Posted on June 1, 2018
Numenera 17 – 21?
Now that I am released from the tyrannical grip of the excellent Pillars of Eternity II, (STRONG RECOMMEND), I finally have time to update. Major spoilers for the Into The Obelisk scenario from Weird Discoveries – there’s really no way to write around it. After that, like immediately after that, it’s largely all winged, as we start getting into some story arc stuff and then also the really excellent scenario Hunting for Krofwarten by Chris Fitzgerald that appeared in Cyphercaster Magazine.
This week sees Numenera 2 go to the printers and I have a free preview PDF to read of a bunch of the new stuff. You can too, if you head over to https://emails.kickstarter.com/mpss/c/CgE/6TYCAA/t.2hx/gHxkKywNRKq_60y3UDBhtg/h2/Zdlbc2K-2B6kehm9Op4-2FKAZaVN2yVdII7-2F4mmUCHdCAtBKhf9l4aBRkW4bAkHa-2B59ClSonYQZVZOjIa7u5KN9vHuuDv-2BClwP5MDK9t-2Bk5cfryAlo8onTV56oBi4SwXcPED
I think that’ll work.
So, quickly then because there’s a lot to catch up on…
Floating away from Berenock as fast as they could float, they found that the Captain of the vessel wasn’t particularly pleased that they’d wrecked his months of negotiations with the various bureaucratic committees required to secure contracts to Berenock’s amazing natural dye crops. What’s done is done though and he didn’t seem to hold any grudges, or murderous need to dump them over the side into the sky.
The group asked that they be returned to The Beanstalk, which they were and they bee-lined it to Vecchi, who was, after all the friendly face they knew here.
Vecchi had a job for them, since he was rooting around his old contacts to perhaps find where Meef’s double.. sorta.. Roche had gone in search of the Temple of the Blind God and why, and what was going on with all the dudes that look like Meef. Vecchi had been tracking, as much as possible, the Iron Wind’s passage across the Plains of Kataru and noticed, among the chaotic data, an anomaly: a place the Iron Wind would bend its path to avoid, the village of Duzanan. Maybe, thought Vecchi, that had something to do with the giant obelisk floating above it. Probably, eh?
So, go check that out for him while he tracks down Roche and you’d be doing him a solid that he’s doing you. Although curing everyone’s blindness seems like they fucking owe him. They faffed around for a while lamenting that they’d have to walk and searching their shinbags for enough money to buy mounts, but when that wasn’t forthcoming, they faffed around a bit more trying to get out of walking anywhere and complaining that Vecchi wasn’t doing them more favours.
Eventually they did hike, and what an exciting walk it turned out to be: they discovered a forgotten aldeia and looted a previously sealed storeroom of its cyphers and oddities (including a little figure of a man with a paintbrush who, if left to his own devices will paint swirling designs all over your skin) but were interrupted by the guardian/summoned/a random chance encounter: a Dark Fathom. Truly, this foe was beyond any of them, a hulking automaton with a singularity contained in its chest. The thing lumbered forward and attacked hard enough to know that they needed to get out of there quickly.
They escaped, the Iron Wind ruined structure of the aldeia playing them false with crumbling walls and collapsing streets opening up glassy chasms beneath the earth. Fortunately, they were able to lead the Dark Fathom into one of these chasms and then scarper.
A day or so later they made camp, confident that the next day would see them reach Duzanan, but instead, they woke up in a cave of soft orange sponge. Giana had not gone to sleep/been forced to sleep and excitedly told them what had happened. Paralyzed, she had found herself with the rest of them in the sponge cave and watched as a figure stepped amongst them and injected them with something. Meef had been injected several times, to the increasing puzzlement of whoever it was.
Whoever it was appeared at about that moment, to welcome to the obelisk, point out that he had injected them with an Iron Wind derived solution, inform them that they had about 28 hours to live, but not to worry because the data that he would collect on their behavior during that time would be invaluable to science in general, but specifically invaluable to his own prestige among those concerned with the advancement of human knowledge. The nano’s name was Glethran and when they didn’t look delighted at this opportunity to advance the frontiers of understanding, he asked that Sharad explain this privilege to them because he was sort of a fan of Sharad’s earlier work, you know, the stuff he never talks about and was maybe… problematic, ethically speaking. Anyway, he disappeared and left his test subjects to die. FOR SCIENCE!
