically, holding cells can be found within the hallways as well, sealing away hapless creatures that wander in for 'later use', though the Kararemi is careful not to store them there too long - few creatures can survive more than a few days without food and water, after all. Usually, these will be found empty.
Less common are the Measurement Rooms. Much smaller than the Observation rooms or Pools of Birth, the Measurement Rooms are places where the Kararemi studies the things it has created more closely than it can in the Observation room. When it chooses a victim, the Room lashes out at it with tentacle-like vines, ensnaring it and hanging it from the ceiling, while more sensory clusters, much like those in the Observation room descend, to closely observe the creature as it thrashes. After a short time, a new sort of tentacle-vine appears, this one tipped with a razor sharp claw, and the vivisection of the creature, and the probing of its internal organs for their function begins. Here, buried deep within the walls, are also 'thinking' nodes of the Kararemi, brain-like structures that direct nearby Pools of Birth and Observation Rooms, though they are not very intelligent without commands from the central mind of the Kararemi.
At the center, the heart of the Kararemi, lie the original rooms made by the creator of the Kararemi, a half-legendary man now remembered only as Ker'Selm'Torat, the Man of Mad Creations. Outermost of these central rooms is a single, large Observation room, over half a kilometer in diameter, shaped in a ring, surrounded by Pools of Birth. The oldest, and perhaps the most hazardous of the miniature ecosystems that dot the Kararemi, it has reached a metastable state, capable of supporting much larger and stronger predators than the outer rooms, some of which have been born of the large Birthing Pools, others of which have evolved here in the central Observatory. Further, a number of microbes have evolved here, many of which have the potential to become virulent, even lethally so in a variety of sentient creatures. Free of the devouring tendrils of the outer rooms, here, the creatures have a greater chance to fight for their own survival, to breed, to live.
For those who are able to access them, each entrance to the central Observation Room has a hidden tunnel to the central building, but to open this door, an appropriately compatable Kel'Regar must allow the Kararemi to drink of its blood. The original purpose of the hungry tendrils that infest the outer rooms, the slumbering identification system is keyed to a handful of genetic markers found in Ker'Selm'Torat's personal genetics, and those of his assistants when he built the structure originally. Now, with the slow turning of the years and the vagaries of descent, about one in fifty Kel'Regar is able to open the doors to the tunnels. Others must make the mad dash across the Observatory to the central spire, where a more general identification is possible, which will admit most Kel'Regar and their companions, providing the Kararemi itself assents to their entry.
Sprinting across the central ring towards the building, his companions long since dead, Jonathon could do nothing but pound on the door he found there, hoping something, anything could answer from within. There was only silence, then blinding pain, as the claws tore into the base of his neck...
The first floor of the central spire, meanwhile, is a single Measurement room, more complex than the vivisection chambers of the outer rooms. Capable of a wide degree of pharmaceautical interactions and behavioral tests, it is not above inflicting these upon those who gain entry to the complex without passing the test for compatibility with Ker'Selm'Torat.
The second floor of the spiral contains a number of primitive, living brains, networked in the Kel'Regar fashion to provide computing power. Accessible only through the Communication Implant, these neural nets are designed to work with an older version of that Implant, rendering moderate ones slightly 'staticy' to work with. Anyone who attempts to interface with the net for too long will be slowly driven mad by the assault on the senses, however, short unions of no more than an hour or two will have little long term effect, though headaches may be found. Here can be found the sum of all the data that the Kararemi has collected over the centuries, a tremendous log of cause and effect between genetics, environment, and behaviors. It can be skimmed, but there is more to the assault on the senses, the taste of and presence of another, though it cannot be localized or confronted.
Above this memory facility can be found the personal quarters of the Kel'Regar who once staffed the Kararemi - While these, save one, are all abandoned, a number of durable personal effects remain, including weapons, clothing, and assorted jewelery. The final quarters are those of Ker'Selm'Torat himself. Rigged to interface with the memory facility below, what remains of the old man is bound tightly to the systems there, the Kararemi having long since grown into the discarded husk of his body, its nervous system directly attached to his brain, feeding it from its own nutrients. That brain still houses fragments of the researcher's once brilliant mind, which direct the Kararemi as it grows and studies the things within itself. However, any identity it once held as an independant being is long gone, shattered by the thousands of sensory inputs that the Kararemi feeds it. Long lost to reality, it desires only to create new forms of life, to watch and observe, and then, at their death, take joy in the end of an experiment completed. Any direction to this research it may have once had are now gone, subsumed by the terrible purpose that writhes within its new frame. The twisted, sprawling shape is the result of its desire to grow, but its inability to direct that growth effectively. Towards anyone who attempts to interface with it directly from here, it will direct the full flood of what it has learned - more than enough to overwhelm any sophont who is not used to being a part of a hive mind.
The Kararemi is a dangerous relic, and there are relatively few reasons to enter. However, the biodata accumulated over the years is of tremendous worth. Parties seeking the basis for powerful biological tools or medicines may have the need to enter, and seek the memory facility. Once located deep within the untamed jungles of Regar, civilization has begun to encroach on the outskirts of the Kararemi. It is possible for the unware to wander too close to the facility, even enter it not knowing what it is. PCs may be sent in on a rescue mission. The artifacts in the staff quarters may be of great historical value, or otherwise needed by the PCs.
A random creature generation table is presented, courtesy of Kassil: The Chart o' Parts
? Hall of Honour (2 voters / 2 votes)
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? Responses (7)-7
The idea of the chart, of course, is to roll once for each column, and then use some basic imagination and logic to assemble the parts into a creature that might survive for more than a few moments.
Two notes of value: entries that say 'hairless' can either be chitinous or naked skin, as the game master prefers; and 'crawling' creatures can be either serpentine or sluglike - the latter producing a trail of ichor that can be slick, sticky, or toxic - or even mnemonic, incorporating RNA strands which similar creatures can absorb to 'learn' what the creature knows.
I really can't think of a comment worthy of such an amazing creation. I want to use this as soon as possible for a survival horror game. Great work, guys.
Wow - this is really cool indeed.
The chart o' parts is pretty awesome too. Great job guys!
Siren originally asked me for half a dozen specific critters 'like a four-year-old used the building parts of life to make a Mr Potato Head'. I gave him the Chart, so anyone could create nightmarish entities as necessary for the place - or, really, for anywhere else that need a random Abomination Against Nature.
Did the one who made this voluntarily link his mind with the Kararemi? 5/5
Yes. It took quite a while for the combined being to go completely crazy.