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Ilkkool Rrem

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ripvanwormer's picture

Ilkkool Rrem

It is a city of slaves and hidden masters.It is a nexus of the mortal world, the Caverns of Ilsensine and the Abyss.It is one of the greatest and most feared of cross-planar metropoli.

After the rebellion of Gith and the consequent destruction of the Overmind, the illithid colonies were left scattered throughout the planes, unable to communicate with one another. An ulitharid remembered as the Conciliator appeared before its people, and spoke of a way to reunite the empire.

A crossroads must be found, it said, a place where the illithids of the scattered worlds and planes can quickly meet and exchange information.

Scouring the Astral Plane, sending its mind into every stray thoughtwind, inhaling the stale breath of the dead gods, the Conciliator at last found an answer.

There was a place. It was the site where the cursed dwarf gods Diirinka and Diinkarazan fled after stealing secrets of power from the brain-god Ilsensine. For thousands of years, it had been inhabited by the aberrations that were their failed experiments.

This is where Ilsensine ripped a hole in the world and cast Diinkarazan into the Abyss. As a result, the region is prone to dimensional instability. This instability could be taken advantage of to cheaply create numerous portals to elsewhere.

At various times and on various worlds and planes mind flayers have penetrated this dimensional barrier and ended up here. The first wave was the one led by the Conciliator of legend, who brought its people from a small, cold planetoid that offered little resources and less hope. They overpowered the proto-derro aberrations and slaughtered them, breeding only the most fit to be the first of their thralls. They cleared the area of its native life and dammed the shallow river. The Conciliator helped found the city of Ilkkool Rrem, the pathless city, the first nexus of the Nova Imperium. Built into the sides of an infinite chasm, Ilkkool Rrem has no roads or walkways for the convenience of non-illithid life except in its false front.

The Elder Brain of the community was created, legend has it, from the mind of the Conciliator itself, and the minds who have joined it since defer to it and share its name. The Brain is located nowhere in the city, but its presence is felt everywhere by its inhabitants. It keeps the thralls docile and the illithids informed; it controls the portals that bring Ilkkool Rrem its wealth and influence. It is believed to exist entirely within the Astral Plane, only the enormous power of its ancient mind entering touching material existence.

Despite the power of the Conciliator, the worship of Ilsensine is universal within Ilkkool Rrem. Where mind flayers of other communities may feel arrogant enough to ignore the brain-god, those of Ilkkool Rrem know the city exists because of the power of the god, and take care to placate their Power.

The ulitharid known as the Mokhe Moshe came only briefly, but the effects of its visit were lasting. Mokhe Moshe's people had fled the Quasielemental Plane of Mineral millennia before, after an unexpected defeat had driven them from their spiral city. They settled on a material world and used their expertise in crystal technology to dominate it and grow wealthy. Mokhe Moshe entered Ilkkool Rrem with a massive entourage during their pilgrimage to Penumbra. Mokhe Moshe carried with it a strange psionic plague from its alien world called psi-blight, which rapidly infected all the thralls in the city, transforming them into beings of pure crystal. On Mokhe Moshe's world, these crystal thralls were used as receptacles for their masters to store psionic energy in. In Ilkkool Rrem, they were a disaster. In the metropolis' narrow confines, the plague spread uncontrolled, infecting the food stocks and rendering them useless. Three quarters of the population starved before a cure was found. This heralded the end of the First Age of Ilkkool Rrem.

Consequently, the axis of illithid cross-dimensional society moved to the City of Devourings for a time. This city, built in the Astral within the "other sides" of a titanic cluster of the entities mortals call Bags of Devouring, proved a valuable means of cross-planar travel in a place where the githyanki could not go. Ilkkool Rrem became a backwater in the context of the schemes of the New Empire. This is what is now remembered as the metropolis' Second Age. It wasn't until the psurlons began monopolizing so much of the City of Devourings' resources that attention shifted back to Ilkkool Rrem once more.