They took a moment to examine the silvery increasingly inflexible lumps that had formed at the injection site and as they watched extended filaments along muscles and blood vessels under the skin. Meef didn’t, because Meef was fine, no silvery lump or anything.
The party set out to explore this place and found that their cave connected to many others via winding, seemingly organically formed tunnels. What they found would take a long time to detail, but they split up after some members of the party were not on board with the traditional grenade-first-questions-later approach to a woman floating in a green liquid in a tube. Spoiler: she died.
The exploration netted them some weird stuff to talk about it, and a really nice energy sword artifact, a brief encounter with another test subject that let them know how the next 28 hours were likely to end for them. Sharad, noting that Meef wasn’t effected by the injection tried switching his phase, using a cypher he had that allowed him to do that . Sure enough, the silvery cyst slipped out of his not-quite-there body before it returned to normal. Great news for Sharad… the three sisters were still boned.
They worked their way towards Glethran and found his lair/lab, a very large hollow in the sponge with lots of flashing lights on equipment and a large mirror, framed by the silver forms of intertwined humans.
Glethran seemed annoyed and confused that they were trying to subvert his data collection by interfering with him and his machinery and there was a melee, briefly, before Glethran transported them all back to the chamber they’d woken up in with a flick of his fingers across the mirror.
Demoralizing as that was, the party picked themselves up and were immediately set upon by some Tetrahydras, vicious flying nuisances with an unusual number of wings and teeth and eyes. After dispatching these creatures, they set about retracing their steps as one united party: they were puzzled by the black cube with nine open sides and whirling objects inside, mourned over green tube lady, but decided to take a good proper look at the series of yellow crystal cubes. It was, they discovered a connection to the datasphere, the barely understood, seemingly omniscient leftover internet that permeates Earth’s far future atmosphere.
With a small window to question the datasphere, they stayed on target and asked what they could do to get the ever spreading iron wind derived infection out of their bodies. The future-internet then subjected them to three hours of comments mocking their inability to get rid of the metal lumps before getting derailed into a political flame war by someone who blamed Obama for the Iron Wind. I’m kidding, we don’t have those people in the future because they didn’t breed and died, virgins all. Instead it helpfully assessed their situation and told them that using the phase adjusting settings of a teleporting device would be enough to phase out of this reality just enough that the Iron Wind wouldn’t be transported with them.
So that would be great news if they could get close to the mirror without being cut and pasted elsewhere by Glethran. Still, goal in mind, they descended again to Glethran’s lair. Glethran, seeing their approach, used the mirror to produce a crag worm in the sponge and the party fought at close quarters in the winding vertical sponge tunnel. The crag worm dispatched, they now prepared to face Glethran in his lair. Meef snuck down ahead of the rest, and lobbed a Rage Bomb cypher at the nano. It detonated and Glethran burst out of the cloud of enraging gas to pound Meef into the sponge with his own two furious fists. That was about all the time they needed to have the others make it to the mirror and quickly figure out its simplest functions. They selected Glethran in the mirror, and then cut and pasted him to Duzanan below. The nano disappeared in a flash. In the mirror, they viewed him frantically running around the aldeia’s small marketplace, collaring people and yelling in a frenzy.
The problem solved and happy days are here again! All that remained to do now was for the party to fiddle with the phase settings of this weird ass mirror and get the growing silvery death lumps out of them. They took turns teleporting one another across the room. Giana watched Red get teleported but when Red reappeared at the other side of the room, her reflection didn’t go with her. No, instead her reflection slowly raised a finger to her lips, reached out and activated the mirror and disappeared. Creepy, thought Giana, and then – and this is really important, did nothing about it. Just shrugged it off: another day, another deeply unsettling phenomenon.
Sharad worked at getting all of Glethran’s data onto a portable part of the machine, making Red a copy too, because she really wanted it. They figured out that the mirror could be used to view all around the obelisk and messed around with that for a while before testing if they could cut and paste Glethran from his place, wigging out in Duzanan, to a couple of hundred feet above the Plains of Kataru. They could and they did, the nano dropping like a stone to the earth below. A screaming, flailing stone.
They left Shome in charge of the everything and had him cut and paste them into a clear area of the Beanstalk, with instructions to cut and paste them again in a few days time when they show up at the same spot wearing hats.
