Numenera - Merlin

What Mettle Are We Made Of?

On the ride back to camp, Jax revealed that his guards had spotted a small metal sphere secretly scanning the City of the Sun. Siri asked Arimar and Sarithania if they knew of the being, and although they seemed to have encountered it all the way back in their time period, they knew little more about it than its name, Verraaier.

After returning to camp, the party attempted to learn more about what had happened to them. They knew they were missing a couple of days worth of memory and that each had at least one puncture mark, with Ox sporting a total of 6. They then discovered that another who had the ability to communicate with the nanites had not only harvested nanites imprinted with their brain waves and added a new, shiny substance that had bonded with the black inorganic Abbithean material in Ox, but had also been watching and influencing them for a long time. Doc and Siri had both been influenced to join the Deep Delvers and unearth the City of the Sun, and Ox had been experimented upon since childhood. Although they could not take complete control of the nanites from this individual, they did set up a warning system to be alerted the next time he attempted to establish contact with the nanites.

One of Jax’s guards alerted them to the presence of a mysterious cloaked figure sneaking into the tunnel leading to the City of the Sun. Doc, having brought his mechanical boy, 8Bot, back to ‘life’ sent the robot to investigate. Meanwhile, Ox experimented with changing into the new material within himself. Although the transformation was extremely painful, he found he was no longer weighed down and hindered by his inorganic form on this plane.

8-bot returned and reported that the cloaked man was scanning areas inside the City of the Sun and led the party to him. However, he heard their approach and attempted to flee. Doc teleported to him and tackled him before he could escape. Doc released him quickly, though, when they surprisingly learned that the figure was the elusive owner of the Deep Delvers, Eric Vitan. Eric wasn’t happy and evaded their questions as to what he was investigating, but brightened considerably when Ox arrived.

Bewildered, the party left Eric in the city, but on the trip out, Siri heard her strange numenera box produce a new figurine. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out not one but two figurines. One of them must have been created while she was unconscious in the compound of the Collector, but they were both of the same person… Eric. Contacting Jax, they asked him for a description of the Collector, which sounded uncomfortably like Eric.

Turning back to the city, 8bot led them to where Eric’s path disappeared into a wall. They found the trigger for the secret door and followed the passageway down behind it to a large, secret experimental cybernetics lab with a massive central vat filled with an organic / inorganic red goo mix and pipes leading away from it. Eric’s voice echoed out from some hidden location, announcing that he apologizes for having to speed things up, but he doesn’t know how much longer he can hold Him off, and he needs to test Ox’s upgrades.

With that, a massive door is lifted, and a cybernetically-enhanced Rape Bear lumbers out, roaring ferociously at the party…

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Hopalong Cassidy & the Giant Toad Monster of Yore

They didn’t get very far from the compound before a giant beast charged their vehicle. The monstrosity had a vaguely toad-like body with huge, clawed legs and arms, allowing it to leap and attack from great distances. Its slimy body was covered with bulging nodules filled with disgusting fluid that nauseated anyone close by when they burst. Its huge maw was lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth that led to a massive throat sack which already seemed to be squirming with another victim.

The party tried to swerve away from the creature by driving down a ravine, but Jax lost control and rolled the vehicle, trapping two of them under it and throwing the others to the ground. The monster snatched up a victim to consume, but Siri quickly threw her instant wings into the creatures mouth and activated them, forcing its jaws apart. Riding his new Cybornicorn, Ox charged into the fray, the two of them hacking and stabbing into the abomination.

Realizing he was wearing the behemoth down very slowly, Doc made his way around the beast and climbed up its back, slicing into its head to access the control chip he knew must be there. Meanwhile, Siri used her technology to protect the poor victim inside the monstrosity’s throat and Ox caused it to vomit the meal out.

Doc finally gained control of the creature and stopped its onslaught. He even used it to flip their vehicle back over so it could be repaired before releasing it back into the wild. Siri went to check on the toad’s victim, but backed away when she realized he was an employee of The Collector’s. He wanted a ride to the safety of town, but the party decided to try interrogating him first. Unsatisfied by his lack of answers, they chose to leave him in the wilderness with the rest of the monsters instead.

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Meeting Old Friends for the First Time

Doc, Siri and Penelope awoke in the forest with bleary vision and a horrible pain in their heads. As their vision cleared and the pain began to subside, they searched the forest around them, attempting to ascertain where they were and locate Ox.

Hearing the sounds of a large beast moving through the trees towards them, they decide to turn and head the opposite direction. Unfortunately, they find themselves heading towards an even larger monster, and are soon running for their lives with both creatures in pursuit.