In this Third Age, Ilkkool Rrem was ruled by the city of Brain-in-the-Skull on the world of Falx. An inquisition from that massive and ancient city ruled as Ilkkool Rrem's Elder Concord in accordance with their plans and their vision of the renewed empire to come. Meanwhile, the voice of the Conciliator was dimmed by the interference of Brain-in-the-Skull's vaster mind. Ilkkool Rrem's liberation did not come from the actions of the Conciliator or the illithids that considered themselves to be its children, but from the rising star of Tentacles-Grip-Tightly, another city on Falx. A brief war between Tentacles-Grip-Tightly and Brain-in-the-Skull allowed the Conciliator to regain control over the portals of Ilkkool Rrem, and it forbade anyone from Falx from entering. With their major avenue of cross-world travel closed, the cities of Falx eventually agreed to an armistice. Ever since then, the three cities have been at peace, though there are strong rivalries between their equivalent Creeds.

The False City

Where once the crude huts of the proto-derro had clustered around the endless void left by Ilsensine's wrath now sprang a city made equally from alien alloys, the raw Chaos of the Abyss, and the living flesh of thralls. They served as a place of amusement, where thralls could be made to interact with one another, and as a way to disguise the true city beneath. Of course, tunnels connect the twin cities with one another, allowing thralls to disappear into their master's parlors to be amusement or food.

The city's chasm has no bottom. The portal within it is a strange and inconstant thing, governed perhaps by the blind madness of Diinkarazan or the secret designs of Ilsensine. Most of the time it simply continues without limit, leaving someone falling down it plummeting forever without shifting planes. When and where it opens seems to have no pattern - a traveler will suddenly experience something of the ever-changing hues of the Prison of the Mad God, and then see the distant lights of Ilkkool Rrem on the sides of a tunnel stretching into darkness above and far below. If they can't float, they will fall.

Most visitors, of course, never see the chasm at all. They see the false city, which is the only thing "thrall races" are fit to see in the eyes of the illithid masters.

Most visitors never see the illithids, either. They see happy, fat, contented thralls living ordinary lives. They do not see them amble into the secret chambers beneath the cities to the call of the illithids or their master brain.

The tunnels of the false city twist around one another like the undulations of a brain - each leads ultimately to a different world. Because the portals of Ilkkool Rrem take advantage of the divinely-created dimensional instability of the area, they are not dispellable as most portals are, and even a surelock spell is only a temporary measure.

The sides of the tunnels are filled with shops and dwelling-places. These chambers gain their water from the dammed river, which once flowed into the Chasm but now flows into a reservoir somewhere slightly above street level.

The place where the tunnels of the false city meet is called the Cortex. There are actually two Cortices, one a financial center where the adamantine treasure vaults are located, and one a library where thralls buy information from visitors, or sell it at ruthlessly inflated prices. Sometimes these are called the Iron Cortex and the Cortex of Dreams, though both names are misleading.

The portals to Yuhnmoag, Abstemious, the Twilight World, Penumbra, the Caverns of Ilsensine, Falx, Kule, Glyth, and other significant illithid settlements and holy sites are found only in the secret illithid part of the city, in the chasm. In the false city are portals to places thrall races frequent, bringing thrall wealth to enrich the master race. These include Tradegate, Glorium, Skullport (beneath Waterdeep), Erelhei-Cinlu (in the Vault of the Drow), the Rock of Bral, the beholder city of Kaggash, Trollhattan (in Mystara), and London Underground. Illithids do not use these portals, and they do not send their thralls through them where they might escape illithid control. They exist only for others to enter from and leave through.

The City of Devourings is an important exception. Despite its current psurlon dominance, portals to the astral burg are found in both the true Ilkkool Rrem and in its city of thralls, because it still offers much that illithids value.