This plan… did not work. They got to The Beanstalk no problem, and handed over the stored data to Vecchi, with a rundown of what had gone down (with the exception of murdering Glethran via cut-and-paste). He got to work on the data and was impressed at the breakthrough. He let Meef know that he’d had a bit of a breakthrough of his own, tracking down what happened to the books that Roche took from him decades ago. They’d ended up in the hands of a collector and bibliophile Entris Voo Kalian in Picalah, a friend of the Aeon Priest.
Speaking of friendly Aeon Priests, Vecchi let them know the simple shibboleth used as a greeting by friends of The Order of Truth the ninth world over, Iadace. (This unfortunately meant that they went around yelling Idiocy at everyone they met as though it was a magic word.)
Sharad did a little schmoozing among the seedier parts of the Beanstalk and discovered that there was a tidal pull of mercenaries headed to Orrudis’ camp way out on the plains – this opened up merc gigs further down the pay scale, so local caravan guards were finding cushier employment, the local toughs were getting gigs as caravan guards etc etc all the way down to bouncer level.
The time came for them to don their hats and show up for Shome pick up to the Obelisk, but when they did, nothing happened. Uh oh. They returned to Vecchi and argued for a ridiculously long time about how to get to the Obelisk. Eventually Vecchi arranged for them to fly on another airship, by calling in a favour with a Captain Calvant.
Flying out to the Obelisk they came up with plans for breaking in, but were snatched off the deck of the airship into the control room in which they’d fought Glethran. The Obelisk had changed.
The orange sponge was shot through with blue and the organic passageways were choked with glassy blue eggs, of the same sort that they’d encountered in the ship under Plainsight. The same sort that Red had touched.
Shome was there and obviously not doing well. He described the being (“Her”) that had been wrestling him for control of the obelisk. The upper chambers were choked with the blue eggs and it was pretty obvious that “She” was winning. He’d been sleepless and haunted since they left, pretty much.
Sure enough, She regained control of the mirror functions and then cut pasted them above Duzanan. They fell to the little marketplace, smashing pots and upsetting future-chickens. They had just enough time to pick themselves off and She cut and pasted the dead crag worm corpse a few hundred feet above them. Just as the startled townspeople were helping the party to their feet, the big rubbery corpse splatted down, crushing a few of them, staving in roofs and smashing even more of the aldeia’s market.
Then she dropped the Grinder of Infinities, the open sided black box full if whirling things. It cratered a structure to one side of the marketplace, causing an awful tear in realities or dimensions or whatever. From the tear emerged three Abykos, neither present or not present but whipping their rod-like arms around in a fury. They fought on the edge of the crater and in the air as more and more people can hover and float and shit. The fight wasn’t really going anywhere until Sharad samurai-drew his force sword and bisected one of the multi-dimensional horrors. The other two, taking damage now, retreated back into the tear as She dropped the structure of yellow cubes on the marketplace. The party scattered, fleeing out of Duzanan in order to save the aldeia but also because it seemed to easy for Her to just drop stuff directly down on them.
The flyers made for the airship, but Captain Calvant wasn’t having any of that and trained the Carron guns on them, warning them not to approach. His airship definitely couldn’t take having some space-fridge dropped on it. He agreed to pick them up some distance from the obelisk. He followed through on this, but wasn’t thrilled at the danger that he’d unexpectedly placed in by this favour to Vecchi. The ship turned back to The Beanstalk.
Reporting the situation to Vecchi, that the Obelisk had been taken over by a hostile entity, the party probably saved Plainsight by putting the pieces together as to how the blue eggs tied everything together. Vecchi suspected that both Plainsight and Duzanan would be quarantined by The Order of Truth and that maybe they’d be held accountable. He advised that they get out of town before they were subjected to weeks of questioning and probably dragooned into guarding the two towns.
The fastest way he could get them out of town was a slow zeppelin to Picalah – a large, ponderous cargo mover.
They spent a week or so aboard the blimp, a far cry from the nimble craft that Calvant captained. They gamed with the crew, an took some time to work on their own projects, but it was pretty boring. Eventually the Lambent Fields came into view. The patrol road first, then the shimmering field of metallic dust and drit that gave the fields their name, reflecting light with a chromatic shine. The fields were the source of Picalah’s wealth, a seemingly endless source of Numenera, protected by the conglomeration of mining companies that ran the boom town. The sisters, Giana and Loretta, saw to their horror/surprise that the crest of Amalgamated Holdings Inc, their father’s old company, was visible on a large prestigious building in a nice part of town.
