Numenera: Lord of the Seed

LORD OF THE SEED

Cylens was propelled downstream, bouncing off rocks and obstructions. His lungs burned. His limbs weighed him down. Suddenly he was up and breathing air, and in that second of clarity, he levitated himself up out of the water.

Vipio swooped down upon his moth and picked Cylens up. Together they returned to Gree and Sarren, who waited anxiously on the riverbank.

There was no time to rest. Earl had been taken into the tower by that Kallithak thing. Everyone crossed the bridge and stormed into the Sanctum.

kallithak_smaller.jpg

The Kallithak spun around, its blades and flails slicing the air, trying to dislodge Earl from its back. No one was safe from that violent assault. Sparks flashed off the Kallithak’s armor as Sarren launched her wrist-rockets. Gree fired his gun empty and found a vital spot and the Kallithak crashed to the floor. Vipio blasted its unmoving body a couple times with his cell-disrupting gauntlet just to be sure.

As Gree reloaded, the rest of the party looked around for more enemies. The floor was covered in bones, there was no sign of life, and it looked like the interior of this tower was a single large room. A huge cylindrical vessel dominated the room.

empty_sanctum_singularity.gif

Then a pathetic little creature with green skin and pointy ears emerged from hiding. Vipio convinced it to come out.

Norbrun.jpg

The creature introduced itself as Norbrun, and said it was once a Convergence slave. Not long ago, some flesh-eating brain hemorrhaging datacloud emerged from the singularity and killed everyone—except for the Kallithak. Norbrun explained how the conduits transported people from one Sanctum to the other. Gree shoved him into one of the conduits. Then Gree, Earl, and Vipio followed. Cylens and Sarren rested for a few minutes. They scanned the cylindrical vessel, learning that it was a dangerous singularity that absorbed all matter and energy.

cloudcrystal_skyfields.jpg

Arriving in the desert just outside the Scorpion Sanctum, the companions saw a battle between Sanctum guards and some chirog abhumans. Crystalline shards slowly drifted high above the plain of the shattered remnants of shards that fell. Some of the shards were as large as cities, and others were as small as a fist or a sliver. The sanctum itself consisted of a tall tower of brown desert stone and five outbuildings.

scorpion_sanctum.jpg

Using the distraction to their advantage, they made their way to the tower entrance. Vipio tried opening the door, but set off an alarm and trap that released poisonous gas that affected everyone but Earl. The gas instilled a sense of extreme paranoia and fear. Earl watched as his friends shouted and screamed and ran and hid. After a minute, the gas’s effects subsided.

Vipio asked Norbrun to keep an eye on his two bears, then he flew up on his moth to scout the upper levels of the tower. He saw a patrol of guards rushing for the front door, but he didn’t have time to warn the others.

The rest of the party met the exiting guards just as Vipio threw a cell-disrupting grenade at the guards, killing them all.

The companions proceeded to explore the first floor of this tower while Vipio flew back outside to check out the top floor. The tower seemed mostly uninhabited. They found storerooms, bedchambers, a kitchen, dining room, and communal area. They did find an administrative office, which contained notes summarizing the plan to tap into Bilu-sha-ziri to gain almost limitless power.

Up on the top floor, an old man with a long, wiry beard, voluminous robes, and a strange, domed hat ordered Vipio to leave, then shot him with a mind blast!

Iom__convergence_magister_.jpg

Vipio fled back down to his companions and warned them of the evil wizard up top. They ascended to the second and third floors.

On the third floor, they found a round open chamber with some guards standing watch. Each of these defenders stood on a glass platform that floated inches above the floor, which itself was covered in a metallic grid that pulsed with energy. Gree shot the floating disk out from under the guards, dropping them onto the electrically charged floor and frying them to death.

Gree, Earl, Vipio, Sarren, and Cylens all made it to the top floor, where they spoke briefly with the wizard man whose name was Iom. Behind Iom stood the Venerator: a huge device of metal and glass, 15 feet high and shaped roughly like the diagonal pylons of a pyramid. Cables ran from the support pylons to another device, which seemed to be a perfect cube of utter blackness, 11 feet to a side, floating in the center of the pyramid. While the cloudcrystals, empowered by human souls, fueled the Venerator itself, the machine used the processing power of human brains to handle the extremely complex function of drawing energy from the star.

venerator_gif.gif

Gree shot at the floating black cube, which initiated combat. Iom put up quite a fight until Gree tackled him, Earl threw a bag over his head, and Vipio lassoed him and dragged him outside. Iom tried to mind blast Vipio, and Vipio dropped him. The old wizard plummeted to his death.

Gree jumped into the black cube. Earl grumbled and jumped in after him. Vipio and Cylens followed. Sarren hesitated, wondering how she might help the all these people with tubes in their brains. But then she followed her companions into the black cube.

On the other side, Sarren found them all floating in the vacuum of space! The cables that ran from the Venerator into this chamber seemed to come out through the black cube just a few feet from where the characters appeared. They connected to a metallic pyramid similar to the Venerator but without the living people connected to it. In the distance glowed a bright red star… the Lord of the Seed.

bilu-sha-ziri__star_.jpg

Two figures tended this machine—Evanora and Juthes. The companions recognized Evanora, but Juthes was a new threat. She had short pink hair and glowing red eyes. She wore a number of devices and implants that granted her both a protective field as well as offensive powers.

Juthes.jpg

Sarren activated her instant shelter cypher, which gave her and her companions a moment’s respite, before Juthes destroyed the shelter. Gree, Sarren, and Vipio scrambled back to the cube, doing what they could to maneuver in this zero-gravity environment, and returned to their world. Earl and Cylens stayed to fight the two magistrixes.

Evanora2.jpg

Cylens got charmed by Evanora and turned on Earl, who had to defeat all three of them now. Earl used a lightning wall cypher to electrocute his enemies, killing Juthes. Evanora tried to escape, but he crossbowed her in the back as she fled. Then Earl grabbed her body and Juthes’s and launched himself back to the cube.

Cylens stayed behind to interface with the pyramid, which he learned bent space to tap directly into the heart of Antares and transmit that energy to the Venerator in the Scorpion Sanctum, where the power was managed through the connected humans.

Gree went around unplugging all the captives, which seemed to kill them. Sarren tried releasing them without hurting them. Vipio ran downstairs to see if he could find a way to shut down the Venerator.

Earl emerged from the black cube to land on the floor with his two dead magistrixes. Gree gave him a big hug.

Back in the star-chamber, Cylens attempted to interact with the black cube from his side, but he ended up disabling it, trapping him in this place forever! He used a device on Evanora’s floating disk to transport him back to the top of the Scorpion Sanctum. Then he levitated in through a window to reunite with his companions.

With the Convergence plans foiled, their machine disabled, and all their leaders slain, the companions discussed what to do next. Gree wanted to take the black cube back to Auspar to try to power it up again, but it was too big to remove from the tower. Earl would go with his brother wherever he went. Vipio and Sarren were up for whatever, so they offered to join Gree and Earl on their journey back to Auspar.

Cylens wanted to stay here and study this Sanctum some more.

sylens_gif.gif

View
THE THREE SANCTUMS

Cylens, Earl, Gree, Sarren and Vipio all headed back to Castle Sarrat to confront Matchitehew. The townsfolk of Sarrat suspected nothing as the companions marched on up to the glass castle itself and demanded an audience with the lord. Naraniel Horges greeted them and invited them into the great hall for a feast.

Naranial_left.jpg

Cylens asked Naraniel if he had done anything about his “Aeon Priest” who’d been poisoning the food with cloudcrystal dust. Naraniel, suddenly all timid and uncomfortable, responded in a sort of roundabout way that Matchitehew assured him that the dust they consumed here in Sarrat was in fact not the remnants of human souls, like Cylens had suggested, so Matchitehew hadn’t been punished in any way, and things hadn’t really changed at all. Gree, upset by the lord’s blatant cognitive dissonance, whispered for Cylens to release the “pocket pylon.” Cylens didn’t think it was necessary. As they argued about it, Matchitehew himself appeared.

That’s when Cylens released the astraphin monolith.

astraphin_monolith.png

Gree ran for the exit. Earl prepared to slam the door shut as soon as the rest of his companions had gone through it. Naraniel drew his sword and lunged at the huge alien thing just as it released a burst of fire all around it. Matchitehew used a cypher to banish the monolith (just for 28 hours, Cylens noted).

Matchitehew demanded to know what was going on here. Gree acted like the releasing of the “pocket pylon” was some malfunction of the pocket portal. Then he grabbed the portal from Cylens and trapped Matchitehew inside it.

Naraniel, completely baffled by all these sudden turn of events, was easily convinced that the portal was broken. But Cylens and Sarren assured him that they would fix it and return the Aeon Priest as quickly as possible. The companions left the lord’s hall and made their way to the Order of Truth church in town, where they broke in and ransacked all the oddities, cyphers, and artifacts they could find. They also discovered many maps and notes written by Matchitehew that proved he’d been researching powerful numenera machines owned by other lords of the kingdoms, and his plans to steal them for Castle Sarrat. Earl found a sketch of the teleporter they found underneath Auspar, as well as a sketch showing the Three Sanctums.

