Numenera 15: The Feast of Eyeballs

Here’s a summary of the last two sessions, the first of which easily slides into my top 10 roleplaying sessions on account of how well it went in terms of player buy-in and cascading wackiness. The second was almost entirely recovery from said wackiness, where the players learned a bunch of things and got recalibrated to go about their exploring business again.

Inside The Pyramid is an adventure from the Weird Discoveries and in light of the ‘surprise’ contained in the adventure, no one who might eventually play this should read this recap because it spoils the fun and it was tremendous fun.

  • Sharad, an Intelligent Nano who Leads and also, wouldn’t mind a bite of your eyes, if you’re offering.
  • Rosetta, a Graceful Nano who Crafts Unique Items and who has a fever and the only prescription is more eyeballs.
  • Giana, a Strong-willed Jack who Focuses Mind-Over-Matter and could go an eye or two.
  • Meef, a Mechanical Jack who Exists Partially Out Of Phase and has a hankering for some ‘face oysters’.
  • Red Pepper, a Graceful Glaive who Wields Two Weapons and dammit, doesn’t want any of these weirdos to to eat her damn eyes.

A painting of The Beanstalk, by Chrom.
Also, The Beanstalk, by Crom!

The whole mess started off with the party returning via the molecular rewriter to the Black Pyramid at Sharad’s control. They’d wined and dined and celebrated the return of the Rokumol to Uolis’s corral and then sometime mid-morning the blue mist closed in on them and before they really knew it they were back in the Black Pyramid.

As soon as they started exploring the rooms beyond where the Rokumol had been penned, Loretta was contacted by a voice in her head. It soothed her and welcomed her. They found a room full of orchids, flourishing in a cold environment and a room with thin white pillars that emitted static and could, they discovered, fry your head if you stuck it in just the right spot.

Meanwhile Loretta’s mental tour guide mentioned that they would get hungry because food spoiled in the pyramid (they checked, it did) but that it could provide for them if they opened a conduit that they had found running through the floor of the rooms. Loretta pulled out her tools and managed to get the faceplate off the conduit and reveal the glowing green energy within. The energy arched out of the conduit and latched on to her face, tearing her eyeballs from their sockets and disintegrating them. Loretta screamed in pain.

As the rest of the party attended her, the voice returned, apologizing. That was a dick move, it said. But it could restore her eyes if only one of her fellow would open the conduit.  They did. It ate their eyes. Like an eyeball-eating Ike Turner, the voice returned, promising that there would be no more tricks, and that it would make it all up to them. It just needed a few more eyeballs to do it. Sharad lost his eyes, Giana lost her eyes, Meef lost his eyes, they even convinced Shome to feed his eyes to the being in the conduit. It was surprisingly easy to talk them into it. But Red was having none of that. Here eyes would stay in their sockets.

This all happened while they were still exploring, with Loretta’s voice continuing to coax them into feeding the conduit-thing. They found more rooms, more weird stuff. They found a seven cornered cube that hurt their mind to think about. They found a silver ball that fell out of that cube, but turned out to be a horrible little parasite that burrowed its way to Giana’s liver before it was repelled out of her body by an electrical burst.

They found rooms of desiccated corpses, busy automatons, stores of information, a locked door guarded by an energy being, all while gradually becoming less and less eyeball owning. The speed of eyeball sacrifice was sped up by a) people trying to give away one eyeball and not being fast enough to avoid giving up the second eyeball, b) discovering that the door in the floor of the room they’d stormed had closed up and cut off their escape route, c) Loretta’s sight somehow returning, albeit green and unfocused.

Art by Guido Kuip. Copyright Monte Cook Games.

The growing chorus of persuasion was not enough to overcome Red’s singular aversion to ocular avulsion and eventually she went on exploring alone, while the rest of the party sat around waiting for their sight to return, which it only sort of did. And when it did return, it came along with a growing urge to get really close to someone with eyes and… feast.

