Posted on November 2, 2017
Numenera 4: The Gang Throws Grenades At Biomechanical Canines.
Straight into it, because I want to write a thing about Predation because it sounds really cool after listening to it described on the Cypher Speak podcast.
- Sharad, an Intelligent Nano who Leads and exhbits shocking behaviour.
- Meef, a Mechanical Jack who Exists Partially Out Of Phase and who reminds self-defense AIs of bandits.
- Red Pepper, a Graceful Glaive who Wields Two Weapons and flips dudes into caustic slime.
- Giana, a Strong-willed Jack who Focuses Mind-Over-Matter and throws a mean grenade.
Spoilers and what-not after the jump.
Having questioned the Butcher, the Baker and the Camembert-maker, the party had two leads to follow up: Oane Crawfur, who spends a great deal of time in the woods as a trapper, and the Chetris family.
Before they followed either of these up, however, they wanted to check the site of the water condenser, which we decided was the exact dimensions of Matt Duffin’s torso. They’d actually already done this, but if they wanted to recheck, that would be fine. Tracking for prints wasn’t useful, in that they couldn’t successfully do it and so the search revealed little.
The Chetris family were always mentioned in conversation at arm’s length and the general impression was that people thought of them as troublemakers. With a gaggle of kids running around their house on the edge of the aldeia, and a pile of salvaged material stacked against the house, it would be easy to see why. However, they talked to an old Auntie as she shucked peas into a pot and lubricated the discussion with the purchase of some thyran beads – blue pearls that form on the feathers of particularly old thyrans. Estrin Chetris appeared too and from them they learned that they knew nothing about any machine-hounds running around stealing water condensers. If the party was going to go out searching for it, however, could they keep an eye out for Yami Chetris, his eldest. She had gone out foraging in the woods past Old Woman’s Bridge yesterday and had not returned. It wasn’t unusual for her to spend a night in the woods, but now that there is talk of machine-hounds running about stealing stuff, not to mention bandits rumoured to be down that way… he’d feel a lot better.
That seemed to the party like a faster lead to resolve than the remote trapper who may or may not show up in town. So they set off for Old Woman’s Bridge, named after the old woman who had originally discovered the Water Condenser and helped found the town, Kerni. They found the bridge by the fetid banks of the horribly polluted river. The “water” was fouled with a yellowish green alkaline substance, beyond all saving. While the forest was unaffected, the area’s water table was tainted beyond use by humans.
While they were figuring all this out, they were jumped, not quite quick enough, by a troop of murderous bandits. Barring a sprinkling of badly maintained crossbows, it would have been more accurate to describe this group as a bunch of murder hobos interested in taking things from people. They were not doing the good name of bandits any favours. Although maybe they were just hipsters… which is maybe worse. After initial attempts to intimidate the party into surrender (to either take their stuff or make them taste their new triple hopped IPA) failed, predictably, they bum rushed the explorers and were soundly beaten. Soundly.
Red Pepper managed to turn some attacks way and pitch two of the bandits, including the spokeshobo, into the filthy waters of the river. Giana impressed everyone by not only dodging a whole bunch of crossbow bolts, but catching one and using it to attack another murderhobo when her bow broke. Meef made quick work of them left, right and center with his broadsword and Sharad zapped one with his Chargestaff. Then zapped him again, because he wasn’t quite fried enough.
Long story short, the bandits – barring a few who fled into the forest – were vanquished. Their leader, escaping from the river’s caustic embrace, was shot in the back by Red as he fled into the woods. The remaining swimmer was fished out and interrogated. No, they didn’t have the Water Condenser. No, they didn’t really have anything. Yes, he promised to be a good boy. No, they hadn’t seen machine hounds, but they had seen and had been chasing Yami. They were lying in wait for her when the explorers appeared.
It didn’t take long to find Yami, who had escaped from the bandits once and was close to chancing her arm across the river at Old Woman’s Bridge a second time. Yami confirmed that there were machine-hounds in the woods. She had seen them and knew where they made their lair. She described the series of collapsed caves and crumbling substructure that supported the forest and the path to take to get to the cave where she had seen the creature/things.
That was good enough for the party; they took her home, to the relief of the Chetris family. They decided to go see Kuipania again (I think I’m placing this in the correct order of events) and other than Meef being mistaken for an interloping bandit by her house’s automated defense systems, they didn’t learn much second time around: except that Kerni Old Woman had discovered more than just the Water Condenser in the caves of long ago. It’s just that the Water Condenser was the only thing they could ever get working. There was no clue as to the nature of the other things she found, or where they all went, save that one ended up as scrap salvage at the Chetris’ unsightly eyesore of a scrapyard.
Estrin Chetris caught up with them as they left their audience with Kuipania and offered them some… useful things out of gratitude for finding his daughter and vanquishing the bandits, who weren’t normally harassing the villagers, but still – who likes having bandits on the loose outside your town? He gave them a few oddities – a wand that lit up in the presence of unnatural electromagnetic fields, a honeycombed crystal that split up mixed liquids poured through it, and a clear plate that displayed unintelligible information above anyone or anything viewed through it, like a Google Glass display permanently set to Gaelic in the Buginese alphabet.
After a night to recuperate, they set out the next day towards the area of the forest that Yami had described. Sure enough, by following her directions they found themselves looking at a small “cave” mouth although it didn’t look as though the opening was natural at all, but rather some part of a subsumed and collapsed structure. Before the entrance they could see, from a distance, two biomechanical creatures, standing guard.
As they got closer, Sharad and Giana readied cyphers they had and expertly approached in stealth. They were covered in this by Red Pepper, despite her careful and graceful movements, cracking a stick. A burst of machine noise passed between the two creatures and within moments another half dozen or so appeared from the cave. The cyphers went flying in, bursting in showers of corrosive fluid and waves of kinetic energy. The machine-hounds were rocked where they stood and turned and fled into the cave.
“Wait, are they bad guys?” the party decided to ask themselves after they had hurled two grenades at them. Tough to tell, I guess. They weren’t NOT bad guys. They decided to follow them in to the cave.
Footing inside the cave was perilous as they could feel plates of superstructure shift underneath the loam with their weight It wasn’t a cave at all, but a ruin of some sort. As they progressed further in, a solitary machine-hound appeared and beeped at them and was shot dead with an arrow for its troubles. “Are we sure they’re bad guys?” the group reflected again. Suddenly, the floor tipped and caused the wall to collapse on Red, burying her under rubble and organic detritus. She was fine, but trapped, pretty badly. Meef and Giana started digging her out, while Sharad thought about maybe heading down the tunnel and see where the creatures had retreated.
Lifting a glowglobe high, Sharad pressed on, some considerable distance, when he noticed that the ceiling sloped down sharply and the remaining machine hounds stood huddled together, but impassive. Searching around for something to do, Sharad was surprised when they beeped at him. He beeped back.
It beeped again, twice. He beeped back, twice. It beeped three times, he beeped three times. It beeped five times. He thought about it for a while and beeped back eight times. The hound beeped back 13 times and suddenly they’d established communication, via the Fibonacci sequence. Well, its communication of sorts. Suspecting that these hounds were intelligent, he carefully made his way back to the cave-in, the hounds following him…