Three_Sanctums_smaller.jpg

The companions went quite a ways outside of town, to a remote location, and spilled Matchitehew out of the pocket portal so they could interrogate him. He provided them with directions on getting to the Golden Sanctum through the Westwoods, and to the Empty Sanctum to the east, past Auspar, at the foot of the Black Riage mountainrange. He described the Scorpion Sanctum far to the north, in the Cloudcrystal Skyfields. Ultimately, he said, the Convergence planned on “filling” enough cloudcrystals to harness the power of the red star Bilu-sha-ziri. The Convergence believed that this was the key to attaining godlike power.

Matchitehew warned the companions that meeting the Convergence in their Scorpion Sanctum was suicide, that trying to stop them from releasing Bilu-sha-ziri was futile. There was no hope of success. The Convergence was too powerful.

earl.jpg

Confident that they’d learned everything they needed from their prisoner, Earl held Matchitehew down so Gree could execute him.

In discussing which Sanctum to go to, Sarren pointed out that the witch Evanora Mnoma had some notes that mentioned the Empty Sanctum. So everyone agreed to head east, to the Empty Sanctum. First they returned to Castle Sarrat to retrieve their “pocket pylon.” The astraphin monolith reappeared at the exact location at the exact time Cylens predicted it would. Naraniel attempted to fight it and was blasted by a beam of energy. Earl and Cylens trapped the monolith inside the pocket portal once again. Gree assured Naraniel that he was a great hero for saving his town, and definitely a manly man for facing the monolith like that. Naraniel was pleased, and wouldn’t let the companions leave without another feast.

It took three days to reach Auspar, riding swiftly upon their yakul mounts. Skirting around the city, they continued onward, and after a couple more days of travel they reached Salim, which was the home Earl and Gree had left behind almost a month ago. The townsfolk were so overjoyed to see the long-lost brothers that night of celebration was held in their honor.

salim.jpg

As the night grew long, Earl had already returned to his humble home. Listening to the whoops and hollers still coming from the celebration in the square, Earl reached into his coat and pulled out the bottle of “hooch” he had procured from the party. Setting the bottle on the table, Earl knelt down and pulled a board up from the floor. He pulled what looked like a small silver rectangle from the hidey hole and placed it on the table. With a touch, the object began to glow. It was a strange trinket he had found years ago in the wilds. When activated, the little box would capture sounds and could play them back later. Earl found it relaxing to occasionally talk to it and even sometimes listen back to his thoughts in his own voice. Between sips of harsh liquor, Earl began narrating:

Mama pulled me aside again during the party. She heard we been getting up to troubles, and she was worried I was going to get her special boy hurt with “all that tomfoolery.” I told her I was watching out for him best I can, but dang it, Gree’s grown and has a powerful streak for mischief himself. That earned me a cuff on the ear right quick.

Mama never could abide a word said against my brother. “He’s special, Earl. People are gonna be jealous of him. You’re normal folk. You need to watch him. Help him. Gree’s gonna change the world one day. And you gotta make sure he doesn’t have to worry about the little things.” Pa didn’t say a lot, just grunted sometimes in agreement with Mama. This time he actually looked up from the bottle a few times though. Better than when we was home last.

It feels strange being back home in Salim. I never liked being around people that much before, but now, it’s like wearing drawers that were two sizes too small.… Gree was always better with words, but that’s the best I can do to say it. Even when I was staying here I made sure to spend most my time out in the wild. It makes more sense out there. People make me.. I don’t know… itchy? Maybe I just need to launder my coat though. It has been a while.

We’ve done a lot since we first got all tangled up in Auspar. Met some folk. The two fancy ones talk about things I don’t understand at all. Mama had me pegged right, I’m just folk. These people are special like Gree. People that can make things happen in the world. They make things happen just by thinking bout it. I watched Sarren kill something without even touching a weapon. And Cylens, well, he talks bout stuff in such a way that I can’t make heads or tails. I’m not sure about Vipio yet. He seems real friendly with Gree, but I can’t trust a fella that collects animals for something other than food, fur, and the like. I just don’t get it. The others said he likes having “companions.” Man needs company all the time makes me wonder why he scared to be by his self.

We seem to have stumbled on something strange happening in the world. Might be…what did Cylens call it? Sinister. Yeah. Dang it, that’s a good word. Sinister. While these smart people fix things so they ain’t so Sinister, I’ll be watching out for them. That’s the best regular folk can do.

steadfast_map__thaemor_.jpg

From Salim, the rest of the journey to the Empty Sanctum was swift and uneventful. They stopped at a fishing village to purchase a boat so they could save time by taking the Wyr River. The stronghold was not difficult to find—a tall stone tower rose up from an island in the middle of the river. Massive pipelines and tubes (with hundreds of accompanying cables, power cells, and junction boxes) ran away from the tower in two directions at about a 45-degree angle from each other. Each conduit ended at a metal and glass archway. The conduits passed through the archways but didn’t come out the other side.

No one seemed to be around, as befitted the name and description of the place. Vipio flew ahead on his moth to get a closer look.

As the rest of the party rowed their boat closer to the island, a part-organic, part-machine monstrosity called a Kallithak floated out from the tower. It was like a ball of flesh and scrap metal with bristly blades and razor-sharp flails. Before Vipio could react, the Kallithak shot toward him without warning or hesitation, spinning so fast that its blades and flails threatened to chop him up like a blender!

kallithak_smaller.jpg

Vipio dodged out of the way, even as Earl fired a crossbow bolt at the Kallithak from below. Too far away to use her onslaught esotery, Sarren shot her wrist rockets at their enemy. Gree shouted at Vipio, but he was too far away to hear. Cylens used his shatter wand artifact to realign the molecular structure of the Kallithak, severely wounding it… and getting its attention. It spun around again, slicing at Vipio and his moth, who replied with flesh-withering light from its wings, and then the Kallithak shot down toward the boat, shredding it to splinters and plunging Earl, Gree, Sarren, and Cylens into the river.

Gree swam desperately back to the riverbank. Vipio’s two ravage bears joined him.

Earl tried to get within melee range of the Kallithak but its spinning flails and blades kept him back. Sarren attacked the thing with her mental energies, but couldn’t concentrate enough while trying not to drown. Cylens aimed his shatter wand and fired—but his wand exploded! Shrapnel tore into Sarren, Earl, and himself. Sarren turned and swam back toward the shore. Cylens attempted to do the same, but the current took him downriver. Earl, in a desperate attempt to end this thing, found his opportunity and leaped onto the back of the Kallithak, which spun around and carried him up up up into the air. Earl slammed his machete into the fleshy parts of the Kallithak.

Vipio, seeing his friends floundering in the river, flew his moth down to help them. He used an artifact to create a narrow bridge across the river. Gree wanted to shoot at the Kallithak as it retreated, but hesitated for fear of hitting his brother.

Meanwhile, Cylens couldn’t beat the current, which took him farther and farther downstream.

The Kallithak, with Earl clinging on for dear life, floated back into the tower and was gone.

View
NATURAL AND UNNATURAL

The companions finally made it to Jaston, in the kingdom of Ghan. The walled town was built like a set of circles surrounding a pool constructed to hold water, like a well, except this water was foul and undrinkable. They presented themselves to the local lord, a man named Guyan, who invited them to his home for tea and conversation. The town’s Aeon Priest, Kuipania, joined them.

Guyan_smaller.jpg

It was revealed that the water purifier the companions had been sent here to steal had in fact already been stolen by someone else. Guyan expressed his concern about the welfare of his people, who had been without fresh water for three days now. The water from the streams that fed into the town’s well was not fit for drinking—thus the need for the water purifier, which condensed pure water from the air itself.

Kuipania_smaller.jpg

Neither Guyan, Kuipania, or anyone else in town had any idea how the machine worked, so nobody was really in charge of maintaining it. The machine that once sat in the center of the town, purifying the wellwater, was huge, so it wasn’t like anybody could have stolen it away easily and undetected. Cylens asked for suspects. Guyan didn’t have any, though he did mention that beastmen called margr prowled these hills at night. Kuipania dismissed the margr as beasts no more intelligent than animals. There’s no way margr could have snuck into town and stolen that giant heavy purifier.

Gree, wishing his brother were here (Earl knew a lot more about tracking and hunting), inspected the area around the pool. He found tracks in the mud— big tracks, like those of a giant wolf. It appeared as though the tracks led up to the well, then back through town. The party followed Gree as he followed the tracks. They passed by a house that looked like it had a landfill out back. Cylens scanned it, noting the possible oddities and cyphers among the piles of scrapmetal and rubbish. When a stout old woman came outside to berate them all for trespassing, Gree complimented her and managed to convince her to give him and each of his friends a loaf of fresh honeybread. Apparently she was the town’s baker, and a hoarder as well.

ghan_landscape__texas_.jpg

The tracks led north, out of town. Eventually the companions happened upon a river of fetid water, over which spanned a bridge. They found about a dozen bodies here, all impaled and chopped and, in some cases, fed upon. Bandits—or, rather, what was left of them. Cylens assumed these bandits must have been victims of a margr attack. Since margr usually only raided at night, and it was currently midday, they had nothing to fear.

