The Stonebound Monk
- Chase Rombek, a Mystical Nano who Sees Beyond, played by Frank
- Jak, a Mutant Glaive who Constantly Evolves, played by Craig
- Glyquorg, an Exiled Jack who Controls Animals, played by Andy
- Elehar, a Tough Glaive who Rages, played by Scott
Non-Player Characters of Note
- Bel, owner of Bel's Bar and Coffins in the Traveler's Den
- The Coin Changer, the Shin-to-Bit Transaction Overseer in Rathide Row
- Ennuan, an old associate of Chase who was an Aeon Priest and now belongs to the Three Swords
- Administrator Theodus, manager of the First Tier Churn Foundry
The trade city of Nihliesh is a place of wonder and shadow. An amazing discovery, believed to have once been an enormous walking construct, Nihliesh now forever rests, nestled between the Steadfast and The Beyond. The mutated citizens of the upper tiers are fat in both physique and shin-bag, and live in beautiful bejeweled structures made from churn-brick. Those who live in the lower level, the First Tier, toil and struggle in the churn foundries, with dreams of further mutation for their children so that they may one day join the Fahat, the ruling caste of Nihliesh. Along with the workers of the city, the First Tier is also populated by merchants and travelers from elsewhere in the Ninth World, given access to the many-legged city by invitation from a citizen.
It was by such an invitation that Chase Rombek, Jak, Glyquorg, and Elehar found themselves resting in Bel’s Bar and Coffins in the Traveler’s Den of the First Tier of Nihliesh. Having received the pass to enter Nihliesh’s First Tier, the party of novice Unmasked Seekers entered the massive structure and made their way through the cramped and filthy halls and corridors of this lower ward. This section of Nihliesh was full of factory and foundry areas, with the primary product being a building material called "churn." The structure of the city itself mysteriously created the churn, and the poor workers who inhabited the First Tier refined the substance, crafted it into bricks or blocks, or assembled it into furniture for those living in the Second or Third Tier. Merchants and travelers comprised the remaining portion of the First Tier’s tightly packed population, and at Bel’s the party found themselves surrounded by worker and trader alike.
After renting pod-like rooms from Bel, nicknamed "coffins", the party settled in for part of the day. Following their successful training mission the bounty hunters believed they would be contacted by a "Fixer" within the Sacred Order of the Broken Mask for their next mission. One small detail that fascinated most of the party were the oddities used to adorn each coffin: small cloth blankets that smelled ever-fresh. These items had a pleasant fragrance, and could be used for a variety of reasons. Chase sought out Bel and asked her about the items, stating that he was surprised more of them weren’t stolen. One of these cloths was impressive, but to have dozens was amazing! Bel laughed, and showed the party that the cloths, when taken past the pod area, would disintegrate and then reform in the coffins by some kind of magic. Why this happened was a mystery to Bel, but she was certain that this area was once a barracks of sorts for the previous residents from a prior world. Chase seemed to enjoy Bel’s company and her conversation. The mystical nano seemed so relaxed that he even offered up some of the information about the party’s goals to the young woman, telling her specifically that his team was "pretty good at finding things." When the conversation ended Chase went back to the coffin room and continued to play with the oddity cloths.
It wasn’t long before a strange man entered the bar, looked up into the coffin room, and locked eyes with Jak. The man had a drink, took something from his pocket, and placed it under the overturned glass. Jak quickly moved down the stairs and to the bar, flipping the glass. The note read as follows:
"Heard you were pretty good at finding things… find me: G-E."
The team of bounty hunters was both intrigued and confused. They expected some kind of contact from the Broken Mask’s fixer, but not another training exercise. Bel stated that she didn’t know who "G-E" was but seemed to know more about the note than she would admit. Asking around for places to get more information the party was directed towards Rathide Row.
Filthy and full of food carts in deplorable sanitary conditions, Rathide Row was where the churn workers feasted during lunch and after their shifts. At least a dozen stalls lined the long corridor, none of which with any clear indication of what kind of food they were serving. Hoping to come across the initials G and E, the party fanned out and perused the stalls. Regrouping, the Unmasked Seekers were stumped. The only signs that were up showed food prices in a strange unit of measurement called "bits." Noticing their confused countenances, as well as their out-of-place clothing, a man known as the Coin Changer approached the party. He explained that he could take the party’s shins and break them into "bits" that could be spent on food or other purchases while in the First Tier. Asked about "G-E", the Coin Changer didn’t surrender any significant information until Chase tossed him five whole shins. With a grin the Coin Changer remarked that G-E was two entities in one body, tipping off Jak that the person they were looking for was a type of visitant known as a lattimor.
The party bid the Coin Changer farewell and travelled south through the narrow tunnels until they reached the visitant community of the First Tier. A small, circular room with perhaps a hundred "coffins" lining the outside wall, creatures of all shapes and sizes called this part of Nihliesh home. Glyquorg was about to lead his team into the area when he was stopped by a rather terrifying looking man. The gentleman appeared to be missing half of his head, the left side from crown to chin, with a clean cut right down the middle. Although not appearing worse for the wear, the man screamed at Glyquorg, accusing him of being a man named "Skyro", and that he wasn’t welcome in the visitant quarters. Glyquorg wasn’t about to be bullied by a man with half a head, so he popped a cypher that made him incredibly quick on his feet. With an explosive burst of force, the Exiled Jack charged into the room knocking the crazy half-headed man unconscious. The rest of the visitants seemed to be a bit scared of the party at this point, even the bucket of intelligent jelly that was playing cards with a mutant human on the floor.
