Numenera 12 and 13: The Plains of Kataru

Okay I’m really going to have to rattle this off if I’m to get up to date by the time we play on Sunday, so this is going to be pretty truncated (Edit: it didn’t feel truncated). The usual spoiler warning (for Weird Discoveries) but at this point there’s so much name-changing and character sub-plot threads being woven in to it that I doubt reading this would help much with either of the two scenarios the party is currently enmeshed in.

After her entertainingly weird introduction Loretta has not been with the party – presumably she was just content to have caught up with her sisters, establish that they were okay and then take in a spa in Plainsight for a few days.

I’ve spent worse Saturdays.

  • Sharad, an Intelligent Nano who Leads and has a pretty good track record of always having the right grenade for the job.
  • Meef, a Mechanical Jack who Exists Partially Out Of Phase and  is no one’s dinner.
  • Red Pepper, a Graceful Glaive who Wields Two Weapons and is possessed, maybe?
  • Giana, a Strong-willed Jack who Focuses Mind-Over-Matter and runs out into the night chasing ghosts in her nightie like she’s in a Meatloaf video.

The party left Plainsight early in the morning, buying some fleet footed Esprons to take them across the Plains of Kataru to the Beanstalk. The Esprons are heavy on bursts of amazing speed, but low on stamina, so they rotated between walking, riding and sprinting. Moving away from Plainsight and out into the Plains, they couldn’t see very far ahead most of the time, but noticed that the land rolled in ripples.

They took in their surroundings; the dry grasslands and finely ground multicoloured drit patches where there was no grass. They saw winged shoals of silver skyborne fish swoop and twist as they chased swarms of insects down and they found the carcass of a large saurian, dead by some act of massive violence, most likely another large saurian. Their first waking on the Plains of Kataru saw them waking up as the shadows of airships floated past some way off.

On their second day out they were suddenly assailed by a voice, from nowhere it seemed. The voice told them that they’d soon see a small campsite and that they’d be welcome to join the owner of the voice and his two animal companions. As added incentive he let them know that he had a machine which made small cakes.

They carried on over the next rise and saw a red robed man starting a campfire on the next ripple over. Upon joining him they found him to be a blind Aeon Priest, Father Marnet accompanied two canids; a formidable Seskii and eerily human-faced Thuman. Also he had an automaton that carried his stuff and made cakes.

Whassup? I got opinions.

Father Marnet was sitting in vigil over a nearby archway. Every so often, to no pattern he could discern, the archway powered up and formed a portal through which a person stepped through. Then it deactivated and was dormant for years at a time. Not much was known about the people who came through, except that they all went mad shortly after their arrival. Every time he passed by he stopped and camped near the arch for a while, hoping to apprehend and help (or at the very least question) the new arrival. It was a mystery he had little chance of solving.

The party examined the broken archway, but could provide no further insight, so they ate his cakes and sat around his campfire. Giana brought up that she thought that there might be something wrong with Red (see Bleeding From The Eyes), but Red refused Marnet’s help. Marnet told Giana that he couldn’t ethically examine someone against their will.

I really like this picture of an Aeon Priest from the main rulebook, so that’s who I went with for Father Marnet.

They bedded down for the night, the Seskii and Thuman pacing around the camp’s perimeter. As she was drifting off to sleep, Giana was approached by the Thuman, who snuffled the ground beside her and then turned to her and said “Your sister has a passenger” before padding off to resume his watch.

The following morning, they packed up, said goodbye to Marnet and set off again. Marnet recommended that they head east until they saw a camp set up for the rokumol racing – the season was about to start and the west-most point of the race had a tower set up and a camp around it. They should find at least a welcome there.

As dusk drew over the plains, they spotted the tower in the distance and the lights of a camp underneath it. They pushed their esprons towards the camp, but suddenly the darkness was shattered by an explosion high above them. Thudding into the drit  ahead of them a large canister of some sort, strewn with the remains of the airship from which it jettisoned, which even now was burning up in the sky some way off.