Gree picked up the “wolf” tracks again. He thought the tracks were older than the scene of carnage here, so their quarry must not have had anything to do with the slaughter at the bridge.

Continuing on, they made it to a very strange-looking building surrounded by small glowing mushroom-shaped objects. Vipio scouted overhead on his moth.

iani_cavern_entrance.jpg

He spied two cyber-coyote looking creatures down below. He swooped down to have a closer look. The cyber-coyotes, or “cyotes,” paid him no mind as he perched with his moth upon the roof of the building. Then Vipio pulled out his femur-bone club and banged it on the side of the building, which sounded like it was made of metal. He shouted at the cyotes to come out and face him. Six more of them emerged from the building, looking up at him curiously.

iani.jpg

Cylens, Sarren, and Gree were just about to emerge from hiding and approach the building when two robed figures emerged from the building. The three companions ducked back down.

Vipio, still banging his club on the side of the building and shouting, spotted the two robed figures below. One of them asked him what he was doing here, making all this racket. He said he was here for the water purifier. That must have struck a note, for the two robed figures became hostile. One of them fired a ray-gun at him!

convergence_gun.jpg

Gree swung up onto his yakul and charged toward the building, with Cylens close behind. Sarren, more cautious, made her way after them, sprinting from cover to cover on foot to remain hidden.

Vipio used his shield to slide down the side of the building and land beside his two attackers. The cyotes all rallied to the defense of their masters, leaping at Gree and Vipio and slashing with their unnatural metal claws. The two robed figures fled back into the building.

gree_gunslinger.jpg

The cyotes swarmed upon Gree and Vipio, overwhelming them. Cylens attempted to mind blast one of the cyotes, but he pushed too hard and the creature exploded, injuring his two desperate companions even more than they already were. Vipio tried whipping one of his attackers, but the creature emitted a strong magnetic pulse that threw him back and at the same time absorbed his whip and his shield into its metallic head. Gree ducked and weaved through his enemies, shooting and stabbing even as their claws ripped at his armored limbs.

Sarren blasted a bunch of cyotes all at once with a flash of mental energies.

Tatsumaki__one_punch__flash_attack.jpg

Vipio, enraged by the loss of his armaments, closelined one of the creatures with his energy gauntlet so hard that his whip and shield materialized out from the cyote’s head, clattering onto the ground beside him. It would seem these cyotes could absorb numenera items, and return them just as easily. That must be how they took the water purifier!

Finally it occurred to Cylens to try to talk with these creatures, since they were made of both flesh and machine. One of the cyotes told him that they called themselves iani, that they only recently ventured out from their lair, after having dwelt motionless in darkness for millennia. The iani also told him that they served their two masters because these humans treated them kindly and offered them protection and knowledge of the outside world.

Cylens convinced his companions to stop fighting, to lay down their arms.

convergence_2.jpg

Only then did the two robed figures re-emerge from the building. They said they were magisters of the Convergence. They arrived here from the Golden Sanctum, up north in the Westwood, with plans to strip this area of its numenera to bring back with them. The water purifier was only one artifact of many they had taken so far. Sarren told them that the people of Jaston needed that water purifier, that they would surely die without it. The two magisters scoffed at her, arguing that the people of Jaston were replaceable, but their own research into the star that would make them all-powerful was more important. They needed the purifier more than the people of Jaston did.

That did not sit well with the companions. They conferred together quietly, coming up with a plan to kill these evil wizards and return the purifier back to Jaston. They made a show of befriending the two magisters. Gree said they’d been sent by a fellow Convergence member, Matchitehew, back in Castle Sarrat, to retrieve the water purifier for him (which was sort of true, actually). His charming deception worked, and the magisters allowed him and his friends to rest and recuperate here for the night.

As darkness fell, and the companions joined the two magisters at their camp just inside the metal building, the magisters said they’d been selling cloudrystal dust to Naraniel at Castle Sarrat to help fund their world-dominating project. About five years ago, the Convergence made an amazing discovery. At some point in one of the prior worlds, ancient scientists created a chamber that was larger on the inside than the outside. Although this kind of spatial warping was interesting, it had been seen before. What was truly remarkable was the size of the chamber’s interior. From one end to the other, the chamber’s width stretched hundreds of times the distance between the Earth and the sun—approximately 160 billion miles. What’s more, the ancients placed an entire star at the center of this chamber—a red giant once called Antares, now known as Bilu-sha-ziri, or “Lord of the Seed.”

Evanora Mnoma, an outside consultant and expert on the fusion of flesh and machine, joined the Convergence to help work on a diabolical machine called the Venerator inside the Scorpion Sanctum that used “full” cloudcrystals to fuel the gateway to this star chamber.

venerator_gif.gif

These cloudcrystals sapped the lifeforce of any who went near them, leaving their victims as mere shadows. Once a crystal absorbed enough lifeforce, it became “full” and could then be crushed into powder and consumed. Members of the Convergence had figured all this out, and they were making a lot of money selling this cloudcrystal powder.

This was a turning point for Sarren, who realized now that her cousin Nalia had been murdered for just this purpose. She resolved to put an end to the Convergence and their plans.

It was also during that night that Cylens continued speaking with the iani, learning that they were new to the Ninth World, that they dared not venture far from their lair, and that they had no idea just how evil these magisters really were.

Sarren inspected the glowing mushroom machine things, and came to realize that this was the cause of the foul waters downstream. If she could disable them, the water would become clean again, and then the people of Jaston wouldn’t need their purifier anymore. Sarren got Cylens to help her tinker with the mushroom-machines and shut them all off.

The two magisters scolded Sarren for shutting the glowing mushrooms off. Margr roamed these hills at night, they said, and those mushrooms were the only things keeping the beastmen away. Now this place was no longer safe. They had to leave now.

Gree pulled out his slugthrower and shot one of the magisters.

The iani watched anxiously as Sarren, Vipio, and Cylens fought their former masters. As members of the Convergence, the two magisters had quite an arsenal at their command, from levitating esoteries to force shield and invisibility cyphers. One of them even detonated a high-pressure explosive that severely wounded Cylens and Sarren. Vipio’s moth used its flesh-searing dust to reveal the location of the invisible magister, which allowed the rest of the party to attack him. The other magister’s force shield was not enough to protect him from Gree’s slugthrower, Vipio’s energy whip, and the mental energies of Cylens and Sarren.

The companions took one of the magisters down, while the other fled deeper into the building. Gree gave chase, but he was too late. The magister activated a teleportation device and disappeared.

After the fighting was over, Gree, Cylens, Sarren, and Vipio discussed what to do next. It was decided to return the water purifier to Jaston, then head back to Castle Sarrat and confront Matchitehew, the Convergence magister posing as an Aeon Priest. Sarren was eager to put an end to this nefarious organization’s evil plot once and for all.

View
A HUNGER IN THE DARK

Following their previous discussion over breakfast at Castle Sarrat, it was decided that Vipio, Gree, and Sarren would head northwest towards Jaston to handle the water purifier situation. The Aeon Priest Matchitehew claimed that Draolis’ water supply was being poisoned and that the people from Jaston were intentionally altering the water purifier to create a toxin, and requested that the purifier be brought back to prevent such misuse of technology. While the group was in agreement that the situation needed to be remedied, there were two notable exceptions: Cylens wished to stay behind to investigate just how the food creation machine worked, suspecting some kind of foul play, and Earl wanted to stay behind with him to ensure Cylens’ safety.

And so the remaining members set out towards the north. It would be a three day journey upon their yakul, and the moth that Vipio flew on, as he’d mastered controlling beasts and had tamed the moth to the point that it was very docile and accepting of both the party and being ridden on.

luren_fox.jpg

The first night was largely uneventful, with Vipio standing watch and catching sight of some odd fox-like animals that trotted around the area, seemingly active at night. Despite his attempts, the creatures were too timid for Vipio to train and scampered off after being enticed to approach the camp. It would later be learned that these animals are called luren, and were a common sight among the area.

As the party traveled further north for many hours, it was getting to be night time when they saw a village in the distance. Rather than break camp for the night, the group decided to press on, but they were met with resistance. As Vipio flew in on his moth, the guards of the town shot some kind of projectiles at him, one hitting him and another hitting his moth! Vipio retreated as Sarren and Gree approached and tried to calm the situation down, but the guardsmen seemed rather apprehensive.

Hewek, leader of the guards, approached them and asked about both the creature that flew above which his men shot at, thinking it to be hostile, as well as the intent that the group had as they came towards the town so late at night. After some discussion, he let them stay outside of the town under guard, but something was definitely amiss.

The next day the group woke up, albeit not under the best sleeping conditions, and were finally able to get some answers. Hewek welcomed the group, telling them that the town he was protecting is named Nasool, and he explained that several animals and children had been disappearing over the last several weeks, and they’d established a guard to try and protect the town, but still every few days another would be taken. Hewek had previously lead expeditions into local ruins that had many beneficial numenera in them, but after all this happened, he was now primarily the town’s guardian, and in his voice the companions could hear that he had somewhat a disappointment in his task as he wasn’t able to know what was going on or how to stop it. Hewek did suggest that the group, should they wish to help, talk to Lysra, who led the hunters that provided one of the staple food sources and trading goods for the town. Passing through the town, it was easy to see the large number of people butchering animals and distributing meat to the various residents. And yet no currency seemed to be exchanged; it was all given freely, an indication of how this town operated.

