In The Key of Time III

Part Three – Varenis Ilob

                The Wayfarers are in Navarene, near to the city of Shallamas. They went through an hourglass shaped Portal into a series of chambers and tunnels, obviously constructed and obviously old. They fought a band of Split-Eye Reavers; retracing their steps there was a ‘ripple’ in reality and they found themselves standing in a brightly-lit hospital ward.

“Hello”, said nurse Sharlin. “Are you here to see the doctor?” “Yes”, replied Galadiir. The doctor turned, a middle-aged man with a white coat and various devices hung from his belt.

“Hop up on the bed young man, and I’ll soon have you checked out”. He adjusted various pieces of medical equipment over the bed.

Galadiir did so and nurse Sharlin moved over to Lorn, who was badly injured. “He’ll need to stay here to rest”.

Galadiir had nothing but a few bruises so they said their goodbyes and moved along the E passage. Talia-5 stayed with Lorn (which upset Harrylock). *

After an immediate distance they entered an office; there are a desk and several chairs; a set of empty shelving and a nameplate that read ‘Dr Kol’. Investigating the desk, they found that the surface could be made to light up with various shapes and symbols. It was a data storage system, but appeared to be empty.

There were two exits, SE and E. They went SE, after a short distance the tunnel was sealed by a metal door. It was locked and the lock was a magnetic key. Returning to the office, they went E, traversing a long corridor with many bends and curves; eventually exiting into a conference room. There was an oval table with chairs around it. In the centre of the table was a glowing ring projecting an image of a device. The device was an octagonal base with a central transparent cylinder filled with smaller multi-coloured cylinders.

At this point two people, one male, one female, entered the room from another passage. They wore silver skullcaps and grey tunics with a white tabard. On the tabard was an emblem; an hourglass vertically bisected by a sword. The woman carried a device in her hand that she was pointing at the image.

Sonny took the lead on the negotiations. “Come in and sit down”, he barked. “We are here because we are not satisfied with what we are being told. We funded this project and the reports are incomplete. We are here to put you back on schedule.”

“W…what?” stammered the man. “I don’t understand. Everything is going exactly as planned. The latest test performed exactly as expected.”

“Test of what?” roared Sonny. “Don’t hold back – we need to know everything that’s going on here.”

“Who are you? Are you from the Queen?” The man looked frightened. “I think you need to talk to Varenis.”

“Yes we do. Who is he?”

“Are you sure you’re from the Queen? How can you not know who Varenis Ilobar is?”

The woman left, to return shortly with another man; he was tall, with a hooked nose and medium-length brown hair. He looked at the Wayfarers with a piercing gaze. He wore a grey tunic with the hourglass/sword emblem; he had various devices depending from his belt. He glanced at a device on his wrist.

“I am Varenis. Who are you?”

“We are here representing the Queen.”

“No you’re not. The official audit is on its way and will not be here for another ten-day. I don’t know how you got in, but you need to leave. The way out is that way.”

The corridor led a short distance to a metal door. They were expecting it to be locked; it slid open at a touch and billows of red-lit vapour spilled out. Entering the chamber they found that the walls flexed constantly; forming planes and angles. A figure stood in the centre, surrounded by three red-glowing floating cylinders. Harrylock used an oddity he carried to clear some of the smoke; the figure was a floating cloaked shape with a faceless hood **

The figure unnerved them; wherever they stood in the chamber; it was ‘looking’ at them. Finally, Judson tried to touch it. A sound that was not sound, that bypassed their ears, filled their heads: –

“You do not understand. But you will …”

Judson decided that touching the creature would be a BAD THING. They left through the N exit, after a short distance they entered an octagonal chamber from the S. The only exit was an hourglass Portal on the NE wall. The entire W wall was a tribute to a beautiful queen; statues, ornaments, pictures and the like. Flanking the tableaux was two knights in heavy armour. They carried swords; on their breastplate was the emblem of the hourglass bisected vertically by a sword. Beneath the emblem was set a black jewel. Galadiir approached the nearest knight.

“Who are you?”

“I am Sir Lennis Tritars, of the Order of the Tempura Avenis.

“Who’s she?” A look of anger crossed Sir Tritars face. “You will be respectful. She is our glorious majesty Queen Whenith Sarrowmere, ruler and protector of the realm of Iscobal.” ***

“Where does that Portal lead to? We came in that way” ****

“It leads to the chapter house of the Order of the Tempura Avenis. It is always guarded, inside and outside.”