Landing in Picalah, there was little in the way of farewells from the blimp’s crew, but as soon as they landed they were beset by some religious fanatics. The fanatics were riled up about the Titan, a massive intact structure uncovered an automaton or vehicle or something, no one was quite sure. But these folks greeting at the skyport were of the opinion that the Lambent Fields should be revered as a grave site and were collecting signatures and financial support. They seemed harmless, but the skyport security also seemed scared of them. Sharad was not. Sharad ordered them to walk out into the Plains for 40 days to think about… things. There was a momentary fire of resistance flickering behind the eyes of the leader, but Sharad met them with a glare of absolute certainty and the resistance crumbled. The man nodded thoughtfully and led his acolytes towards the nearest path to the plains. Sharad seemed surprised that it worked, but he certainly wasn’t going to let it go to his head. Nooo.
In Picalah they found lodgings at the hostel run by a strange cult – while the cult members pampered the hell out of their guests, they denied themselves any comfort or hygiene. So everything was great and comfortable as long as the slightly revolting staff were gone.
The city, they found, was divided on what to do about the Titan’s discovery, with factions forming with radically different views on what to do in response to the discovery of the Titan. They also found wanted posters pinned prominently in some parts of town, with a bounty awarded for the capture of Jip Kroftwarten, a doppelgänger of Meef’s. So it kinda looked like Wanted posters for Meef were posted everywhere.
But they didn’t let that interest them too much as they argued about what to do given the presence – maybe – of Soleter Sten in the city. Giana is real keen to keep away from him. But they thought they’d check out the Entris Voo Kalian lead at least and so headed off to the antiquarian bookstore he owned. The place was tiny and crammed full of books . Entris himself was an unusual something; a construct or visitant of some sort, presenting as a tall thin man, with a head that was a constantly riffling sheaf of paper. As they approached, an illustrated image of shaking hands appeared on his constantly turning pages, motion supplied by successive changes to the illustration, like a flip book. Well, his head IS a flip book, so it is that.
Once they’d settled into a communication style that worked for them, Entris seemed reluctant to simply ’speak’ in text, they discovered that he had indeed come into possession of the books Roche had stolen from Vecchi. He invited Meef to check them out in the back office. Long story sort of short: Roche had been interested in the mythos of The Blind God. One of the books was a collection of those mythos and the other was a secondary document, someone’s research detailing the operations that went on at the temple of The Blind God.
The temple does not yet exist – it won’t be built for about 352 years. After which it will exist for four years before being destroyed in some cataclysm. The researcher somehow gained access – in the past – to documentation from the future. The part that most interested Roche seemed to be the bit about a machine that the priests of The Blind God had which allowed them to make copies of themselves. These copies then underwent vicious religious tortures, eye gouging, dismemberments and the like to replicate the various forms that their god had made sacrifices. The tortured clone’s memories were then somehow fed back into the original and thus they came to understand their god all the better. They also used the cloning machine as a way to send their high priests abroad to witness other sacrifices and things of that nature, before returning and passing on the experience to the original.
That’s not really a short story, but it’s the gist of it.
There wasn’t room in the small bookstore for everyone to comfortably hang out and Sharad had noticed that the bookstore was being watched by one of the crew of the airship on which they arrived and a parcel of likely looking lads backing him up. Changing into Meef’s clothing, Sharad left the bookstore to lead the ambush away. This worked, they thought Sharad was Meef and accosted him. They were none too happy that Sharad had pulled their leg, but before things turned too ugly a fancy coach pulled up and Sharad was invited aboard. The short man who invited him aboard introduced himself as the carriage pulled away from the puzzled and disappointed thugs – he was a representative of Amalgamated Holdings Inc and on behalf of Consul Soleter Sten was interested in securing the person if his daughter, Giana Sten. It was impressed upon Sharad that Giana was not well. That for her own protection, her concerned father wanted to return home, for treatment. It was also impressed upon Sharad, via holding him out the door of the speeding carriage as they crossed a bridge – the drop only screened by the stone gargoyles whizzing past at speed – that they would go to any lengths to get Giana back. Sharad did not take kindly to being threatened, but didn’t lose his nerve. When he refused to give up any information or agree to help them man, he was dropped off in a strange part of town and left alone.