Nasool.jpg

With the sunlight illuminating the town, it was easier to see how it was laid out. Around 30 buildings dotted the landscape, coming in a variety of sizes, but for the most part all of it was made up of egg shaped buildings, rounded from bottom to top and constructed of some kind of mix of clay, dirt, and mud. Nearly all of them had a chimney poking from the top, presumably each of them having a hearth to cook on below. To the west alongside the town was a river that flowed and helped provide both food and water, but it was relatively shallow.

Meanwhile, back at Castle Sarrat, Cylens and Earl had been investigating the town. Originally it was merely a question of how the town was provided such bountiful food, but they discovered far more in their efforts. Upon talking to the townspeople and getting some leads, they found evidence that Margaret and her bodyguards had been murdered and buried in the graveyard behind the Order of Truth church. More scanning and snooping revealed that one of the additives to the synthetic food was cloudcrystal dust. Matchitehew, the supposed Aeon Priest in town, had been importing cloudcrystal dust from the Golden Sanctum, up in the Westwood. This dust was mixed into the food, which invigorated and made the people of the castle happy and content.

Naranial_right.jpg

Upon being confronted by this information, Naranial Horges seemed to have no knowledge of this. He was an ignorant participant in the schemes going on under his castle. Cylens and Earl rush out to catch up with their companions and inform them of this conspiracy, but it would take several days even upon their yakul to reach them.

During this time, Sarren, Vipio, and Gree, at Nasool continued their investigation into the disappearances of the town’s livestock and children. They went to a “community hall” where some people gather, but they were greeted with odd looks and while the tender at the counter was quite happy with providing them food and drink, there was a sensation that things were uneasy around here, even before a group of strangers arrived at the city gates the night before (and with a small town of just over a hundred people, word spreads fast). Gree wished to meet with Lysra, the leader of the hunters, and the group found them at a the hunter’s outpost in the city.

Despite her initial apprehension, Lysra eventually confided to the group that while they were skilled at hunting prey animals, she had no idea what could have done this. She suggested that maybe it wasn’t a creature so much as a person that was kidnapping these children and animals and that they might soon ask for a ransom. When asked if anything out of the ordinary happened, Lysra mentioned that out on one of their hunts, they found a carcass of some large sea creature a few weeks ago that was around half a mile north of the town.

The group then went to talk to Berkin, the person in charge of the town’s trading. Berkin didn’t have an explanation for the disappearances, but he did shed light on how the town was a largely communal society, with everyone pitching in how they can and basic necessities like meat given out freely. Everyone was expected to cook their own food, explaining the hearths in everyone’s homes. When asked if someone could be kidnapping children, the trader was almost confused and could offer no explanation as while some of their residents had disagreements, he didn’t imagine anyone would resort to something like that or why they would given that the town had no particular wealth. Berkin did mention the several families that had recently lost children, and with this lead, the group went to the house of Zolya and Hannen who had recently lost a child.

A man answered the door, looking rather distraught over the recent loss, but was convinced to let the group in to examine what might have happened. As they entered, the companions hear the door’s bell ring, something installed at the top of the door despite no lock being present, which Hannen explained was normal among the town. Zolya was comforting her remaining son on a nearby couch, the building circular with this central room having several seats around it as well as two smaller beds, arranged circularly around the hearth, with the other exterior rooms visible including a bedroom, a sort of study room, and various other rooms that seemed to be used for storage of other things. There were windows along some of the exterior, but they were sealed and made of some kind of material that’s a mix of plastic and glass compounds. There was no obvious case of intrusion, even as Sarren scanned the bed where the child was taken.

Eventually it was decided that they should visit the beached animal that Lysra mentioned. But before they left town, a masked man approached them, shirtless, wearing bright orange slacks and heavy boots, and armed with a sword and spiked club.

brennen_krieg.jpg

This man introduced himself as Brennen, and explained that his prized pig had disappeared one night and he heard that this new group of adventurers were trying to find out the cause of these disappearances. After some discussion, the group allowed Brennen to travel with them as he explained how the town worked and the unexpected disappearances.

Upon reaching the massive animal on the beach, the first thing that everyone could recognize was the horrible stench. This thing had been rotting on the beach for quite some time, and it made everyone queasy from just smelling it. After some examination, Sarren discovered that the hole on the side of it was a wound created from the inside out, suggesting that something burrowed from within, and the angle of the hole suggested that it came from the creature’s stomach.

20.png

After examining the evidence, the group decided to set a trap using one of Vipio’s bears. As night felt, they let her out on the east side of the town, with the plan for Gree to dart it with a blowgun that would allow Vipio to mentally see what Snuggles saw. After several hours, the party noticed Snuggles getting anxious, and they all raised to alarm while the dart was shot, and Gree was able to see just what was responsible for the disappearances.

9.jpg

The creature scampered away at rapid speed, but Gree caught up with it, alarming the creature and causing it to spit out the injured Snuggles. As the creature was being attacked by Vipio, it suddenly wrapped around Gree with all four of its appendages, using his legs and its tail to balance upright while it engulfed its face with its mouth!

Sarren assaulted the creature with mental blasts.

Tatsumaki__one_punch__gif.gif

Brennen suddenly burst into flames; he reached into his halo and hurled a handful of fire at the creature. Then he raised his spiked club and charged into the melee.

Vipio tried to use his whip to pull the creature away, but his attack backfired when the creature instead skitterhopped up to him and now held both Vipio and Gree with his arms in a tight hug, the creature’s mouth still swallowing Gree’s head with the ever present eerie gaze at Vipio. The way its body contorted was unnatural, its tail curling around both pairs of the human’s legs and using them to support the trio in a grotesque perversion of anatomy.

4.jpg

Blow after blow from Brennen’s spiked club and mental damage from Sarren weakened the creature, and its grip on its two victims loosened. It pulled Gree down to the ground with it as it fell, his head still engulfed from the creature’s maw. Vipio managed to wriggle free. And Brennen dealt one final blow that killed the creature once and for all.

brennen_gif_2.gif

Vipio attempted to pull the jaws off Gree, yet large scrapes of the numerous teeth created trenches in Gree’s face. Despite the obvious damage of both the burned flesh and gorges in his face, Gree didn’t actually feel any pain, telling others that he felt totally fine and that nothing was wrong…until he touched his face and felt those gaps in his flesh, and a stream of blood flowing down and now covering his hands. Gree was stunned for a moment as he saw his hands full of blood yet not feeling anything wrong. The creature’s attacks had some kind of substance that caused the victim to feel no pain from it, making them unaware of harm caused to their bodies and simply placid as they were ripped apart or devoured. A perfect trait for both predator and parasite.

Sarren used her healing cypher on Gree, but light vertical scars still remained on his face from the deep incisions created by the creature’s teeth.

The group gathered up a half dozen guards to find and dig into the creature’s lair deep underground, but all they find are piles of bones in a chasm. The previous victims of the creature were assuredly dead by this point.

Cave_Light.png

Snuggles, who despite her burns and injuries from the creature engulfing half of her before spitting her out, was on the brink of death when Vipio coddled her back to the realm of the living. Due to the creature’s traits, she didn’t seem in any real pain despite her injuries, but only time would tell if the streaks of scarred flesh would heal on her.

At news of the creature’s defeat, and following Gree cutting off its head to ensure that it was fully dead, the leaders of the town suggested they bring the body back to the town square to burn it. Gree took several of its teeth (and the potential “venom” it had) to store for future use.

At mid-day, the carcass of the creature and its head were thrown onto the burn pile. A flame was light that engulfed it, and finally the terror of the town was laid to rest as its body melted into a sludge before being charred into black flakes, only its teeth and claws remained, no skeleton or other bones left behind.

In the aftermath, the town decided to keep a night watch for a few more weeks to ensure that no further incidents ensued, and were happy to let the group stay in one of the unoccupied homes in the village.

Upon the closure of knowing what happened to his prized pig, Brennen admitted that he used to be an adventurer, and had retired here to this quiet town not long ago. This whole incident with the creature rekindled his lust for adventure, so he wished Sarren, Gree, and Vipio the best on their journey as he himself returned to his home to gather his traveling gear. He said he’d always wanted to explore The Beyond. Perhaps now was as good a time as any.

Following that, Cylens and Earl finally caught up to the group at Nasool. They explained how Castle Sarren and its surrounding town had some shady dealings going on, and that this task to retrieve a water purifier from Jaston may have some sinister implications.

The group will have to decide what course of action to take given this new information, but at least they could be confident that they’d ridden the world of a monstrosity that preyed the lands, and that everyone would be just a tad safer.

iseeyouiseeyouiseeyouiseeyouiseeyouiseeyou.png

View
THOSE WHO LIVE IN A GLASS HOUSE

After an evening of partying and drinking with the Spider Knight and her bandits, the companions waited until everyone but the one guard was asleep in their beds. Gree convinced the guard to go into the tower to check something out, while Earl snuck in there with the portable hole, releasing the astraphin monolith upon them.

astraphin_monolith.png

The bandits were slaughtered. Catching the monolith again proved difficult, though. Earl and Gree tried to get the thing back into the portable hole, but the monolith blasted them with fire. It was Sarren who managed to succeed at trapping the monolith again.