Red took on a project of her own, trying to cause a breakdown in the automatons who were busy in one room, slotting thin tablets into slots in cones that hung from the ceiling, the removing other tablets and storing them in slots in the wall and back to the cones, then back to the wall and so on and so on. Red began pinching the tablets and piling them up outside the door, watching the automatons change plan and find other tablets to fit in different slots.

While she was doing this, Team Oculivore was busy opening all the conduit faceplates and the green energy surged forth out of it. They began converging on Red’s position as she stacked up tablets. Red fled as a ribbon of green energy snaked along the hallway to her face, but it was in no rush. It knew she had nowhere to go, so it and its green eyed minions converged slowly, inexorably on Red’s position. Red pulled on some goggles she’d found to put something between the energy and her face.

In the end the goggles, they did nothing, as the energy lashed at her face tearing the googles away enough to snake under and onto her eyes. But there, the unexpected happened, the crackling green ribbon of energy turned blue where it touched Red (yes, that’s complicated) and recoiled in horror, shrieking in Loretta’s head. The rest of the party was suddenly released from their urge to suck the eyeballs out of Red’s face, their hunger replaced by lingering revulsion. It fled back to its conduit and no more was seen of it. Red was left unharmed, eyes intact behind her goggles.

Red was, however, done with this shit. Stomping back to the entrance to the pyramid, they found that it was open once more and while the others discussed what to do, Red wasted no time in rappelling down the ropes that they’d set when they entered. As she walked off through the city below, the others discussed using the blue mist to bring her back, but decided that they should give her space and also, do something about this nagging eye hunger they had.

One of the rooms they’d discovered had been a teleportation room and they’d used it to successfully move back to another part of the pyramid. So they stood on the teleportation disks and thought of the Rokumol corral and poof! That’s where they suddenly were.

They figured they had two days before Red returned to the Racetrack camp, assuming Red returned to camp at all and didn’t go off to start a new life somewhere her sisters wouldn’t try to eat important organs out of her face. They’d bandaged up their faces and covered their eyes and some of them noticed that the urge to feed grew worse when in proximity to other, eyeball-owning people. If anyone thought it was weird, no-one was rude enough to comment on it, which is the handy thing about living where the weird is normal.

When Red finally did arrived, she informed the authorities that there may be something funny – there was definitely something funny – going on with her hermanas and amigos. While she rejoined the encampment, she wasn’t buddying up to these eye-vampires quite yet. When they left for the Beanstalk the following day, she trailed them at a discreet distance.

Shying away from other travellers on the roads, they began to see the Beanstalk, first as a glinting line rising into the sky and then it’s base, a rocky pinnacle from which the rest shot straight into the air. Sharad told them that this was where the term ‘Jack’ originated, that a legendary Jack, after whom all other Jacks are named had ascended the Beanstalk and returned with a fabulous treasure,  stolen from the titanic race who lived at the end of the spire. Someday, it was rumored, the titans would discover the theft and descend, to visit their revenge on Jack.

The town, when they arrived in it, was swollen as the racing season (and therefore the gambling season) was about to get under way. They bought hot food in a night market as the sun had gone down and asked around for the local clave of Aeon Priests. The Order of Truth’s building was central and once they saw it, grand. The clave was obviously held in high regard here.

Once past the guards, they were taken to the suites of Vecchi, the Aeon Priest for whom they had a little synth stick from Kuipania. He thanked them for the delivery and then the conversation quickly turned to eyes, for Vecchi, it turned out, was something an expert in eyes. Indeed when they got closer to him, the hunger for eyes was noticeably absent. Vecchi is one of the world’s foremost authorities in replacement eyes.

Vecchi’s eyes have their own unique qualities.

He’d never heard of the eye vampire energy monster, but he was reasonably certain that he could solve it and pulling out a storm-lantern shaped device, he activated it and they all went blind. Not to worry, he said, before pouring some kind of cool paste into their eyes and sedating them.