Harrylock spoke directly to Sir Tritars. “Can I join the Order?” Sir Tritars looked him up and down. “No”.

They retraced their steps and encountered the Philethis again. They tried to trick it and took some Intellect damage; Harrylock tried to touch it. He took a massive mental blast; they all heard the sound that was not sound in their heads: –

“The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.” *****

Heading NE, after a short distance they entered a curved chamber (1/4 of a circle). A sloping passage led down to the E, in the centre was a panel with two sliders. The top one was calibrated 0-2, the bottom one was calibrated 0-9. They were set at 01. As Galadiir went to investigate further, he was interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Stop!” called Varenis, coming up the sloping ramp. “Don’t touch anything. Now, why are you here? I know you are not the auditors; don’t try to fool me again.”

“We know you are messing with Time”, called Galadiir. “We are from your future. What year is it?”

“It is 965, the 12th year of the glorious rule of Queen Whenish Sarrowmere of Iscobal. You say you are from the future. What is your year and who rules Iscobal?”

They all exchanged glances. “Our year is 1015; fifty years from your time. King Noren Ti’Killoban rules in Iscobal”

“Ti’Killoban? They are a Noble House; but not successors or contenders for the throne. Still, it is of no matter. This is fascinating – you have come back through time. I need to have you examined and the results recorded; then we will go back to your future, to see if you survive. It is proof that my Time Rotor works. If I can return you to your time alive then we can explore going further into the future.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because I can. Imagine the possibilities; the advanced technology of the future made available now.”

Varenis took them down the ramp to the chamber containing the Time Rotor; a crystal cylinder about 2’ tall. Four sloping up ramps led off the chamber, N, S, E, W; the E ramp had an open gallery above it.

They caught a brief glimpse of someone moving on the gallery, suddenly the Rotor activated; moving up and down in the base plinth whilst the inner cylinders flared with unknown colours and a terrible noise permeated the entire complex. Varenis ran for the east ramp as reality ‘rippled’.

The Rotor chamber smelt of ozone and was covered in dust. Harrylock decided to go back to the hospital; to check on Talia-5 and Lorn. They all went up to the control chamber. Judson was still sitting in front of the panel; however, at the north end, there was now a device. A flat slab of synth; above it were five unsupported vertical rings. A blue-white energy field filled the space between the rings; inside the field was the body of Varenis Illoba. Two large insectoid creatures were trying to get at the body …

… To be continued …

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GM notes

* “Wait – what’s happened to the north and south passages?”

“Maybe they don’t exist anymore?”

“Or maybe they don’t exist yet – I think we’ve gone back in time”

“Guys – don’t tread on any butterflies!”

 

** A Philethis, but no-one recognised it as such.

 

*** A few failed history rolls here revealed that no-one had ever heard of her, or of the Order.

 

**** No they didn’t

 

***** Yes, I’m a big Babylon 5 fan, and surely Philethis = Vorlon.

 

Feedback and comments on these stories appreciated

In The Key of Time II

Part Two– The Doctor is Waiting for You

The Wayfarers are in Navarene, near to the city of Shallamas. They have come through an encounter with a band of Margr armed with black ray energy emitters and are currently in a chamber with three Aeon Priests, having passed through a Portal of some kind.

                (For ease of description. I’m labelling the tunnels as per the points of the compass.)

Galadiir greeted Tevarus and was introduced to his companions Valniir and Pitracc.

“Are there any more of you?” “Kappad and Holgar went exploring, they have not returned yet. We were about to search for them when the Margr attacked. We will stay here to hold them off.”

Galadiir triggered a glowglobe and the Wayfarers headed off along the eastern tunnel. The tunnels are circular in cross-section, with a flat floor. The walls bore marks to suggest they were constructed. After a short distance it opened out into a circular chamber with a central dais. A tunnel led off to the NE, in the east wall was another tunnel, completely blocked by fused and melted rock. Harrylock tried to punch his way through, using his skill of Damage Inanimate Objects, but to no avail*. Examining the dais revealed nothing, so they continued NE.