With that encounter over with, and the bandits left without a leader now, the companions searched the tower, looted the bodies, and tossed the scorched body of the Spider Knight over the back of one of the yakul. This they delivered to Kordech with the note “You’re welcome” attached to the body.

The two Aeon Priests had more than a day’s headstart on them, but Earl pointed out that they’d probably be traveling slow with all of their possessions on their journey to Qi.

After a day of traveling across the flat, rolling land of plains, the companions spotted a herd of deer. Gree and Earl shot a couple. Everyone was excited to eat venison tonight. The rest of the herd, having scattered at the noise of the shots, started making their way toward the party, who themselves were baffled at this behavior. And then the ground behind the herd bulged upward, and a giant beast of fused organic and inorganic substances emerged, a lumbering giant, terrifying to behold! The companions fled in the opposite direction as fast as they could.

callerail.png

The next day it rained. All day. A veritable torrent of water flooded the landscape. The companions took shelter in a cave for the night.

Setting out the next morning again, they traveled all day and into the night, finally catching up with the Aeon Priests early the following morning. Vipio, flying ahead on his giant moth, spied a wagon stranded on the path, its draft animals dead. Two bodies lay nearby. And half a dozen bandits were shooting at the wagon.

aeon_priest_2.jpg

The companions surprised the bandits and made short work of them. An Aeon Priest crawled out from underneath the wagon, followed by her three remaining guards. This was Margaret, one of the two Aeon Priests from Kordech. She was extremely grateful toward her rescuers, but also extremely distraught about the death of her partner, Reuben, the other Aeon Priest. Gree asked for his slugthrower back, and Margaret was happy to oblige. She’d added the tusk bayonet on it for him, and told him that she didn’t want to leave it behind to be confiscated by the baron. Margaret also gave Sarren her fireproofing spray back. She asked the adventurers if they wouldn’t mind escorting her to the next town, Sarrat, to purchase new pack animals. Vipio offered to instead hitch up his and his companions’ yakul to the wagon. That worked, too, and pretty soon they were all on their way again.

Cylens spoke with Margaret about Evanora Mnoma, describing everything he and his comrades had learned in her spaceship-home: the Convergence, the Venerator, Bilu-sha-ziri, and the Empty Sanctum. Margaret confirmed that Bilu-sha-ziri meant “the Lord of the Seed” in a long-forgotten language. However, this name had a particular meaning in more obscure circles, she said. Bilu-sha-ziri was the source of ultimate power, a part of a prophecy whispered by fringe thinkers and people thought to be crackpots. The idea held that the ancients must have had power sources beyond reckoning to accomplish their wonders, and such an energy source might still exist. If it were found, those who could harness it would be like unto gods. Cylens agreed that the Convergence should definitely not be in control of anything like that. And speaking of Convergence, Margaret told Cylens that they were an organization that revered the knowledge of the past, but unlike the Aeon Priests, they sought to use it to grant power to themselves, not to help others. In this pursuit, they were ruthless, using coercion, deceit, and violence to get what they wanted.

Sarren wondered if the Convergence had anything to do with the murder of her cousin back in Auspar. Perhaps those kingsguards, using skycrystals to turn Nalia into a shadow, were in fact Convergence spies?

Margaret asked if the adventurers could escort her all the way to Qi, so she could report all of this news to the Amber Pope. She admitted that Cylens and Sarren might be Aeon Priest material, after all.

shiul_herder.jpg

Later that day, the party encountered a shiulherder. Sarren asked him about Castle Sarrat. The herder told her that the wealthy, powerful Horges family had long ago claimed an ancient structure made of glass and steel, and founded the town of Sarrat, which grew around this glass tower. Somehow, the tower was able to produce edible food for hundreds of people at a time, enough to support not just the family but the entire town as well. Naranial Horges, the head of the family, was a renowned swordsman, and welcomed travelers and adventurers to his table.

And indeed, when the companions arrived at the gates of Sarrat, the guards gave them a warm welcome and invited them inside. The farmers in the fields outside the walls, and the artisans and merchants and workers inside the walls, all appeared to be in good health and disposition. Margaret and her three guards went off to the Order of Truth church to lay her dead partner and the one dead guard to rest.

Naranial_right.jpg

Naranial Horges, who seemed to take a special interest in Sarren, invited them to dine with him inside his tower of glass.

Over dinner, Naranial ranted about his own prestige and boasted of his exploits, which Gree suspected were mostly tall tales. Cylens was suspicious of the cuisine. He watched the servants bring out heaping dish after dish of soups and yogurt and mashed potatoes and applesauce and smoothies and hummus and cottage cheese and oatmeal and mashed squash from the kitchen in seemingly endless amounts. When he asked Naranial about it, the lord explained that this tower included a numenera device that could synthesize food from pure light. But since the food was tasteless, his people still needed gardens and livestock to supplement the artificial food. Cylens scanned the food, noting that it was made of fabricated material with some various additives.

castle_sarrat.jpg

The feast went on well into the night. The food was invigorating and made everyone feel happy and content. Vipio enjoyed the free beer too much, while Earl drank conservatively. Gree challenged Naranial to a duel, but the lord refused, instead volunteering one of his vassals named Thurg. Gree bested Thurg twice out of three bouts, catching the attention of a feasting Aeon Priest who invited him to the church that night. Earl went with them. Cylens, Sarren, and Vipio were escorted to their rooms, which turned out to be extremely comfortable, with a beautiful view of the nightfallen landscape.

landscape_at_night.jpg

The Aeon Priest, whose name was Matchitehew, asked Gree to go to the town of Jaston in the country of Ghan, steal a water purifying device, and bring it back here to Sarrat.

Matchitehew.jpg

Matchitehew insisted that the people of Jaston were using this purifier to craft a toxin to poison the people of Draolis. Gree accepted this quest for the payment of one cypher and one artifact. Earl asked about Margaret, the other Aeon Priest they came here with. Matchitehew responded that she was in the graveyard out back. So the two brothers returned to their companions at the glass tower and retired for the night.

The next morning, the companions all decided on their next course of action over breakfast. Again, the food was endless and very satisfying, even if it did not originate from any known plant or animal.

pancakes.gif

Cylens grew more suspicious with each return trip the servants made to the kitchen. He asked to be given a tour of the kitchen, but the staff denied his request. Vipio, stuffing his face with pancakes and more beer, dismissed the nano’s suspicions and told him to just enjoy the free food. Gree convinced everyone to go to Jaston with him to retrieve this water purifier for the Aeon Priests.

And so it was decided. They would head off for Jaston, bring the water purifier back here, and then continue their journey to Qi, with or without Margaret and her guards.

View
WITCH'S EYE

Cylens, Earl, Gree, Sarren, and Vipio spent some time in Kordech, resting, interacting with the locals, and upgrading their gear. They learned that cloudcrystals were being made into dust and consumed; the bartender, Hobbs, asked them to go back to Auspar to get him more dust for cheaper; the baron asked them to help put an end to the bandit raids; they were sent by Orridus to retrieve a “recording device” (that turned out to be a viral bomb) from a pack of murdens; and the Aeon Priests asked them to go get numenera from a witch named Evanora.

crashed_spaceship_exterior.jpg

After a few days travel southward, the party arrived at the location of this so-called witch, as evidenced by the giant ship half buried in the ground. They also noticed herds of sheep and goats grazing all around the area. Cylens spotted a line of smoke—probably from a campfire—drifting out from an open door on the side of the ship. Earl sneaked ahead, but he spooked the herds and a grumpy old lady came running out of the ship to confront him. Her manner was quite rude. Time was clearly of the essence to her. Earl returned to the rest of the party to report that there was, in fact, a witch living here.

Sarren and Cylens were volunteered to go speak with the witch while Gree and Vipio did some fishing by the stream. Earl trailed after the two nanos, this time with better luck staying hidden.

Evanora2.jpg

From their conversation with the witch, Sarren and Cylens learned that her name was Evanora Mnoma, and she had been living in this ancient crashed spaceship most of her life. She moved here many years ago from Beoth, a holy city to the south, forsaking the teachings of the Order of Truth in favor of more selfish motivations. Recently she was contacted by the Convergence, hired for her knowledge of astronomia, and was just packing up to leave when the adventurers arrived. Evanora knew about the cloudcrystals, where they came from and what they did. She didn’t know anything about grinding them into dust, though, but she acknowledged the dangers of doing so, given their life-stealing and shadow-making properties.

Earl made his way back to Gree and Vipio and suggested exploring the rest of the ship while the witch was distracted. They all entered the ship through one of the many gaping holes in its hull. They found a large cargo hold. Vipio phase-shifted through a big double-door, discovering a moldering old pantry on the other side and a couple more doors. Earl heaved the door open. All the noise he made attracted three giant moths who swooped down from the ceiling to attack them!

war_moth.jpg

Evanora asked Cylens and Sarren if they had any cyphers to trade, how knowledgeable they were about numenera, and whether or not they wanted to join “the Convergence.” When she was confident that they were loaded with loot and could not match her in power, she blasted them with an onslaught esotery, stunning them, then she stole a couple of their cyphers and teleported away.

