P'qur: The Labyrinth of Gods
Puh-kur Content warning!
This article contains graphic violence, gore, and torture.
This article contains graphic violence, gore, and torture.
Do you wish to become a god? Yes, I knew you'd be eager, I can feel your ambition from here— take the ladder, then. Down, into the Labyrinth— should you make it through, you will have your wish.P'qur is a lesser plane, entirely consisting of a great obsidian labyrinth. Humans and other mortals from the Material plane are able to access P'qur via strange, eldritch ladders.
P'mun Nuur will turn towards their guest, arms outstretched, and give them an offer— godhood, should they descend the ladder and complete the labyrinth within. Most say yes, as the ladder is typically encountered by those inclined to do so— as if it sought them out. P'mun will smile, bow, and then allow their guest to descend the ladder— which will promptly roll up behind them, alongside P'mun.
I nearly dropped the bread I'd just stolen from the market when I saw them. I cautiously approached the figure, who appeared severely wounded, and asked if they needed any help. They smiled, as if my concern was amusing to them, and made me an enticing offer— all I had to do was complete a labyrinth, and I could become a god. It was then that I noticed the strange ladder descending from their body.
The air within the labyrinth is cold, and stale, moving in and out of one's lungs more slowly than air should— as if it had been drained of life, and by breathing it, one was attempting to move a stiff corpse. Above the labyrinth, one can see a pale purple sky full of fractaline patterns in dull reds and oranges. One particularly bright fractline form sits at the apex of the sky— slowly swirling and rearranging itself as one observes it. These pathways of the labyrinth can be neat, and orderly, as one would expect, but they can change wildly. At some points, one may find the walls narrow and jagged, very much akin to canyon passages carved by wind. At other points, the path may rise and fall drastically, creating basins filled with strange liquids that must be swam across, and steep cliffs that must be surmounted. Roofing can come and go, as can ladders and stairs— making navigation all the more confusing as paths cross over, under, and through one another. Throughout P'qur are the remnants of those who have passed through the labyrinth— be they alive or dead. Tools, weapons, coin, abandoned camps with their lifeless fires, and even corpses can be stumbled upon. Some of these things may aid resourceful visitors, while most will simply prove to be worthless.
The Infinite Walls
Some poor soul had been here before me— by the remains of the armor they'd been wearing when they perished, I recognized them as a soldier of Zilopnou.? Something had cleaved them in two, and the broken spear found nearby seemed useless in whatever struggle ended their life. And yet, I felt safer with it in my hands.As is common within any labyrinth, P'qur is also full of dead ends. However, not all of these lead to nothing— on occasion, one may come across a unique chamber. Chambers can contain many things, some are full of traps, some contain nothing of interest, and others are safe havens. One may contain statues and shrines to unknown gods, another a bottomless pit, and yet another may simply house nothing but a gentle stream.
TrapsNavigating P'qur is no easy task— one need not only pay close attention to navigation, but also be wary of danger. Around every corner, a trap may lurk. Traps can vary wildly in mechanism and effect. One may come across a portion of the labyrinth wherein gravity will reverse upon entrance— throwing them against the ceiling, or worse— screaming into the endless sky above. The unobservant may find themselves grasping onto a spiked ladder, from which they will find it incredibly difficult to release themselves from as the spikes elongate and the ladder rises— slowly rolling itself up and crushing the unfortunate victim between its rungs. Treasure is rarely found within P'qur— it's meant to test its visitors, after all— so one should always be wary of glimmering gems and precious metals. Upon touching such treature, one could find their flesh fused to it, as the strange eldritch object slowly and painfully aborbs them— sucking them in from the inside out. Not every trap is deadly, however, some may simply injure or impair its unlucky victims— but one should be cautious of them nonetheless. Nonlethal traps can often become a trade-off, such as enduring an uncomfortable poison to access a shortcut. Other nonlethal traps can include narrow passages where one must enter shoulder-first— lined with thin, nigh-visible hooks that dig and pull at one's skin— or unfathomable eldritch shapes and colors which drive one mad placed directly in one's way.
I couldn't bear the pain, and screamed in agony as I steadily made my way across the bridge— the floor of which had been fitted with countless, tiny, needles. These were, thankfully, fairly short— but just long enough to pierce through my sandals and a fair way into my skin. It was then that I learned an important lesson— shortcuts come at great expense.
Those who enter P'qur are not alone, beyond the rare meeting with another prospective god, one will most commonly encounter those who call the labyrinth home. The taegon, and P'mun Nuur.
