Return to the Crawling Lake
So last week I put the word out that I again was looking for players to explore the Ninth World... but not just any players. I wanted to recruit a team of neophyte-Numenerians who had never been given the opportunity, and privilege, of playing this terrific role-playing game that the rest of us Cypher-System-Fanatics have come to know and love. So I sent out the call, to the four corners of the social media multi-verse, in order to assemble the most legendary team possible! Now as some of you may have read, I ran an adventure called "The Crawling Lake" last month for Andy and Christian's characters (Caldros and Corvyn), and we had a great time. Well this adventure is a return to the same location, the Crystal Pool located deep within the Westwood of Navarene. Our intrepid band of Numenera hunters in this quest must deal with the ramifications of Caldros and Corvyn's actions just a few days earlier...
- Bhael (and Bel), a Graceful Jack who Exists in Two Places at Once, played by Ely
- Talon the Drifter, a Mystical Glaive who Carries a Quiver, played by Phil
- Arzed, a Rugged Glaive who Bears a Halo of Fire, played by Scott
- Cyphis, a Rugged Jack who Explores Dark Places, played by John
- Slowfingers Jr., a Mad Nano who Commands Mental Powers, played by Arnold
Following the crusader call of the Amber Papacy and countless Aeon Priests all around the Steadfast, our small team of numenera hunters were en route to the lands of the Gaians, far to the north. Although not planning to do battle directly with the strange and unknown peoples who inhabited the northlands, and not even knowing why the crusade was called in the first place, Bhael, Talon, Arzed, Cyphis, and the wonderfully mad Slowfingers Jr. had departed the City of Ghan in the hopes of finding fortune and glory amongst the rubble of war. Unlike the zealots and professional soldiers who were planning to lay the Gaians to waste, the band at the center of our story was more interested in the leftover spoils that would come out of the conflict: bits a pieces of the numenera. The party was separate from the main force, but did happen to have friends directly serving the crusade, including Aeon Priest Nen, a kindly man willing to share tales of wonder and treasure.
Following a suggested route from Ghan to the Cloudcrystal Skyfields that would take the crusaders just past the Westwood of Navarene, stories began to unfold all around the camp that the Culova, aboriginal sentient spider beings, were capturing Aeon Priests from the main force and dragging them into the massive forest. These rumors meant little to the numenera hunters, until they found that Aeon Priest Nen was missing. Slowfingers Jr. didn't have to be told that it was the Culova, as he already "knew" in some odd way that the spider-people were the culprits. In addition, the most recent locale tale was that a monstrous beast known as the "Minotaur" was agitating the Culova. Not wanting to let their friend and travelling companion fall victim to horrific torture, the companions separated from the rest of the crusade and traveled into the woods.
Only a few hours into the Westwood, the party was having some difficulty navigating the quiet and dark forest floor. The trees of the Westwood were massively high, and the branches above tangled together creating multiple levels of obscuring foliage, drowning out sunlight. Although the team considered using some light source, they were glad that they decided not to, as it did not take long for Bhael (and his quantum duplicate Bel) to notice something strange ahead. Perched atop a small rocky outcropping, just over two-hundred feet ahead, were a pair of stony "things" that were moving around. Each was nearly a five-foot wide sphere of jagged edges, but it was hard to make out what exactly they were without light. Cyphis cautioned the rest of the group to stay back, and slowly made his way forward, careful not to be seen. When the rugged jack finally got a good look at the creatures he was horrified. They were a pair of Flying Elchin, viciously mobile mouths of razor sharp teeth with four legs and a hard rocky carapace. The beasts were tearing apart the remains of a tentacle-mouthed bear, with little regard to what was going on around them. When Cyphis returned the party made the decision to go around the threats, and try to leave the scene quietly.
But as the party began to maneuver to the south, it became apparent that the tentacle-mouthed bear wasn't the only thing the two flying elchin were feasting upon. Just behind the two creatures was a third living thing, but this one was in far more pain. It was a culova, injured with three of eight limbs missing but still alive and trying to crawl away to no avail. Seeing this as a possible lead for rescuing Aeon Priest Nen, Talon led the team towards a nearby tree where they could spring an ambush. While Talon was notching his arrow Arzed moved to his side, maul in hand. Cyphis wanted to gain some advantage, and since he was at home in the wilderness climbed a nearby tree. Bhael pulled his longsword and commanded Bel to follow Cyphis in order to strike from above with a crossbow. Finally Slowfingers Jr. stood in the back of everyone, dart thrower at the ready. The party let loose their arrows in a devastating volley. Bel's bolt knocked one of the flying elchin down the other side of the outcropping while the "lead" flying elchin took several hits before charging towards Talon. Arzed took a huge swing at the beast when it moved past him but missed completely. The creature in turn missed Talon, but was now frenzied by the mental connection made with Slowfingers Jr., who used his powers of telepathy to distract the monstrosity. Bhael slashed away at the nearby flying elchin, carving up it's side, and with a few more arrows it fell to it's death.
Unable to leave the dead carcass alone, however, Slowfingers Jr. started poking at the thing's eye. The mad nano was ill-prepared for the slain creature's reflexes, causing the remains of the flying elchin to clamp down on Slowfingers Jr.'s head. Slowfingers Jr. ran around in a blind frenzy as his entire upper torso was engulfed in a dead flying elchin's gullet, but the rest of the party still had to deal with the remaining flying elchin. Talon again let loose an arrow, and quarrels were fired from both Cyphis and Bel. The flying elchin had it's eyes set on Arzed. But when the creature charged the rugged glaive, it's face made contact with a maul! Arzed was quite pleased with the strike, since it forced the flying elchin to bound away from him, but was less than thrilled when he noticed that his maul was stuck in the creature's maw.