One of the three moths attacked Earl. Vipio snapped at it with his energy whip, and Earl finished it off with his machete. Two other moths swarmed upon Gree. They shed a cone of flesh-withering light from their wings, but he was able to rush past them up the stairs to safety, shooting back at them as he went. Earl killed one with his crossbow. Vipio lassoed the remaining moth, trying to hog-tie it, but the moth flew away, carrying him along with it! They flew high up into the air, hundreds of feet, before Vipio managed to gain control of the creature and maneuver it back down to the ground.

Exploring upstairs led Sarren and Cylens to an observation deck with broken windows all around, and further upstairs to a commander’s deck.

Here they encountered an astraphin monolith that fired a beam of psychic energy at them!

astraphin_monolith.png

Sarren rushed up close to it, hoping it wouldn’t be able to target her there; Cylens followed suit. But the monolith emitted a burst of burning heat! Sarren retreated downstairs just as Gree was coming upstairs. She told him about the monolith. Gree ran past her to find Cylens attempting to throw his portable hole over the monolith to trap it inside. With the two of them working together, they actually managed to do it!

The rest of the spaceship appeared to be mostly lifeless, damaged beyond repair, and already looted. The companions did find Evanora’s apartment in the captain’s cabin, which was filled with various tools, parts, books, and furniture. Almost everything of value had been taken. It seemed she had no intention of returning here again. Sarren found an empty birdcage which had been used for messenger birds. Next to the cage were a few leather message holders and some blank strips of paper. On the other side of the cage was a bowl with slips of paper—messages that Evanora had received. Many of these appeared to be technical, and even the two nanos who were knowledgeable about the numenera couldn’t make much out of them without any context. Two messages were of particular importance. The first read, “If this plan succeeds, and the Venerator works, Bilu-sha-ziri will make us powerful beyond the dreams of man.” The other read, “The simplest way is to travel using the conduit in the Empty Sanctum.” Cylens recalled that Bilu-sha-ziri meant “the Lord of the Seed” in a long-forgotten language.

After returning to Kordech, the companions learned that they were no longer welcome in this town. Apparently there was a misunderstanding between Gree and Fredricks, who ran the two Aeon Priests out of town. Gree realized that the priests had been working on his slugthrower artifact—he had to track them down! Fredricks said they’re probably headed for Qi, the largest city in the Steadfast and also the home of the Order of Truth and the Amber Pope himself. Earl assured his brother that the priests were probably moving slow, so they had time to go deal with the bandits first.

Instead, Gree went to Hobb’s Saloon to find Orrudis, who led the companions to the secret tower of his baroness, Fialla Nooran, about a day’s ride north of Kordech.

spider_knight_s_tower.jpg

Orrudis brought them to an ancient tower made of shifting sections of a ceramiclike synth and glass. Outside the tower, two guards armed with crossbows, with trained houndlike beasts with orange scales and leathery frills, challenged them. Orrudis assured the guards that these adventurers were here to speak with the baroness.

spider_knight_smaller.jpg

Fialla Nooran, also known as the Spider Knight, greeted the adventurers warmly. While she was disappointed they hadn’t found the “recording device,” she offered them food and drinks and a place to stay for the night. She claimed to be the great-granddaughter of the deposed Queen Nooran of Kordech, and she was gathering an army of murdens and bandits—mostly veterans of wars with Thaemor—to take back what was rightfully hers.

That night, Gree and Fialla sparred. Fialla won, but was impressed with Gree’s abilities. She told him of her plans to release a virus upon Kordech and repopulate the town with her own henchmen. She, of course, had taken a supplement that made her immune to the virus’s effects. The treacherous murdens who had stolen away with her virus also took the remainder of her antidotes as well. Gree, who secretly possessed the virus, and had distributed antidotes to his companions, listened to all Fialla had to say. Then he left to confer with them.

It was decided to make a show of joining the bandits, but then leave first thing in the morning and try to track down those two Aeon Priests who’d taken Gree’s slugthrower. After all, if they were headed for Qi, which was southwest of here, it was sort of on the way to Ghan anyway.

View
BIRDHUNTING

The stench of cattle flesh and cattle dung greeted the companions long before they entered the tall stone wall that surrounded Kordech, the last refuge for leagues on a road through a dangerous wilderness. Kordech was filled with sales pens, breeding pens, and slaughterhouses for shiul—massive creatures with four wide horns and valuable meat. The cattle saw their beginning and end in Kordech, but in between they spent their lives grazing in tended herds in the surrounding lands.

Earl noted the high, well-constructed wall that girded mostly crude wooden buildings, animal pens and corrals, and structures cobbled of found sheets of metal or synth, all connected by muddy, dung-filled streets. Somehow this town reminded him of home.

Kordech.jpg

Gree asked a random townsperson where to get a drink, and he was directed to Hobbs’ Saloon. It was here the companions found hot beef, cold beer, and warm beds to reinvigorate them after many long days on the road.

Gree told the bartender, Herman Hobbs, that they’d come from Auspar. Herman, who dealt in drinks, crystal dust, girls, and games, offered the adventurers a job: go to the next deal in Auspar, where he got his dust from, and try to negotiate more dust for less shins. The party said they’d consider it.

Vipio paid the stableboys to take care of Snuffles and Captain Cuddles for him, then the companions explored around town a bit. They found a water processing plant maintained by a crotchety old man, a supply store that one of the townsfolk said was run by a girl who “ain’t right,” a clinic, a church, a small restaurant and cafe, and the armory. Baron Berrich Vordanal controlled all the weapons and mounts in town. Visitors could be armed, but were expected to present themselves to the baron at their first opportunity.

aeon_priest_1.jpg

Sarren and Cylens visited the Order of Truth Church where they met Father Reuben, an Aeon Priest, expert in handling, identifying, and using the numenera and other lore.

aeon_priest_2.jpg

Reuben’s partner was Mother Margaret, who spent most of her time promoting the Order of Truth. The Priests mentioned a “witch” named Evanora who lived in an ancient crashed spaceship five days south of Kordech. They were certain this witch had access to numenera, and asked Sarren and Cylens to try to procure some for the Order.

Earl and Vipio stopped into the clinic, where they met the overworked and bad-tempered Doc Jean Watts. She told them that bandits had been attacking the ranchers more frequently now than in the past. Earl offered to help her out in exchange for healing supplies, and she was happy to oblige.

Fredrick.jpg

The companions spoke with the baron’s right-hand man, Fredrick, who also expressed concern over the more frequent and more coordinated bandit attacks. Fredrick wondered if the bandits had united under a leader now. He said he would introduce the adventurers to Baron Berrich Vordanal in the morning.

Cylens noticed a couple of Fredrick’s rancher friends at the table snorting purple dust. He scanned the dust, realizing only now that this was actually ground-up cloudcrystals! Very unhealthy, as Sarren knew firsthand.

Gree told Fredrick in private that the two Aeon Priests in town killed Tavarana and her party. These Priests now had the mind mastery device that the baron wanted. Fredrick was both surprised and deeply anxious about this (fake) news. He really didn’t want to make enemies of the two “wizards” if he didn’t need to.

Orrudis.png

Later that night, Gree also met Orrudis, another patron at the saloon, who offered 20 shins and a cypher to each of the adventurers if they would undertake a secret mission for him, and more important, for his poor mistress who was denied her rightful rank of nobility. He wanted them to find a band of evil murdens and recover a recording device that would prove that his mistress, Fialla Nooran, was the rightful heir to the town she was being unfairly denied. He described what the recorder looked like and made it clear that they should not damage, activate, or tinker with it in any way. The device was fragile, he said, and very important. He gave Gree clear directions on how to find the murden camp in the nearby wilderness.

Gree accepted this quest, but he told his companions that they would be doing some birdhunting tomorrow (he did not mention the recording device or Fialla Nooran).

The next morning, the companions ate breakfast at The Golden Shiul. The proprietor of the restaurant, Alice Holt, told them that her fiancé, Smiley, a shiulherder, had gone missing, his last known location being the nearby wilderness to the east. Sarren promised to find Smiley and bring him home.

baron_vordenal_smaller.jpg

After breakfast, Fredrick led the companions to a manor on the other side of town, with a garden out front and a metal tower a hundred feet high. He introduced them to Baron Vordanal, who was himself an older, fit man with a tall, angular frame and thick black beard. The baron was well liked by the townsfolk and came across as very smart. He said he planned on using the mind mastery device (which Tavarana had been sent to retrieve, but now it was in Cylens’ possession) on the settlers who’d been moving in on all of his outlying ranges. The Council of Spheres, in an effort to relieve the overpopulated city of Qi, apparently offered free land to people if they moved out east and settled on shiul range-land. The ranchers of Kordech were not happy about this. And the baron said farming wasn’t going to work out here anyway—the land was too arid for growing crops.

Evidently Fredrick hadn’t told Baron Vordanal about Tavarana’s fate yet.