Denizens of the Labyrinth
P'mun NuurP'mun is the overseer of the labyrinth, a god that watches the progress of their guests through an untold number of bodies. All of P'mun's bodies are humanoid, and disfigured in a similar manner. The patterns on their faces, the way in which their skin is peeled, and the forms of the obsidian discs embedded in them may differ— but they are all P'mun Nuur. They see, speak, and act as one mind— no matter how far apart they may be. They often appear as if from thin air, stepping through the obsidian walls as if it were liquid— and simply watch silently, offering short replies to any inquiries. Other times, typically after one has fallen for a trap, sustained an injury, gone too long without either, or simply given up— they will calmly approach a guest. Delicately, they tear off one of their own fingers— which sprout centipede-like legs— before implanting the writhing thing in the horrified victim. Implanting may be done via extant orifices— typically the eyes— or by pressing into the victim's skin with their free hand, creating a perfectly sized entry. These finger-creatures will crawl through the victim's body, their bony, pointed legs causing great pain and injury as they do so— progressively causing more of each. This instills a sense of urgency in the victim— many forgo caution and rush towards the labyrinth's end, hoping that godhood will save them. It is unknown why P'mun does this, as they tend to disappear as suddenly as they appear— and without a word. Some think it is to prove the victim's worth, others think it's simply to fulfill some sick sense of satisfaction.
TaegonTaegon are nigh mindless beasts that stalk the halls of P'qur, they appear typically as twisted humans. Most walk like quadrapeds, their backs facing the floor as their elongated arms and legs are used to stalk any unlucky souls that cross their path— the smooth obisidan orb that has taken the place of their heads and necks reflecting the pained faces of their victims. Their ribcages have been broken and bent backwards, so that they now curl around the outside of their skin. Not that they are needed to protect anything any longer, as their chest and abdominal cavities are both hollow. It is their hollow frame that drives them to attack visitors— they desire nothing more than to fill the empty space. To live without organs is a life of constant, cursed pain— one they will stop at nothing to be freed from. Taegon may travel either alone, or in packs— either way, they will rush towards their prey with the intent to utilize the obsidian orb at their front as a blunt weapon, swinging it around wildly. When this isn't enough, taegon will resort to utiziling their claws in vicious flurries. Once their prey is killed, taegon will tear them open greedily, and begin stuffing any salvagable innards into their open cavities. These will, unfortunately, be absorbed by an unknown force over the course of a few days— sating their frenzy temporarily. When hunting in packs, taegon will often fight amongst themselves for the right to take the innards for themselves, killing one another or rendering the prized flesh into useless bloody pulp in the process.
My screams attracted something that made me consider turning back— despite having nearly crossed the bridge. Some twisted thing that mocked the form of a man, possesing neither a head nor innards— I knew not how it lived. It seemed to care little of the pain that the needles caused it, if it could even feel pain, and rushed towards me at an alarming speed. I knew not what to do but ready the broken spear in my hand.
Having risked life and limb, a lucky few may finally reach the exit of P'qur. The exit appears as a cylindrical tower of purple obsidian, one which towers well above the tallest of the labyrinth's walls, and appears to move position according to an unknown schedule. Upon reaching the top of the tower, one will find P'mun Nuur waiting for them.
Completing the Labyrinth
Do you wish to become a god? I asked you this before you entered, and for your efforts I will offer you a second chance. Answer now, or prepare to ascend to godhood.P'mun will repeat the question they had asked upon meeting the visitor, do they wish to become a god? Those who change their minds will find themselves where they'd met P'mun— and will live the rest of their days as mortals. Those who still ask for godhood will have their wish granted without delay. P'mun will nod, calmly, and approach the visitor— quickly incapacitating them by embedding an obsidian disc into their head. The other disfigurations soon follow despite their screams, the visitor's skin is thinned at the back of their skull, geometric patterns carved into their faces, and further changes are made until their resistance finally fades, and they rise again— as P'mun Nuur.
FailureThose who die within P'qur are fated to become taegon, no matter what state their body was left in, it will be reconstructed— and they will be revived. Upon revival, the procedure begins, P'mun's experienced hands ensuring the failure remains awake to feel the resulting pain. This is punishment for failing to prove oneself worthy, one that lasts eternally— unless the victim is lucky enough to one day be killed by another guest.
I had barely survived that horrid labyrinth— if this was to test my worthiness, then I thought that I had proven myself. I felt pain, from the needles that had pierced my feet, and the arm that horrid creature had torn from me before dying to my spear. This, and the many aches that came from the overexertion of every part of my feeble mortal body. Yes! I wanted nothing more than to be free of this pain— and any future pain I may encounter. Before I opened my mouth to answer, however, a thought occurred to me. What was a life without pain? My heart was racing, and felt as if it would burst forth from my chest at any moment. I'd never felt as fulfilled as I had in this very moment— would I feel the same if P'mun had simply given me godhood without needing to survive the labyrinth? If they are a god, why do they choose to remain disfigured so? Does the greater pain that only a god can endure lead to greater pleasure? I didn't want to know. I had experienced the worst pain I hoped to experience in my life, and thought that it would make the pleasures that follow all the more pleasurable. I shook my head, and P'mun nodded knowingly— before I could say anything, I found myself outside the market again, days after I'd left.