Their time at Vecchi’s was mostly spent lounging around in the big empty room next to his tech-filled lab; waiting for their eyes to regenerate, as none of them had opted for the expensive cybernetic eyes. They cost a lot of shins and Vecchi wasn’t entirely sure what they’d be like… or if they were designed for humans. But Meef sure had a lot to think about…

It turned out that Vecchi mistook him for Jip Kroftwarten, just as the legitimate businessmen had in Plainsight. Upon learning that he wasn’t though, Vecchi told him what he knew about Jip, or rather, why a low grade grifter registered in his memory.

Decades ago, a man named Roche had consulted Vecchi about The Blind God. Not an actual deity, as much as a concept, Vecchi described The Blind God as a recurring theme across belief systems. Roche thought it had something to do with eyes – that’s why he consulted Vecchi – but from what little Vecchi knew, the eyes were irrelevant to the stories of The Blind God. Anyway, he gave Roche whatever information he could to help him find a temple of sorts located in the mountains that make up the Clock of Kala to the northwest of this part of the world, NBD.

That was the last he saw of Roche until he met a man called Carvis. Carvis bore an uncanny resemblance to Roche. There was a confusing set of circumstances surrounding Carvis – Vecchi had thought he was murdered, but a few days later Carvis visited Vecchi and reassured him that he was just fine and that was the last Vecchi saw of him.

Until the conman Jip Kroftwarten came to town. Vecchi had the opportunity to run some tests on Jip. Based on that experience, he wrote a bunch of stuff down on some paper and then asked Meef to recount his favourite place when he was a kid. Meef described a fountain out of which he’d steal luck offerings, down to the designs and colours of the tiles. Vecchi revealed the notes he had made a few minutes prior and they were almost word for word Jip’s recollections. Vecchi probed for a point at which the two remembered pasts diverged and estimated that only the past seven or eight years of Meef’s memories are actually real.

Meef was shook.

Vecchi did more tests on Meef while he had him handy and he is most interested in why Meef is slightly out of phase, because none of the other lookalikes had been.

Meanwhile:Red was forging her own path. Having carefully followed the others at a distance, she was able to watch them be admitted to the clave, but when they did not reappear, she got herself a room at a nice hotel (extortionate prices) and lined up a speaking gig at a tea room type thing.

She visited Obdaxis the Herbalist too, or at least, she tried to. She very much wanted to meet this famed botanist who could grown plants with stems and leaves like sprung steel. She was directed to a part of town largely given over to the ‘Visitant’ races; mostly Lattimor and Varjellan, which maybe didn’t originate on Earth, but have been here a really long time.

The building itself had extensive terraced gardens and orchards beyond its wall, but the doors and windows were shrouded with spans of a deep purple cloth. Knocking on the door, she was greeted by two curt varjellan who snapped a bit, but she learned that they were in mourning as Obdaxis had died just two days prior. The mourning period continued for a week and Red said she’d come back then.

Red’s speaking gig went much better, as it was a house packed with eager tourists. At some point she decided to go check on the former eye-vampires and found them healing up, with new grown eyes in puffy sockets. Satisfied that they weren’t about to eat her eyes, she rejoined them and they talked about what to do next.

Vecchi had a job for them. He wanted them to check out a floating obelisk that appears to repel the Iron Wind. That way they could call it even on the whole replacement eyes thing. But they still had deliveries to make – Orrudis’ recording device which had to be presented to the oppressed people of Berenock. So they set off to do that, stocking up on Esprons to ride there and making for the Niacali ranch that would apparently take them to Berenock.

On the way out of town, they fell in with a party of Dendra O’Hur, acolytes of the Lady of Maggots and were so creeped out by the eaters of the dead that they made excuses and made sure they didn’t travel with them. Yeah, live eyeball devourers, they’re the creepy ones.

Eventually they made it to the Niacali ranch, where the giant floating fish were raised to haul gondolas skywards and provide Berenock witha ferry if it ever needed it. They paid the yokel who steered the fish and climbed aboard the basket gondola. In no time at all they were rising up to meet the sky island of Berenock…

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