The baron gave each of the companions a yakul mount, asking that they seek out this rumored bandit leader and put an end to the bandit attacks once and for all.

yakul_gif.gif

The broad plains of Draolis spread out before them. Riding east upon their yakul, back in the direction they’d come from in the first place, the companions arrived at a rocky forest that looked all too familiar.

draolis_landscape.jpg

With the directions Orrudis had given Gree, the companions were able to find the murden camp easily. Earl and Gree took sniper positions up in the trees, Sarren and Cylens prepared their esoteries, and Vipio charged into the camp. They took the murden completely by surprise. The combat did not last long.

murden.png

Afterward, Gree interrogated a dying murden, trying to find out where the recording device was. The murden couldn’t understand the language of men too well, but pointed to the chief’s tent, and then bled out. The companions searched the bodies of the fallen murden, finding some shins and a couple oddities. Gree found the recording device in the chief’s tent, but when Cylens scanned it… they all discovered that this device was actually a viral bomb. When activated, it would unleash a horrific, debilitating virus previously unknown in the Ninth World. Gree also found ten doses of an antidote to this virus.

Earl noticed some tracks that were not murden. He followed them to a grisly scene: Smiley had been skinned and hung to dry like game-meat by the murden. Cylens found a knowledge enhancement cypher amid the pile of bloody entrails on the ground. Sarren wanted to bury the body, but Gree and Earl wanted to bring it back to town. Eventually it was decided to wrap Smiley’s body inside a tent-canvas and bring him back with them.

View
THE MACHINE IN THE WALL

Fearful of the kingsguards who might now be hunting them down, the companions decided to leave the city—and Thaemor—altogether, and help Vipio reach the sea kingdom of Ghan, far to the west. Vipio, an aspiring Angulan Knight, had been journeying to Ghan when he was arrested in Auspar for being a Malevich spy (he assured everyone that he was not a Malevich spy).

steadfast_map__draolis_.jpg

They ferried down the Wyr River, then headed west into the realm of Draolis, where they made camp for the night. Here the grass grew taller and the trees were few and scattered. The air was hot and still. Gree crafted a poultice from the local flora that kept the insects away from him and his companions. Earl set up a campfire and everyone took turns on watch.

Cylens, during his watch, was shot with a poisoned barb. He stood up, the world spinning around him, and awakened his companions.

Yovok_sm.jpg

A pack of short, squat abhumans with jaundiced skin draped loosely over their flabby, hairless bodies emerged from the darkness and attacked! Gree remembered hearing of these yovoki back in Auspar. Cylens activated a magnet shield cypher to keep the yovoki from approaching him with their weapons. Earl tossed a flaming brand from the fire at them. Then Sarren and Cylens blasted them with mental energies. Vipio held them at bay with his energy whip and shield. Gree used a sonic detonator that wounded and killed most of them with a deafening BOOM!

After the yovoki had been defeated, the companions resumed their rest, sleeping in the whole morning, then they set out again. Later that day they encountered a shiulherder who told them about Baron Berrich Vordanal, who ran the shiul-town Kordech just a few more days west of here. The herder said this baron was firm but fair, as long as you paid tribute. He also warned the companions about the forest between here and Kordech, claiming to have heard beastly roars coming from there last night, and shouting.

shiul.jpg

Continuing on their way, the companions soon found themselves in a rocky forest. They heard shouts for help up ahead. Earl, who hunted with great skill, was able to sneak right up to the origin of this shouting. He found a small metal structure half buried in the earth. Through small openings in the structure, he could see figures inside struggling to get free. There were four people inside, dressed as explorers.

Show_em_I__cannister_.jpg

Earl was about to talk to them when Gree and Vipio crashed through the underbrush behind him.

Tavarana.jpg

One of the figures inside the metal structure, a tall and striking woman with flowing robes covering her armor, introduced herself as Tavarana. Her companions were Horrik, Nils, and Yeri. She said they had been wandering through the woods, minding their own business, when they investigated a plain panel of metal on the ground, and it opened and trapped them. Horrik grumbled that she should blast these newcomers while she had the chance. Cylens demanded some form of payment for releasing them. Gree and Vipio said they’d help for free. Vipio, who existed partially out of phase, was able to pass through the metal structure. But Gree just used a cypher to put the whole thing out of phase, allowing the entrapped explorers to escape.

Now Tavarana changed her story, saying that she and her companions had been sent to this forest by Baron Berrich Vordanal to find a mind mastery device that was supposedly in the possession of the yovoki. Vipio, noting her tone of voice and mannerisms, suspected Tavarana was in love with this baron, and she was trying to gain his favor by bringing this numenera device to him. Nils reminded her of their lost comrade, Nuemos, who was left behind to rest and recover after a yovoki attack. Tavarana and her companions raced off into the woods to find him.

They found the remains of Nuemos near a ravage bear cave. Tavarana and her companions set out to find and kill this bear, while Vipio and his companions argued about whether they should help these explorers or just continue on to Kordech. When they heard roaring and screams and sounds of combat, it was decided to go help them.

ravage_bear.jpg

The ravage bear massacred the band of explorers, killing Horrik and Nils. A second ravage bear charged out of the woods, and might have done the same to Cylens, Earl, Gree, Sarren, and Vipio, had Vipio not used a cypher to create a cube of force around them to protect them. Cylens and Sarren used their mind energies to finish off one of the bears while the other bear threw itself against the force cube in a berserk rage.

Tavarana and Yeri would have used this opportunity to escape with their lives, but Gree convinced them to stay and help. This led to the death of Yeri, and the ultimate defeat of the second ravage bear.

The companions looted the bodies of the fallen, acquiring some shins and a few new cyphers. Earl claimed Horrik’s crossbow for himself. He gutted the bears and found a complex crystal device inside the belly of one. Sarren guessed it was some kind of battery that powered a machine. Gree hacked off some bear tusks. Vipio entered the cave and found two bear cubs in there, whom he named Snuffles and Captain Cuddles.

Tavanara wanted to keep looking for that mind mastery device, so they all pushed onward through the forest. It started to hail—which was extremely unusual for this time of year. Earl found evidence of yovoki in the area, and followed their trail, despite the unseasonable weather conditions.

HAIL-KEVINJBEATY-03.gif

Sarren tripped over a flat panel of metal covering the ground, and dodged away when it suddenly opened and wrapped itself into a canisterlike shell half embedded in the ground—exactly like the cell that had trapped Tavanara and her companions!

Eventually they came upon an ancient machine of twisting metal, crystal shards, spinning cylinders, and clear tubes filled with various liquids. The machine was mostly embedded in the side of a cliff. Parts of it were concealed by brush and plants that grew up around and in front of it. Piled on the ground in front of the machine were bones, tools, and strange feather-covered fetish sticks—crude offerings of primitive creatures that worshiped the machine as a god.

Show_em_J__machine_in_the_wall_.jpg

Cylens went up to inspect the machine, scanning it—and suddenly he disappeared! Then, almost as suddenly, a horde of yelling and squealing yovoki burst out from the woods! The companions made quick work of them this time. Vipio started out by throwing an electric detonator at them, almost killing the whole lot. Cylens reappeared, but now his eyeballs were on stalks that could move around independently of each other.

Sarren blasted yovoki brains with her mental energies.

Tatsumaki__one_punch__gif.gif

Gree fired away with his gun. Earl tried out his new crossbow and found that it packed quite a punch! Vipio finished off the last yovok with his energy whip.

Sarren examined the machine in the wall and found a place where the complex crystal device could be inserted. Cylens volunteered to do it. He disappeared again, but this time he reappeared holding a staff with blinking lights and wires and circuits all over it. This, Tavanara exclaimed, was the mind mastery device!

Oddly enough, the hail stopped. Sarren wondered if that machine had something to do with the unseasonal weather.

Cylens wouldn’t give up the staff, arguing that such a powerful device should not fall into the hands of some cattle-town baron. Tavanara had not come so far and lost so much only to give up now. She reached into her robes for a cypher. Gree shot her in the head, which would have outright killed her had it not been for her ward esotery. Tavanara managed to detonate a force explosion that knocked back and severely wounded Gree and Sarren. Earl, Cylens, and Vipio opened fire on her. Gree sat up, lifted his gun, and finished her off.

After the battle, Earl removed the bullets from Tavanara’s corpse and cleaned up her body a bit, making it look like she’d been killed by yovoki, and quietly making sure Gree didn’t get in trouble for murder.

View
BENEATH THE CITY OF NEEDLES

Liam the librarian opened the hatch on the floor and ushered his wards down the ladder just as the guards closed in on him.

Liam_small.jpg

As Sarren, Cylens, Earl, Gree, and Vipio climbed down into the dark passage, they heard shouting, footsteps, the clangor of weapons, an explosion, then yelling and screaming, more footsteps. For just one man, and an old one at that, Liam must have been putting up quite a fight!

The five companions found themselves locked down here in total darkness. The ground seemed to be made of metal, not stone, like the rest of the city’s foundations.

Gree withdrew a glowglobe from his pack to light the way, and they navigated through a labyrinth of corridors. All surfaces were metal, and control panels, consoles, and unidentifiable machinery were strewn everywhere.