A short distance later they entered a rectangular chamber. There were exits N and NE. In the chamber were several tables and chairs, also some easy chairs and sofas. There were posters and pictures on the walls; all very faded and peeling. They couldn’t make out what was on them. Up against one wall stood a tall rectangular box with five vertical transparent panels. Above each panel was a vertical slot, about 2cm high. The panels were dark; it looked like there was something behind them. A search round the room and furniture revealed two round metal discs down the back of the sofas. Galadiir took one and put it into one of the slots in the machine; there was a ‘whirr’ and a ‘thump’, as something landed in a hopper at the base of the machine. It was a can, somewhat corroded; the writing faded and unreadable. As Galadiir picked it up it burst, showering him is a sticky sweet-smelling liquid. Harrylock tried the second ‘coin?’ in a different slot; the machine produced a small wrapped bar. He opened it; whatever it had been had long ago decayed and become rock-hard. He threw it at the wall, where it bounced off.

Whilst they were messing with the vending machine, Judson investigated the two tunnels leading off. The north tunnel led for a short distance; at the end was a flickering glow; like a fire. There was also a faint smell; a sickly smell that he couldn’t identify. The NE tunnel also led for a short distance; at the end was steady blue glow.

“Blue means cold”, declared Galadiir. “I deal with the cold, so that’s the way we’ll go”.

A short distance along the tunnel and they entered a long elongated oval-shaped chamber, lit by a blue tube running the length of the ceiling. There were exits W and SE. Along the chamber were 12 glass and synth cylinders, set on frames at a 300 angle, all connected to complex machinery

Examining the nearest cylinder was a male human clad in orange and yellow robes, with a circular raised headdress. Various devices hung from his belt. With him were three assistants. As the Wayfarers entered he turned; pulling a device from his belt.

“Hold! I am Erinnis of Bodrov and I claim salvage rights here. However; I would trade knowledge. Do you know what they are for?”

“Yes”, called Galadiir. “They are mine. I have just bought this place. They (indicating Judson, Harrylock and Sonny) are my servants”**

“I do not believe you”, replied Erinnis. “I think I would like you to leave”. He pressed something on the numenera device and a barrier of force sprang up across the end of the chamber; sealing it off. With no way to get through, they went back to the Recreation Room. They headed up the north passage; the smell grew stronger until they identified it; the smell of hot metal and blood.

At the end of the north tunnel was a rectangular chamber with exits N and E. It looked like a grotesque hospital ward; six beds lined the room; all of them surrounded on all sides by heavy synth cages. The nearest two cages had a captive man in each; the third cage was empty but the bed was soaked in dried blood. Cages four and five were empty; cage six held an impossibly beautiful biomech

“Get us out of here!” The man in the nearest cage was hammering on the bars. “They’ll be back any time now.”

“Who will? Said Harrylock. “Talk later! Just get us out, and her. They seem really interested in her. Hurry! The receptionist will be here soon.”

Judson took his bow and climbed up on top of the third cage to cover the exits; Harrylock broke open the door of the cage holding the biomech.

“Who are you?” “I am designated Talia-5,” replied the biomech.

Harrylock and Talia-5 broke open one of the cages; from somewhere came the sound of a motor spooling up. They opened the last cage just as a crackling voice spoke from behind them.

“Do you have an appointment? The doctor will see you now if you have an appointment. If you don’t have an appointment then I will book you an appointment to see the doctor. I am the receptionist. I book appointments so that you can see the doctor.”

The speaker stood in the entrance to the eastern tunnel; a wrinkled old crone, easily 70 years old, with straggly white hair; wearing an old, faded nurse’s uniform. The name badge reads Sharlin***.

“Run!” yelled Judson. “I’ll hold it off”.

“Do you want an appointment?” Nurse Sharlin advanced towards cage #3. Judson looked up to see,from out of the east tunnel, a robotic monstrosity emerging. It was on a wheeled platform and was 7 feet tall. It was equipped with grabbers, claws, restraints, drills, needle-probes, abraders, shock-terminals and all the other implements of the interrogation biomech. The most horrible thing was the living body of another nurse hard-wired into the system. Although most of its humanity was gone; it still wore the name badge Cathenie. As it approached, Judson did a magnificent back flip off the top of the cage and ran out of the north tunnel, following the others.

The tunnel exited them into the centre of a large group of humans, wearing armour and carrying an assortment of weapons. All of them had a distinguishing mark; a large scar bisecting their left eye. There was no negotiation, the Split-Eye Reavers grabbed their weapons and attacked.