Now having the attention of the room, the party started looking for lattimors. Only one was in the chamber, and after simple introductions the party found themselves speaking with "Meet." Meet seemed hungry, so Glyquorg offered her some rations, claiming them to be meat. Meet was not amused, but the sudden anger that filled the lattimor’s "bursk" personality allowed the "neem" state to take over. Now the party was talking with "Wol", the more cerebral portion of the entity known as Wol-Meet. Wol knew of G-E, and said it was most likely Gurn-Ellohesh, a fairly well regarded Lattimor who lived in the Second Tier and had many connections with powerful agents in Nihliesh.
The new Unmasked Seekers were stumped. They needed to make it to the Second Tier, but that kind of access was only given after months of petitioning, or some kind of special trade with a ranking member of the Fahat. Luckily for the party, something of worth happened to fall into the characters' hands. While relaxing at Bel's Bar, Chase noticed a familiar figure walk by. A human male with a shaved head and strangely long neck, clad in dark robes moving quickly through the crowd. Chase ran after the human, and called out a name: "Ennuan!" The man turned, locked eyes with Chase and tried to get away. The mystical nano caught up with his old "friend" and had Elehar the glaive pull the robed figure into a small alley-like hallway. Ennuan was an Aeon Priest and past associate of Chase Rombek. He also was not terribly interested in sticking around for some questions.
With Elehar's powerful hands pinning Ennuan against the wall, Chase searched the man wondering why he was acting so strangely. Around his neck was a cypher that would protect him from deadly gas, and on his flesh was a tattoo of three blades in a triangle. Jak arrived at the scene very soon after the chase ended and recognized the symbol as one of the Three Swords, an organization of Angulan Knights who had infiltrated Nihliesh's tiers. Under the pressure of the party's questioning Ennuan admitted that he had placed a deadly corrosive cypher in the Churn Foundry. He begged Chase to let him go, and to the surprise of the rest of the group (and to the GM), the mystical nano agreed. As Ennuan slipped back into the crowd, Glyquorg knew that the party could possibly trade the information about the corrosive cypher with a member of the Fahat for access to the Second Tier.
Engaging his running cypher again, Glyquorg charged through the halls towards the Churn Foundry. Weaving back and forth through the mass of people, the exiled jack made it to the entrance of the foundry in just minutes, with the rest of his Unmasked Seekers still several minutes behind. Glyquorg got the attention of one of the guards and warned him of the coming blast, but realized that the party forgot to ask Ennuan for the location of the cypher. One of the administrators who overheard the conversation ordered Glquorg taken into custody, and the various chambers of the foundry placed in a lockdown situation. Since there were thousands of workers, there was no way to evacuate them all, but the blast's effects could be minimized. A few minutes later the loud "boom" reverberated through the facility, and a dozen or so wounded people, as well as four dead bodies, were carried out of the Churn Foundry. Administrator Theodus interrogated Glyquorg for nearly an hour before the exiled jack admitted that he had some friends nearby… so Theodus dragged them in for a stern questioning as well.
Despite some of the suspicions that the Administrator had for the Unmasked Seekers and their odd story, he let them go. Slowly the party wandered back into Rathide Row and started telling their tale of woe to the Coin Changer. They were hoping to get access to the Second Tier for their good deed, but the Administrator offered nothing. The Coin Changer asked the party if they let the administrator know that they were offering the information with the intention of payment. Chase admitted that this was never discussed, and so the Coin Changer reminded the novice bounty hunters that everything in Nihliesh was for sale. Quickly the party returned to Administrator Theodus and asked for access to the Second Tier. Surprisingly, a one day pass was granted!
The Second Tier of Nihliesh was quite different from the first. Beautiful buildings of churn-stone lined open-air streets, and the pedestrians moved about freely and with an air of peace and serenity. There were shops and taverns, and multi-level homes, each owned by a ranking member of the Fahat or other mutant of note. While they strolled down the street, the strange man who left the party their first note approached the party and handed them a cypher. They were told to carry this into a nearby tavern. The party did as instructed, but when they entered the archway to the tavern, they were instantly teleported to a massive room of bright white. The floors and walls were completely devoid of color, and no noticeable ceiling existed. There was a single wooden table with chairs, and at its head was a lattimor.
He announced himself as Gurn-Ellohesh.
The lattimor fixer asked his newly appointed Unmasked Seekers to have a seat and proceeded to give them their first official mark: a monk known as Raa-em. Gurn-Ellohesh described Raa-em as a mystic who owed a local wealthy merchant family, the Vaeshir, quite a bit of money. The patriarch of the Vaeshir family recently passed away and the family was trying to close accounts. Why this monk owed the money was unknown, and so Chase, Jak, Glyquorg, and Elehar were ordered to seek out Raa-em and return him to Nihliesh and the Vaeshir family…
"What are you doing here?" - Bel (played by the GM) to Chase (played by Frank)
"I'm not sure I'm the one to answer that question!" - Frank to the GM
"I wave my furry green hand." - Andy may need to explain this statement.
"Yeah, we tipped 'em! That was us! We're the tip!" - Glyquorg telling his awesome tale to the Coin Changer, after "tipping off" the Fahat to the Three Swords' bomb.
"Did you actually ask for permission to go to the second level?" - The Coin Changer
"No, that slipped our minds." - Chase
I have to thank Scott Bourgeois and commend him on his terrific Ennie winning podcast The Signal! When I was preparing to write this adventure I wanted to provide a little extra backstory for my players, so I had them each listen to the Nihliesh episode. The Three Swords plot link is directly from Scott's podcast, and who knows… I may have to pull a bit more! If you get a chance, make sure to take a listen!