Sarren noticed a transparent tube running along the ceiling with some kind of green gas inside. She went over to a valve on the wall and, on a whim, opened it. The green gas turned out to be some kind of living conduit that immediately attacked her! Vipio closed the valve and trapped the creature inside the tube once again. Everyone resolved not to mess with any more valves releasing gas monsters.

Continuing on, they found a room with an automaton struggling to free itself from a tangle of cables and wires and half buried in debris. The companions freed it and, after some conversation with it, learned that it was an “organizer” and it needed to “recharge.” Vipio named it Buddy.

modron_gif.gif

They all followed Buddy through the twisting tunnels to a circular room with rods and cones projecting from the walls, which themselves pulsed with jolts of energy that arced from one rod or cone to the next. Buddy sat down between two rods and proceeded to “charge.” Sarren managed to extract one of the cones from the wall. She studied it, realizing that it was some sort of key, but it needed to be charged somewhere else somehow. Cylens tried studying the room, but he got shocked, and his boots became fused to the floor, molecularly bonded to it. He had to abandon his boots.

Vipio sped up the charging process by hitting Buddy with his energy whip. And that seemed to work! Buddy stood up, looking pleased (for a robot), and started walking back down the corridor, saying that its directive was to join the other “organizers.” Following it led them to a huge solid door. Sarren was pretty sure the cone she had was the key, but she didn’t know how to charge it. Buddy told her there was an energy pool south of here.

The automaton led them to a circular pool of glittering liquid, like the size of a public bath, surrounded by a small lip. The liquid itself, Buddy warned, was highly infused with some kind of energy. Gree handed Vipio a jar so he could collect some of the “glitter-juice,” as he called it. Sarren dipped the cone-key into the water. Then the companions returned to the big door. Sarren inserted the now-charged key into the door and it opened.

Beyond the big door, Buddy led the companions to a huge chamber, the walls of which looked like golden circuit boards filled with narrow slots. Next to each wall, an automaton arranged and rearranged square synth plates within the slots, endlessly. There were thousands, if not millions, of these plates. The dozens of automatons looked to be ungainly, multiarmed things of metal and glass that ignored the newcomers. Buddy wasted no time getting to work arranging and rearranging the square synth plates.

organizers.jpg

Beyond the organizers room, the companions found another room with a circular platform of blue glass suspended above the floor. Symbols of light flashed on the floor, but neither Cylens, Sarren, nor Vipio could figure out what all this numenera did, exactly.

show_em_D__teleport_platform_.jpg

Exploring this maze some more led the companions to a room with an impossible cube about 10 inches to a side floating in the air inside a beam of light. The cube had nine sides and seven corners, and staring at it shook the sanity of their three-dimensional minds. Regardless, Gree took the cube and put it in his pack. When he went back to ask the automatons about it, they said that the cube controlled time.

ultraterrestrial_creature.jpg

Another room contained a metal cylinder 3 feet tall floating in midair. It produced a bubble at the top made of an amorphous substance that inflated and deflated as though it was breathing. Cylens inspected the bubble, and accidentally popped it, creating a spatial warp, from which appeared an ultraterrestrial creature that attacked them! After it had been defeated, it left behind a device that created an extradimensional pocket space that could store a creature or object in stasis.

The final room they explored contained a lot of junk, but Gree found a handful of microchips — one of which suddenly grafted onto him and burrowed into his flesh!

Earl pulled out his machete to cut the thing out of Gree, but his brother assured him that it was okay. The microchip seemed to go dormant, glowing a soft blue light that looked just like one of those symbols back in that room with the circular platform of blue glass.

Not really sure where to go or how to get out of here, the companions decided to try capturing the living conduit creature inside their extradimensional pocket device. The task proved difficult, but they managed to do it. But, as it turned out, the living conduit had been powering this place. So now nothing worked. They had to release it back into its transparent tubes again.

Finally they returned to the room with the circular platform of blue glass, except now each of them carried a microchip skin-graft. These microchips glowed brighter when they stepped upon the glowing runes on the floor. Suddenly, each of them was teleported out of the labyrinth and onto the city streets outside.

Auspar_smaller.jpg

View
PROLOGUE

The Ninth World is Earth. But it is an Earth that has undergone multiple dramatic changes, for it is Earth approximately a billion years in the future. Over that billion-year span, the earth has been home to at least eight civilizations that have arisen (or arrived) here, flourished and advanced to incredible power, and then either declined or left, never to return. Most of the land mass has once again joined to form a gigantic supercontinent, leaving the rest of the globe to the mercy of a single ocean dotted with islands.

People use the resources they have on hand, coupled with whatever understanding of their world they can master, to carve out a life for themselves. In the Ninth World, the resources available are the numenera —the detritus of the prior eras—and the people’s understanding of these resources is crude and incomplete. Even the creatures and plants of the Ninth World are strange by-products of the prior ages; the past left behind flora, fauna, and machines, some designed by lore or nature, others transplanted from distant stars or dimensions.

ninth_world_from_above.jpg

The life of a Ninth World human isn’t all that different from the life of a human around the year 1000 CE. Farmers till fields, herders tend flocks, hunters and trappers provide meat and skins, weavers create clothing, woodworkers build furniture, authors write books, and so on. Meals are cooked over fires. Entertainment comes from a lute player, a group of singers, or perhaps comedic thespians. Most people live in small, agrarian villages, but some settle in larger towns or cities. Many people in the Ninth World cannot read.

numenera_street.jpg

The Steadfast, a pocket of civilization on this vast, mysterious planet, comprises nine different countries that share no love for one another and truthfully have no relationship other than a shared reverence for the numenera. Communities in these countries are isolated. Travel on the roads is risky and nearly unthinkable at night—but at least the roads exist.

Within the Steadfast there is a country called Thaemor. One of the smaller and least prosperous of the nine kingdoms, Thaemor is often overshadowed by its neighbors. In fact, the other kingdoms consider it something of a joke. Bordered by two rivers and
a mountain range, Thaemor has always been a very much desired piece of land, once even part of a three-way war between Navarene, Draolis, and Malevich. Each power wished to lay claim to the fertile triangle, but none of them ever has.

Thaemor_map.jpg

Auspar, located on the Wyr River, is the capital of Thaemor. What the city lacks in population—only 20,000 of the kingdom’s inhabitants live within its borders—it makes up for in height. Some call Auspar the City of Needles, for everywhere its skies are marked with tall, thin structures: buildings, columns, banner poles, public works of art, and more. The people of Auspar believe that as everyone looks down on them, so too should they return the favor.

Auspar_smaller.jpg

The Precipice is the tallest and thinnest building in Auspar. It begins as a rectangle large enough to encompass the king’s personal home and ruling offices, and it narrows as it rises, becoming more and more useless as the structure grow thinner and thinner.

Within the Precipice is Thaemor’s largest library. The keeper of this library is Liam, an esteemed nano who explores yesterday. Liam has two apprentices: Sarren, a tough nano who wields power with precision, and Cylens, a learned nano who talks to machines.

auspar_library.jpg

Sarren’s cousin, Nalia, who was a servant in the Precipice, was arrested this morning by a kingsguard and taken into the dungeon.

sarren_small.jpg

Sarren, thinking the charges unfair but unable to do anything about it, used a cypher to make herself invisible so she could follow them. Down in the dungeon, Nalia was exposed to a purple crystal that devoured her lifeforce and turned her into a malevolent shadow. As Sarren watched, horrified, she heard another prisoner down there ranting and raving about shadow creatures attacking his village. Sarren’s cypher abruptly stopped working, revealing her presence. The kingsguards saw her and chased after her.

Cylens_small.jpg

She barely escaped, taking refuge in the library with Liam and the other apprentice, Cylens.

Sarren told them everything she had witnessed in the dungeon. Liam wondered if this crystal that killed her cousin might have come from the Cloudcrystal Skyfields far to the north, where ever-growing crystalline shards slowly drifted high above the plain. Some of the shards were as large as cities, he said, and others as small as a sliver. Nobody knew where these cloudcrystals came from, but many scholars theorized that they made the perfect foci for magical power.

earl.jpg

Their discussion was interrupted by the arrival of a newcomer by the name of Earl, a swift jack who hunts with great skill. Earl said he came from the village of Salim, that he had followed his brother’s trail here to the city of Auspar. Word on the street was that his brother, Gree, a charming glaive who carries a gun, had arrived a week ago, raving about shadow monsters attacking his village, and was quickly arrested.

Sarren told him she heard someone in the dungeon mention shadow monsters. Certainly this must be Earl’s brother! Liam suggested returning to the dungeon and rescuing Gree, who might know more. With the king away on a “business trip,” (more likely another adventure, as Holiva never really retired from adventuring), there was no telling if this crystal-murder was done with the royal blessing or not.

gree.jpg

Liam used an esotery to conceal himself, Sarren, Cylens, and Earl so they could sneak down into the dungeon. Once there, they found Gree locked up behind some kind of energy field with another prisoner—Vipio, a mystical glaive who exists partially out of phase.

vipio.jpg

Cylens disabled the energy field just as a patrol of guards came into view. Liam ushered the others through a hatch in the floor while he held off the guards with his nano-sorcery. The hatch led to a tunnel that took the unanticipated adventurers into an ancient labyrinth beneath the city…

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.