Portals to the Far Realm are guarded by illithids who have blinded themselves to the sights of this world in order to better perceive the threats on the other side of the door. These mind flayers, the only ones who venture into the false city at all, conceal their features beneath long cloaks and heavy cowls. They say nothing to anyone. These doors did not exist until the present Age, and none of the inhabitants understand the Conciliator's designs in opening them. Neh-thalggu and other creatures (including beings of complex and abominable forms that are believed to be the Far Realm equivalent of brain golems) come through with impunity to take advantage of the sights and services of Ilkkool Rrem, entering even the inner sanctums of the Chasm. The illithids do not like it; their elder brain seems to desire their presence, but will not say why. Perhaps it is to dissuade other illithid communities from trying to conquer the metropolis again, but the Conciliator would not admit to such weakness.

There are only two exceptions to the Conciliator's otherwise perfect control over the portals. The first is the Chasm itself, the first portal, which is random and capricious, appearing throughout the multiverse with no obvious pattern. The second exception is portals to Sigil, the fabled City of Doors, which appear throughout Ilkkool Rrem according to the will of the Lady of Pain. When discovered, these can be sealed off, but the Conciliator finds it desirable that some should stay. Most are carefully guarded in case enemies of the illithid race should attempt to use them to invade, but it is possible that travelers may find a wild one that has not yet been dealt with.

One planar path that is definitely unconnected with Ilkkool Rrem is the Infinite Staircase. The Stair joins only with places of creativity and art, and the Conciliator suppresses those aspirations in its domain.

The Pathless City

Invisible from the false metropolis is the true one, built into the sides of the bottomless chasm itself. With no needs for stairs or sidewalks, the illithids drift freely through the void, entering the ornately carved entrances to their homes directly from the air.

As with most illithid communities, the politics of Ilkkool Rrem are dominated by the various Creeds. Of these, the Venerators are more powerful here than anywhere but the Caverns of Ilsensine, but all Creeds have their place. The Gatherers are perhaps even more powerful, since their philosophy is the reason the city was founded. Indeed, the Gatherer Creed credits the Conciliator with founding their organization. Many Gatherers are almost dismissive of the metropolis, the place that most perfectly realizes their goals, as they believe they could if necessary find another one. As mentioned in the History above, for a time their central hub was the City of Devourings, and they left it not so much because they had to but because it was more convenient not to attempt war with the psurlons at this time - at least, not until both races have defeated the githyanki, their common enemy. The Venerators do their best to foster suspicion of the psurlons, since they believe that keeping Ilkkool Rrem in its current dominance adds to the glory of their god.

The other Creeds flourish as well: Darkeners from across the multiverse discuss ways to extinguish the stars, while Arisers take many exotic approaches toward protecting their kind from the light. However, many of the Creeds, especially the Creatives, are hampered by a sense of rivalry with other illithid communities and civilizations. The Gatherers do their best to keep bad feelings to a minimum, but arguments do arise, sometimes serious enough that communities have refused to have anything to do with Ilkkool Rrem for centuries at a time. The Gatherers always return to these "lost" domains, hoping that time will heal old hurts, but the elder brains have long memories and nurse longer grudges.

The larval pools in Ilkkool Rrem are almost unique in that they do not also serve as the seat of the Elder Brain. Because the Conciliator has transcended the material plane to exist almost entirely in the Astral (psionically protected, as most elder brains are, from githyanki detection), the larva-tenders must thin out the weaker tadpoles with predators imported from a variety of worlds. These include lobotomized aboleths, chuul, and other predators suited to stagnant, briny water. Similarly, dead illithids do not undergo Commencement with the Conciliator - they are either brought back to their home city to join with their own elder brains, or, if native to Ilkkool Rrem, buried in the catacombs beneath and around the Cathedral of Ilsensine so that their spirits can serve the Brain God.

From the Journal of P. McPherson, Professional Finder:

I don't like to go there. No one does, except the squidheads (I suppose).

Sometimes it's necessary.