I’m not sure what Esprons look like. Is it this? It’s this.

One side of the canister opened explosively and from within emerged three automatons, bearing long rifles. The party approached peacefully, but for once it wasn’t them that started the fight. The Oorgolians gave them a few seconds consideration and then drew down on them, spraying the area with bullets.

The Esprons bit it hard, I think three going down in the initial hail of bullets. But the wild shooting of the machine men wasn’t too tough to avoid if you simply hit the deck. One of the Oorgolians wound up his mortar too, getting ready to pummel the evading humans. Sharad was fortunately well prepared, having cobbled together a cypher that would fry any automatons in a short range. He hurled the grenade, it detonated and the Oorgolians were rooted helpless to the spot. The party charged and hacked the Oorgolians to pieces.

Their rifles were a fine haul – when worked manually they only fired a single shot, but the gun grows its own bullets and it can shoot things way far away. In addition, they found a bunch of goodies inside the canister, which looked like some sort of drop pod for the soldiers.

They continued on to the tower, for there wasn’t much they could do about the fallen airship, especially not in the dark and because it had burned up. The tower was close enough that their fight had been noticed and what with all the pyrotechnics, the people in charge of the camp were, needless to say, concerned.

So when it was just some travellers and their two spooked esprons coming into camp, they were visibly relieved. They were met by Constable Ghordra who admitted them to the camp, rather than welcome them, so long as they put up the rifles for the duration as those make people really nervous. She wan’t able to set them up with the accommodation they’d have liked, but a star struck deputy recognised Red Pepper (the Red Pepper?!) and was in the process of setting them up with somewhere nice when they were approached by a delighted Uolis, their erstwhile ride from Cylion Basin to Seria and Patel’s home town.

Uolis is the Dale Earnhardt of the Beanstalk’s rokumol racing circuit and is therefore treated like royalty around camp. If he wants his newly arrived amigos to stay with him in the lap of luxury, then dammit, that’s what he gets. Given quarters of their own, they were wined and dined despite the late hour. They had little business other than pleasure, although Red wants to get the head of her unfortunate Espron turned into a mask/helmet and she found a bored leatherworker at the tack shop who said he’d help her out with that.

Turning in, they were soon asleep in the comfortable cots provided – after a few days of sleeping on occasionally buzzing hard-packed drit, that seemed likely. However, Giana and Sharad were woken by an agitation; a tugging at their consciousness that they couldn’t ignore. In the dark, they could see a pale blue mist work its way across the capacious tent they slept in. It floated at a height that was comfortable for the GM to indicate, but as they watched thin tendrils uncurled down to touch their sleeping companions. The mist suddenly withdraw from the tent and the two woken sleepers were up like a shot to rouse their fellows and follow the mist. Giana dashed out to see where it was going, but in the mazelike camp, she soon lost the quick travelling cloud.

They found a patrolling guard who was alarmed by their story about intelligent mists, mostly because he hadn’t seen anything of the sort. He promised to report the phenomenon, but didn’t seem too motivated/concerned.

More fool him, because in the morning (really the crack of dawn -10 minutes) it was discovered that Uolis’ herd of rokumol had vanished in the night. Their corral was still locked and no sound or sight of them had been noticed by the watch. The party, attending the distraught Uolis, searched for sign of what had happened to the mantis-like biomechanical racing creatures but found no tracks, no indicators of how they had been removed from the corral. The sole remaining clue was one foreleg, seemingly ripped from the body, claws clinging to the corral posts and torn end hovering in the air.

This arm, once detached, maintained its bearing when left to its own devices and they figured out that when moved from one place to another it would provide two points of a triangulation. From this they figured out that the torn end was pointing out a location about two days travel away. They then asked if they could get a bunch of people to go with them, then some people, then just Uolis.