The fight was a complex affair, with the Reavers ganging up on the Wayfarers. At one point, one of the Reavers produced a cylinder with a short hose attached; a horrified Harrylock recognised this as a cypher containing Metal Death. They managed to keep the bearer of this off-balance and dazed; at one point the thing was dropped and another Reaver grabbed it, only to be targeted in turn. **** Finally, the surviving Reavers fled into the west tunnel. The Wayfarers took stock; they had taken light wounds. Talia-5 was unhurt and had taken down two Reavers; of the brothers, Lorn was impaired and Dorn was bleeding out; he died before they could do anything. They decided to retrace their steps back to the prison area. Amazingly, Harrylock decided to leave the cylinder of Metal Death behind.

As they entered the tunnel, from all around them came a loud wheezing and groaning sound; echoing throughout the tunnels and the walls. They felt a strange rippling sensation and they found themselves in a brightly lit room with an exit E. They were standing by the north wall. The room smelled of fresh paint and disinfectant; it was a hospital ward. There were six beds, surrounded by complex medical equipment. A doctor and two nurses stood by one of the beds. One of the nurses, a young blonde woman, looked up and flashed a smile.

“Hello. I didn’t see you come in. Would you like to see the doctor?

—- To be Continued —

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GM Notes

* He had no way of determining how thick the lava plug was, so there wasn’t much chance of him succeeding.

** I have no idea at all what Matt was doing at this point

*** This REALLY freaked them out, which is why they ran (I think)

**** This was largely due to the extraordinary number of “19’s” and “20’s” rolled by the Wayfarers during the combat – the dice were with them tonight.

The combat made us realise that we did need some way of marking who was fighting who. I don’t want to use a full-blown battlemat system; I want to keep the simplicity of Numenera. I’m going to look at adapting the combat/move system out of ‘Mars Attacks’. More on this later.

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In The Key of Time I

Part One – What time is it?

Leaving Thaeling Lake far behind, the Wayfarers journeyed north towards Navarene. Whilst passing through the Dark Hills, a heavy jellrain storm caused them to shelter in a wayside hostel. Whilst talking over a meal, the barkeep offered some information. A heavily armed and armoured group of Varjellens came through here about five days ago. They were looking for someone called Sonny Silver. After the storm had passed they continued onwards, finally reaching Shallamas on 1st Tor.

Standing on a ridge about a mile from the city; they looked in wonder at it. Shallamas was oval, ringed by a metal wall. Slender metal towers jutted up from the wall at regular intervals, each was topped by a metal globe. From the centre of the city rose a taller tower, topped with a larger globe. Faintly on the breeze came the strong smell of ozone.

In the city, they went to the nearest hostel that had rooms to rent; The Pub of Ubbub*. Speaking with the barkeep they learnt that Shallamas was prone to echoes; flashbacks to past events. The events were factored into law and could be used as evidence.

“Has anything strange happened to you recently? We’ve heard tales of people getting younger overnight.”

“Actually, yes it has. Only this morning I had wiped down the glasses and arranged them on the trays when I found myself wiping down the glasses and arranging them on the trays.”

Galadiir puzzled over this and went to take a pull on his drink. To his surprise he found it to be empty; as did Judson and Harrylock. They bought another round from the barkeep, who did not recall serving them before.

(Meanwhile, Sonny looked around in amazement. He was in a scientific area; a laboratory of some kind full of apparatus he didn’t recognise. He saw himself and three Varjellens who lay dead and he was just smashing the skull of the fourth. As the echo faded, the man looked up and Sonny saw that it was not him; but someone who looked identical to him.)

Back in the Pub of Ubbub, they decided to head out of the city and check out the woods. Judson led the way out, he appeared to stumble in the doorway

(Judson looked around. He had not stepped out into the street; he was in a scientific area, a laboratory of some kind. Four dead Varjellens lay on the floor; Sonny stood over them with a bloody longsword. The echo faded into the street of Shallamas.)

They headed towards the woods; there were some curious conical hills at intervals** Many of these had thin five-sided needles pointing up from their flat summits. Judson climbed one; it was not an easy climb. The summit was flat, about 30’ across. The five-sided needle, again about 30’high, emerged from a pit in the summit. It did not touch the sides and there was no visible means of support. Judson touched the pillar; it flexed slightly but did not move. He used his arm to reach down the pit; it was deeper than he could reach. He pulled his verred and struck the needle. Immediately, he wished he hadn’t. A shrieking agony of pain lanced through his skull and he fell to the ground. From somewhere came a thin whining sound; increasing in pitch and growing in intensity. The needle began to slowly sink into the pit

“What have you done?” yelled Galadiir. Down on the ground, the others could clearly hear the sound as well. Judson climbed and then half-fell down the hill to the ground. The sound reached a shrieking crescendo and then the needle launched out of the hill. The acceleration was phenomenal; even before it cleared the top of the hill it had gone hypersonic and vanished into the sky.