The next day, they discovered from a bored pair of canvassing city guards that Jip Krofwarten had been involved in a caravan ambush and some things were stolen. The owner of the caravan, Kempon Bragg has offered 100 shins as a reward for information leading to the arrest of Jip Krofwarten and 500 shins if someone brings him in alive. The picture of Jip that they carried with them does look like a very young Meef. Jip is apparently a low level criminal but was positively ID’d by the only surviving caravan driver/guard (a guy called Lurm, they let slip and probably shouldn’t have). Loretta tried spoiling the Wanted poster that they were showing around, but to dubious results.
They also made their way along to the Amalgamated Holdings Inc building; a grand edifice. Giana, naturally stayed away, but Loretta came into her own as she waltzed in and demanded to speak to the manager. Amazingly, this did actually get them an audience with the company’s Factor in Picalah,… Kempon Bragg. Loretta went on a rant about how it was unacceptable that her father’s ruffians were abducting her friends off the streets. It was a pretty great performance. Bragg seemed stressed when they entered, and no less stressed when they left, having apologized for the abduction and reiterating that they have orders to get hold of Giana for her own good. They did confirm that Soleter Sten is not officially involved with the company and that he is not in Picalah, nor likely to visit.
Sharad, not at all carried away with his ability to order people to do whatever he wanted, ordered Bragg to report back to Soleter Sten that he had no news of Giana at all. Bragg acquiesced. Loretta maintained her guise of spoiled brat and got away with it, flouncing out the office the way she flounced in.
Meanwhile, Meef had decided to break into the building. He’d overheard someone talking about the Memory Machine and referring to the Memory Team. The low level clerks who were being listened in on expressed concern at the Machine/Team and what would happen next. Moving around the building’s walls and machines Meef finally triggered their security system and fled out the wall. He was chased down outside and importantly was a) recognized as Jip Krofwarten and b) tagged with some sort of solid light marker.
Regrouping at their hostel, they discussed what to do and agreed that moving hostel was probably for the best. They flitted in the middle of the night, more or less, and discussed their next moves. Loretta realised that bathing Meef in radiation, localized obviously, would strip the light marker off his chest, so she did that. They found a place at short notice.
They returned to Kempon Bragg, who was now taking none of their shit. Whatever happened overnight, he was a changed man, and not nearly as solicitous. However, he filled them in on a few details of the robbery. The rest they gleaned by interviewing some guards.
What they learned: Jip used to hang out at the Sweet Leash. He was a small time grifter, but this caravan ambush gig had hallmarks of organized crime. It looks like they intended to leave no-one alive, killing all the guards (which is definitely not in Jip’s MO) but Jip was postitively ID’d by a caravan driver, so they want him.
What they didn’t learn: What was stolen, who the organized crime interest in this was, criminal associates, Jip’s whereabouts.
They hit the Sweet Leash, to talk to the bartender there. The Leash is, downstairs – a bar, and upstairs – a bondage dungeon, although at this early hour neither end of the business was full steam ahead. Sharad caught the eye of one of the dominatrices and was very very very easily talked into a session upstairs. He bought her time for something like six hours, meaning he either has no idea what he is getting himself in for or he absolutely knows what he is getting himself in for. Either way, things didn’t go altogether smoothly.
After finding out that Jip was completely harmless and had stopped drinking here when he met his girlfriend, some local thugs walked in, ready to throw their weight around. They were absolutely no match for the seasoned explorers. Sharad ended up stalling the start of his session and leapt down from the upper floor, powered sword in hand, borrowed kimono flying, half-clasped wrist restraints whipping around his ankles. Red, naturally, made this brawl a fight to the death, offing a few thugs with her tomahawks while Giana threw people around inside the Wall of Electricity thrown up. Meef spent the time getting everyone drinks, to the annoyance of the bartender. The thugs… or at least their corpses, had the markings of low level Silver Mountain gang members and before their regrettable demise, seemed interesting in finding Jip Krofwarten too. Of course there were no gang members left to interrogate because they’d murdered them all.
They left, with a new lead, but without Sharad, who was all tied up with other business.
Jesus, am I finally caught up?