Unfortunately no: while the races haven’t started, racing season has and Uolis isn’t really free to come and go mess with things man was not meant to know as he pleases. He did give them bridle guides and explained that rokumol were generally quite clever and didn’t need much guidance unless they were being raced (because they can be goaded to run faster by electro-stimulation to exposed nerves by the tender – Uolis’ long term riding partner Tallek, the Goose to his Maverick – which unfortunately impede’s their intellectual capabilities, so that’s why they need a rider) and they shouldn’t give the party trouble on the way home. Uolis, naturally will give them all the shins he has (about 60… he’s not really rich, the racing circuit just pampers him).

Two days and one brief fight with some Margr later and the party is looking at this badass fucking floating pyramid and the ruins of a city underneath it. They were in sky-island territory and had seen a few of them as they travelled, but this was something different entirely.

Absolutely one of my favourite images from a line that’s pretty heavy on evocative images.

The rokumol leg, which they can waggle around like a divining rod, pointed slightly up. As they got closer, it began pointing at the underside of the pyramid at a spot near the center. The ruins underneath the pyramid looked ancient and partially swallowed by the dustbowl that surrounded the pyramid. They saw lizards lounging on the sun baked stones near the edge of the city, where the pyramid’s shadow did not always lie, but once they entered the cool permanently shaded area there was no sign of life at all.

Well, briefly. As they progressed through forgotten streets and alleys, a crumbling stone wall burst apart beside them, knocking Sharad down and pinning his legs. A giant red lizard burst through like a very angry Kool Aid man (Oh NO!) and… Meef was yanked off his feet and into the approaching monster’s maw. The creature had a large crystal embedded in its forehead and could apparently use it to psychically jerk people around. Or it could always do that and the crystal was just bling.

Either way, a fight ensued, Meef managing to avoid being chomped rather dextrously. The big lizard bit hard and was happy to pull people to and from it as necessary. In addition, it was discovered early that projectiles fired/thrown/cast at the lizard would whip back and damage their firers/throwers/casters which is bad news if you’re whipping out those Oorgolian rifles.

Sharad freed himself, adrenalin making a titan of him as he hurled heavy boulders away and loosened the rubble’s grip on his legs. He sought a vantage point in a nearby shecond shtorey, Shome shoving Sharad up the shattered shtairs. By that point though, the fight was over, Red’s tomahawk burying itself under the crystal, prying it and a few gallons of brain blood free.

Muh crystal! I needed that… ugh.

From where he stood though, Sharad could see two towers near the center of the city – twice as tall as other buildings around them and offset from the towers, the gleam of shiny metal. The rokumol leg divining rod also seemed to insist on the area of the pyramid’s underside almost directly above the two towers.

They found two things of interest near the base of the two towers – the gleaming metal thing – a simple cylinder that looked like it was a container and a room full of corpses.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the room full of corpses was that one of them seemed suspended in convenient GM indication height. They discovered that this corpse was slumped across a levitating rod of some sort. The dials and knobs could be fiddled with to allow levitation by the bearer. Good to know. Other than that, the trio of bodies appeared to have been explorers, killed by single, well-aimed slashes to the back of the neck.

The gleaming cylinder, meanwhile, held a many pronged key and a bunch of shins and nasty burst of  brainfrying energy that Meef managed to avoid.

Weird numenera key or sputnik inspired chandelier? You decide!

The ruined towers were still much taller than their surrounding buildings and were connected by a bridge, 35′ or so off the ground. On the bridge they found a plinth and on the plinth a silver sphere and on the sphere were lots of holes. Unfortunately one of the holes was where the power source was supposed to be, so they had to sacrifice a cypher to power the sphere. As soon as the sphere was powered it sprouted little metal pseudopods and clambered onto the key they had found, rotating until it aligned its various holes with the key’s prongs, inserting the prong then rotating again until it was done.

When it was, the base of the black pyramid immediately above them began to open…