The remaining flying elchin would fall to one of Cyphis' quarrels, and the party moved towards the injured culova as soon as Slowfingers Jr. was freed of his new "hat." The culova spoke a language that no one understood, and despite being offered both it's own severed limbs and the limbs of the flying elchin, contrary to popular belief this was not a common greeting in the Westwood. It seemed to appreciate the healing administered from Cyphis, and understood that the party meant it know harm. Using his telepathic abilities (and explaining that, like the Culova, he too had once lost a hand but had it regrown), the mad nano Slowfingers Jr. was successful in connecting with the culova, learned that it's name was Chk Kyor-Tik, and that it was on the hunt for an Aeon Priest to bring back to his village. Asked why the culova needed Aeon Priests, the spider responded that a "box" near their village, which in the past made metal disappear, had been tampered with by humans recently and now made "flesh" disappear. Slowfingers Jr. told Chk that the party would help his village so long as the Aeon Priest Nen could return to the rest of the humans outside the forest. The team journeyed further to the west and would soon find themselves near the Crystal Pool.
Once at the village the party began to see what Chk Kyor-Tik was talking about. The vertical village was on the northern side of a lake, about four-hundred feet across, surrounded by tall trees and grass. But the grass was slowly dissolving into the lake, the trees tipping towards the waters, and the pool itself was completely devoid of any living creatures or plant life. At the center of the lake, floating just above the surface of the water was a silvery metallic structure that resembled a four pointed star about fifty feet across and thirty feet high. The entire structure seemed to balance on the water by a tiny point barely touching the surface. Chk Kyor-Tik said that the "box" at the center of the lake had always been there, and that prior to the arrival of two humans a week ago, if metal objects were placed in the waters surrounding the structure they would disappear. Organic material, however, was perfectly safe. Chk said that the two humans assaulted the culova, found a way to get inside the structure, and departed on a metal boat that they made "appear" on the lake. Ever since then, even touching the water made someone start to dissolve.
Cyphis and Talon, with the aid of the Culova and the rest of their party, moved to the branches that were just above the structure. Tying off to the branches, the jack and glaive were lowered to the metallic structure to get a closer look. Talon saw that the top of the structure had a small pool of standing water collected in a concave basin, but that this was full of organic material. Figuring it safe to touch the structure, Talon directed Cyphis to take a look at the northern face of the structure, where Chk said the humans entered. Although Cyphis was able to find a doorway or portal of some sort, he was unable to open it. Using a cypher to transition out of phase, Cyphis entered the structure as if it wasn't there and found himself completely surrounded by organic material, but miniaturized. Trees, bushes, culova, limbs, fish-birds (flish), the structure was full to the brim with this material. Slightly horrified, Cyphis stepped out of the structure and was given a cypher from Talon that would turn the door completely brittle like glass.
The pressure inside the structure was incredibly high, and once a weak point was created on the northern face it exploded... right into Cyphis. The rugged jack was blasted out into the water, and before the party could pull him back up they realized he wasn't there. But a constant rush of debris, fluid, and organic slime was blasting out of the opening at high speed like a side-ways geyser. Talon didn't want to get anywhere near this scene until it dissipated until he noticed something odd: there was a miniature, six-inch long version of Cyphis clinging to the side of the opening. The device touching the water didn't destroy material, it simply shrunk anything placed in the water and deposited it within a holding tank. So as the organic material was blasted into the water, it took Cyphis with it, and he was teleported back into the chamber, only to be dragged by the slimy current back out towards the water. Luckily for Cyphis, an enormous hand picked him up and carried him to safety.
Once the slimy spray was complete, the party regrouped. Slowfingers Jr. was able to make contact with Aeon Priest Nen in a prisoner holding cell. Nen explained that he had little idea how to fix the box, but that the other human in the cell actually knew the humans who had caused the problems. Her name was Dineria, and she was a member of the Vadris clan of woodsmen and foresters. She said that Corvyn and Caldros had saved her from a horrifying beast, but were only interested in finding a lost automaton of the Emol family of rival woodsmen. She said that when they reached the Crystal Pool they left her for the culova and then started an assault. The culova didn't particularly like Dineria, since they hated all humans who harvested "their" forest.
Refocusing their efforts on the structure, the entire party lowered itself into the opening to the chamber. At the center of the room was a domelike structure with two horn shaped connections attaching it to the walls. Two viewscreens appeared like eyes, a control panel like a nose, and a ring-shaped lever was just beneath. This must have been the minotaur! Using his mastery over numenera the mad nano Slowfingers Jr. was able to use the controls to manipulate the device's "polarity". It had been set to shrink organic material, so the nano did some experimentation and was able to reverse the setting. Within moments a full-sized Cyphis sprung from a container at the back of the room! Slowfingers Jr. even found a way to shut the entire machine down, rather than leave it on any setting at all. Returning to the culova with the good news the spiders agreed to let the humans take their Aeon Priest home but stated that they wanted to keep the human female to eat, as retribution to the woodsmen. The party convinced the culova otherwise by showing them that the metallic structure could be used to make things "bigger", including wood! This would allow the culova to take small trees and grow them instantly, which they could then trade with the nearby humans. Not realizing that they had just started a complete trade war in the region, the party gathered up their gear, Nen, and Dineria, and headed back to the crusading force.