“Oops”

Judson rested and then they made their way back to Shallamas as dusk was setting in. From head came a woman crying: –

“Help me, please help. My son needs help.”*** Out onto the road ran a woman, dark-haired, in her 40’s. She led the way to a moderate house set back from the road.

“My son is on the couch in the living room.”

Galadiir went inside; as did Sonny. Judson and Harrylock waited outside. On the couch was an old man in his 60’s.

“Where’s your son?” Galadiir was puzzled. “This man is older than you.

“That is my son. He went out to play this morning and came back like that.

Galadiir sat beside the old man and talked with him. The man still thought that he was ten years old. He went to play in the woods where he found a cave, He went to explore but some skull-headed men started shooting black beam rays and some men in orange and purple robes fought back. At the back of the cave was a black door and he went through this. There were lots of tunnels and rooms, it took him a long time to get back to his home again, and now he is dying.

Meanwhile, outside the house; Harrylock and Judson were talking when suddenly Harrylock was bitten by something massive. They briefly glimpsed it; a huge serpentine creature of shadow. The fight was tough; both Harrylock and Judson were badly hurt by the time Sonny stepped forward. He dealt the creature a heavy wound and Judson’s right hook to the face finished it off. Strangely, it dissolved into a million shards of dissolving darkness.

They rested then returned to the Pub of Ubbub to spend the night.

2nd Tor

The day dawned with an overcast sky and light rain falling. They breakfasted and then headed north to the wood to find the cave that the man / boy had spoken about. Near to the gate, Sonny visited a public lavatory; a good job as he was out of sight when a party of armed and armoured Varjellens marched out of a side street and headed off into the city.

“Do you think those are the same ones that are hunting Sonny?”

“Don’t know. All Varjellens look the same to me.”

After a couple of hours into the woods, they came to a clearing in front of a wall of rock. A regular-shaped cave was in the cliff; the clearing was pock-marked with small craters and burnt vegetation. A smell of burning was in the air. Galadiir walked towards the cave; a small golden sphere flew out of the cave and exploded in a shower of golden sparks. Two others quickly followed; Galadiir barely threw himself out of the way in time. Judson notched and shot an arrow into the cave; Harrylock shot his wrist x-bow. They ran for the cave; more of the golden spheres flew out over their heads. Glancing behind they saw a howling mass of goat-headed abhumans emerging from the woods – Margr! They carried fist-sized black ovoids that projected black beams of energy. They made it to the cave except for Harrylock, who refused to run. He speeded up a little when several black rays hit him at once and he took some damage. Inside the cave, Galadiir made to light a glowglobe.

“Don’t do that”, hissed a voice. “They’ll see us if you light the cave.”

Crouching in the entrance were three figures; they raised small stubby weapons and launched a spray of golden globes at the Margr. Judson and Harrylock shot off their bows and Galadiir took out the remaining two with an Ice Blast.

Galadiir lit his glowglobe; the others wore the orange, black and purple of the Order of Truth (Aeon Priests).

“Why were they attacking you?”

“We think they were trying to get back though the door – that’s where they came from.”

At the back of the cave was a carved structure of grey stone, resembling an hourglass. The centre area was fugilin, a colour darker than black

“Let’s see what’s there then” said Galadiir and stepped into the portal. The others followed him, as did the Aeon Priests. They emerged in a circular chamber, two passages led off into darkness. In the chamber were some cot beds and travel gear, a small heater / stove and a glow globe.

“I am Tevarus”, said one of the Priests. “Welcome to our camp. Who are you?”

– To be Continued –

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GM Notes:

* The FM were making lots of jokes about the City of Echoes

** Think of a 90’ tall inverted plant pot covered in very short grass.

*** Their first paranoid reaction was “it’s Leema”.

Our first Numenera Game for a few weeks and everyone really enjoyed it. We all like the Game-system and the players are becoming expert at estimating what level a creature or challenge is.

Use of language: I am currently reading Gene Wolfe’s ‘Severian of the Guild’ and love how all of the weird and strange words he uses in the text are not made up. All of them are real words from different languages that are now not used. I think it is a good way to convey the ‘weirdness’ of the Ninth World.

Also; I would urge everyone to listen to “The Astonishing”, the latest studio album by Dream Theater. It is a prog – metal musical concept album and is SO Numenera, even down to the artwork