A Modron's Tale
A whirl of numbers... a thoughtform in an infinite intellect... and you came into existence.
Mechanus, your home. Memories of early incarnations, as monodrone, as duodrone, are forgotten. You are a tridrone, you are tetrahedral, you are strong. You carry the three javelins of your assigned task, and supervise the twelve duodrones in protecting the cog to which you are assigned. Balance, symmetry, order.
But during one day's patrol with your underlings, a strange feeling comes over you. Your body begins to... weave in and out of vision. The duodrones marching behind you stop, their simpler minds temporarily driven to chaotic, non-logical decision trees. You are just about to tell them to regain control, when you wink out of existence completely, and lose consciousness.
You awake in alien surroundings. You are in a richly-appointed chamber, the kind you have seen members of the humanoid Fraternity of Order inhabit. You are unable to move, though, because you are shackled to a slab of black rock. The rock, exactly 8 feet in height and 4 feet in width, is inclined at a 68.2 degree angle to the floor surface, enabling you to survey the square, 12 foot by 12 foot room.
Strange bottles and jars line a series of shelves immediately facing you. Placed in front of them is a desk, made of some sort of vegetable material, polished to a black shine. The legs of this desk are carved into the appearance of screaming humanoid faces. Your triangular body is uncomfortable on this slab, and you realize immediately that you have conceptualized a feeling of "discomfort," something you never felt on Mechanus.
It takes a while for you to realize the most abnormal part of this scene: you are viewing all of this room, and there is no color. As you begin to speculate as to the probability of your visual sensors being damaged, you are arrested by an invisible door on the right wall of the room opening. You see a humanoid emerge from the now-visible doorway. His body is weak, he clutches a cane to aid in his locomotion. When his head emerges from the mists, you see it is the head of a lupine creature: a wolf.
"Ah," the wolf-creature says in a smooth, practiced tone, "you have awoken. I do so detest having to secure my guests in such a fashion, but, alas, it is necessary." He puts down his cane as he rummages through the wooden desk. "Your kind," he says, opening and closing drawers with increasing frustration as he searches for something, "have always fascinated me. More specifically, the biology of your kind. Knowledge, as you well know, is power. Ah. Here it is." He emerges from behind the desk holding an annulet made of platinum, a small ring of the sort humanoids wear on their digits. He hobbles over to you and slips the ring on your finger. You immediately feel invigorated, healthy, and fortified.
"That must have felt good, eh, little box?" The wolf-headed being then goes
back to his desk, opening a drawer, and takes out a huge cleaving sword.
"Now we'll see what makes you tick."
You cannot count how many times the wolf-headed creature has disassembled you. Even such a simple effort of modron thought as counting is impossible to you now. The ring on your finger, he has told you, "prevents your little modron spirit from going back to rejoin your plane." He doesn't talk much while he systematically disembowels you, but you know one thing: even though the ring prevents you from dying, it doesn't stop the pain. That's a new feeling, too: pain. His robed inhuman assistants stand at the periphery, holding trays of gleaming wrenches, pliers, scalpels, and other tools. A floating quill, a magical scribe, draws schematics of your mechanical insides on a great piece of paper tacked to the wall as the wolf-being takes apart your cogs and gears.
After you wake up from either your twelfth or thirteenth go-around with the wolf's instruments of torture, you awaken to a whole new body. You are no longer a tridrone, by the look of things. Your body has changed to be something like a quadrone's. And your mind, well, your mind is the thing that feels most different of all. You feel totally and irrevocably severed from the modrons of Mechanus. Your mind is truly alone.
You don't have much time to contemplate this, because the wolf-man is screaming. "Damn all the gods, it's happened again! Why do you damnable modrons always change form like that! There was no indication of any transformative powers inside that accursed tetrahedral body of yours! Oh, well, you're useless to me now. You, you!" He points to a couple of his lumpy, robed assistants. "Take this one to the Discarding Chamber." The wolf-man then leaves the room through the invisible door.
You are unshackled and led by both arms to a hatch on the floor of the room. As the two lumpy assistants attempt to shove you down the hatch, you realize that this might mean your individual death. For the first time in your existence, you act on your own for your own self-preservation. You strike out, knocking one of the creatures to the floor. The other, who was trying to open the hatch, is easily kicked down the selfsame hatch to his presumed "Discarding."
The magical ring of regeneration still on your left hand, you make for the
invisible door, activate it by waving your hand in front of it, and find
yourself in a winding stairwell leading down. You quickly amble down the
stairs, the lumpy, faceless creature too slow to keep up with your new,
cubical form. You eventually make it to a front gate made of humanoid bones.
It's open, and the bleak plain outside speaks only of one thing: freedom.
After a few days on this plain, you begin to wonder about that estimation of your chances. Not another living or unliving creature have you seen in your sojourn here. Worse yet, your own body is beginning to lose color, and turn an ashen grey. You feel more lethargic with every moment that passes, and you are afraid that the next time you take time to rest, you may not wake up.
You crest a small hill, and see below you a strange and chaotic sight. A figure, riding a black horse, is driving a herd of giant worms across the plain. Behind this figure, a small caravan of wagons drawn by the same worm-creatures trundles along. You consider this situation, and throw caution to the winds and approach the unholy herd.
The figure on the back of the black, hellish beast is an old humanoid woman. She cackles insanely when she sees you approach. The heads of the worms turn to you and you realize that they have the heads of humanoids themselves, all different and all pained in their eternal torment.
"Well, we don't see much of your kind here, boxie! What's the matter, get left behind by your brothers during the March, eh? Well, I can take you with us to a town where there's a portal to Sigil. I'm going to need payment, though." She leers avariciously at that platinum ring on your finger. You grudgingly take it off and give it to her. "Yes, Mother Berthyna likes this fine! Hop on one of the wagons back there, boxie! We're off to the town of Futility! Hyeah!" She whips her herd and they begin squirming again.
You enter the wagon and see it is filled with living corpses, who stink of the grave. Oddly enough, they are all sitting, calmly, and you can see that there is one who is living among them, sitting at the back of the wagon. He appears human, wears black robes, and says nothing the entire trip to Futility.
Futility is about as bustling a trade town as is possible in this bleak waste. The gate which leads to the city of Sigil is open to all, and so Futility is one of the few successful trade towns on this plane, according to Mother Berthyna, the hag. She leads you, your black-robed traveling companion, and his collection of fifteen undead to the gate, and bids you farewell through the gate, waving your ring in her fingers after you with a toothless, evil grin.
And you enter into the unknown.