Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Inspiration: Samakhara

The blazing chasm...the rock bridge, the spired palace...

The plot of Tom Strong #34 (October 2005) regards the manifestation of the setting and characters of an in-universe work of fiction.  In this issue, written by Steve Moore, the eponymous protagonist journeys to the middle of Asia to investigate “high strangeness” that seems to correlate to the inexplicable presence of Samakhara, a place that should only exist with the pages of an outré 19th century novel.  That novel, The Chevalier de Rêve and the Spires of Samakhara, had been written sometime prior to 1889 by Armand DeLaTour.  Samakhara would seem to be located between Samarkand and the Tarim Basin.

Tengri Khan
Our hero ventures forth to “the spires,” a palace inhabited by Tengri Khan, an evil sorcerer who styles himself as 'Lord of Samakhara' as well as 'Lord of Heaven.'  On route, our hero encounters a variety of weird obstacles.
  • Shadow-Mist:  A fog which seems to cause a sense of foreboding.
  • Arm-Spiders:  Six-limbed 'things' as large as a human.  They have large eyes and a beak and they “serve as scouts and supply-gatherers.”
  • Meadow of the Damned:  A field of flowers whose blooms are pursed lips that intone phrases of discouragement.
  • Flesh-Eating Tentacle Trees:  Self explanatory.
  • Flying Snakes:  Also self explanatory.
  • River of Heads and Limbs:  A river of slime in which inhuman heads call out and clawed appendages flail about.
  • Air-Scavengers:  'Jellyfish' that float through the air.
  • Black Rain:  A precipitation that “seems more like soot than water.”
The palace itself is surrounded by a “blazing chasm caused by an ancient meteor strike...”  The same meteor was also the source of the Oculus Caelestis, a gemstone which grants Tengri Khan his power.  The Oculus Caelestis – the Celestial Eye – is attached to a strange idol according to DeLaTour's book.  At the climax of the book, the gem is thrown into the fiery chasm, thereby destroying the palace along with Tengri Khan's magic.

“An awful statue of a wrathful deity”
Horrors abound within the palace as well as without.  Denizens of the spires include “yetis in livery” and “stone-headed corpses.”

Yetis in livery – the one on the right has a monocle!
Eventually, Tom Strong comes across DeLaTour's protagonist, the Chevalier.  Seemingly for more than a century, she has been in a state of suspended animation.  Tengri Khan caused the Chevalier to enter this state by affixing a peculiar insect to her face.  Strong easily removes the moth and it flies away.

The hideous moth-mask
Since we merely seek inspiration, the resolution of the Tom Strong story need not concern us.  Moore has supplied us with a variety of weird and colorful details that we can appropriate – separately or combined – for our gaming purposes.

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