The portals are terrible enough. They're not like Sigil's doors. They're soft places where it seems like the solidity of reality has been eaten away. Sometimes you can smell them before you see them - it's not the smell of illithid mucous, like you'd expect. That smell is almost absent everywhere in Ilkkool Rrem; the thralls keep it that clean. What you smell is... evil. It's a smell I've only otherwise experienced in the Abyss, and I don't know why the portals to Ilkkool Rrem are associated with it, except it smells and feels as if they pass through the Abyss before they end up in whatever Prime the city is in. I don't know why that might be, or if it's even possible, but that's what it feels like. After you walk into this hideous, molten "soft" region, you find yourself in a long stone tunnel. The buildings start out sparse, but grow denser as you move deeper into Ilkkool Rrem.

The first thing you notice about the burg, once you're there, isn't the claustrophobic twisting tunnels or the lack of sky. It's the natives, and how placid and strange they are. They speak slowly, as if they're half asleep, though they go about their tasks quickly enough. And behind each of their eyes, you can see the Elder Brain, which they call the Conciliator, moving them about like puppets on strings. Some of them resemble strange combinations of human and dwarf, but there are slaves gathered from all races over the eons.

That constant presence in the gaze of everyone here is all you'll see of the illithids. They value trade from outside, or they wouldn't have created all these portals. They just don't want to have to meet any of the traders. They have all the sentients they need for food, so they don't need to come in any kind of contact with non-natives. So they don't.

No one knows where the squidheads keep themselves. There are no big buildings in the city where outsiders aren't allowed, except the bank, but it's not so big. The best guess is that they're underground somewhere, or possibly overground seeing how all of Ilkkool Rrem is subterranean. Others think they might be invisible, watching us from the Astral Plane or somewhere. I very much doubt that - the githyanki would be on them in a second.

Not that the githyanki don't try to invade anyway. They're always scheming to bring the place down, them and the 'zerai both, but the portals don't open for them. Somehow, the squids know about everyone before they come into their city and they don't let the githkin in. Even if you and your 'zerai buddy both walk through the portal at once, only you are going to come out the other side. The 'zerai stays right where he was.

I wonder why the squids don't just rig the portals to pipe the githkin someplace deadly, but I guess they don't have quite that much control. Nasty thought, though.

So the githyanki and 'zerai are trying to find a back way in. But it's an unknown Prime world as best as anyone can figure, buried deep underground, so I don't see them finding it any time soon.

So, for now anyway, the squidheads rule.

The burg - Ilkkool Rrem - is a good place to get psionic items and slime-covered thingnubbits from across the planes. Fiends come here, but they're an extreme minority. Frankly, I think they're afraid of the squids, who are as powerful here as they are anywhere. The real draw, the reason I come, is the knowledge for sale. Squidheads know things - they read minds, of course, but they also explore the planes. They don't like to give up their darks, so they charge dearly for it. But sometimes, there isn't anyone else who would know. Not anyone you could ask, I mean - you can't prance into the Tower of the Arcanaloths and grill the darks from them, can you?

So I go to Ilkkool Rrem. I hope I never have to again.

From the Journal of Edwin Maciz, Lord Wizard and Defender of the Realm:

McPherson said he could find it. He's never let me down.

I wish - I wish he hadn't looked among the illithids.

He found it, all right. With the knowledge he provided, we were able to bind the Nordenwound and banish it back to its plane of origin.

He hasn't been the same since he got back, though. There are many things he knew before that he just doesn't remember now. "Nothing's free," he told me, but without his old grin.

I swear - I see something behind his eyes that wasn't there before.

sciborg2's picture
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Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: Ilkkool Rrem

Incredible burg Rip! Curious, is there a secret Abyssal influence that is warping the city? You seem to hint at such, so I wonder if the CE alignment is leeching even at the mindflayers...

Also, did you come up with the Creeds? Curious about those as well.

Again, great stuff.

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ripvanwormer's picture
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Joined: 2004-10-05
Re: Ilkkool Rrem

Thanks for your comments. The Creeds are from Bruce Cordell's The Illithiad. I'm sure the Abyss leaks into any place that has portals connecting to it. This place in particular has a strong historical connection to the Abyss... which is why it exists where it does. Naturally, the mind flayers and the cult of Ilsensine attempt to resist the taint, but the Abyss can be insidious...

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