Suddenly, Doc runs face-first into a large, invisible force field wall. With no time to investigate, they turn and attempt to escape in the only remaining direction available to them before the massive predators are upon them, but the peculiar monsters are closing in too fast.

Siri attempts to blast the larger, reptilian beast, but even as it reels back in pain, so does Siri, as the mind-splitting headache returns once more. At least her attack seemed to have been enough to cause the fearsome behemoths to back off.

Apparently safe for the time being, they examined the force field wall further, finding that it ran for quite some distance in either direction, as well as vertically. They also discovered numerous camera devices watching them in the trees.

The party resumed their search through their idyllic wilderness cage, stumbling across a humanoid with translucent skin and chameleon abilities. After a bit of a rough start, they finally reached friendly terms with the unique being and learned that they were all captives of someone called the Collector. Whoever he was, he had gathered all of these extremely rare creatures here, and something about the party had obviously caught his interest.

The chameleon also introduced them to a unicorn who had apparently been there for many centuries, having been brought back and rebuilt after each time it had died. In fact, it was now more machine than animal on the inside. The unicorn told them that the Collector resides at the center of his zoo, but there was no way to approach the compound undetected. That is, except perhaps the cypher that Doc possessed to avoid being tracked…

The unicorn also revealed another useful bit of information. It had seen two other humans nearby. Hoping the humans might be their friends, they set off to find them, but were very surprised by who they found.

The humans were the remaining people from the ancient City of the Sun whom the party members had gained memories from, Arimar and Sarithania. Siri filled them in on everything that had happened, and Arimar and Sarithania told them that they had been taken into the woods for safety by a small, floating sphere from Abbith.

They all decided to join forces and try to take down the Collector, locate Ox and make their escape. Using his cypher, Doc was able to approach the employee door of the compound undetected. Although he could not hack the keypad, he was able to overload it and gain entry. With a mix of luck and skilled deception, he made his way to the control room, where he proceeded to learn how to use the implants that had been put inside all of their heads, causing all of the employees to fall asleep, take down the force field and defenses, locate Ox in a laboratory in the bowels of the compound, and invite all the sentient monsters to come to the compound and exact their revenge on the Collector.

Although the presence of these creatures made their escape somewhat more dangerous, Jax surprisingly showed up to assist, and together they freed Ox and drove away to safety, or so they hoped…

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Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite

With so many unknowns, Doc and Ox decided to read further into the Book of the Steel Guard and Book of the Sun, as well as books on Abbith, including its inhabitants, plant life and structure. They learned many things, including a way to program nanites to put the vampires back into their deep sleep, a rite to summon forth the Black Knights, and information about the layers of Abbith (the lowest of which holding the most powerful Ancients), the spherical metallic people and a great city they inhabit nearby, and that more advanced organic lifeforms who used to life of the upper layer of Abbith.

Siri, Ox and Penelope worked on the nanites with the rest of the techs while Doc learned of a subterranean tunnel that passes into and through Abbith that the humans had originally used to escape the vampire city. Having failed to draw the vampires to them with a big human-smell fan, the party decided to use this passage to enter the city and unleash the nanites there.

The tunnel began under the Church of the Steel Guard and was guarded by an ancient trap using the armor of the Black Knights. The armor had reanimated and cut down several vampires that had attempted to sneak through. One vampire remained, but was crazed with fear. They discovered it was not just from the trap, however. Something else was pursuing them.

Using a mind control cypher, they commanded the vampire to lead them to the others. Passing into Abbith, they found the remains of the vampire scout party scattered about. They followed some screams and found the last vampire being telekinetically broken and torn apart by a small, floating, metallic sphere with the familiar ability to keep people from being able to see it.

The sphere was the being that had spoken to Siri (while unseen) in the past, and it happily remained behind to finish off the vampires as they continued on. The party passed back into their home plane and found themselves in the human ‘farm’ under the vampire palace. They made their way silently and unseen up into and through the city until they could see the vampires at the entrance to the Road of Origins. Ox cautiously approached the vampires, and after narrowly escaping being discovered, unleashed the nanites. The vampires slowly dropped where they stood, unconscious once more.

With the easiest way back to the City of the Sun blocked by slumbering vampires, the party returned the way they had come and ran into the mysterious, small, floating sphere once more. The sphere told them that they would not be able to return in time to tell their company to turn off the human fan before the force field that had been stopping it from working would deactivate. It even influenced an Abbithean beast to convince them. Afraid that the vampires would wake once more, Siri made a pact with the sphere in order to obtain its help.

The sphere was true to its word and instantly notified the company to deactivate the fan, allowing the vampires to slumber undisturbed. The party commenced their usual drinking celebration, along with the rest of the company. Because they were inebriated, however, they were unable to put up a fight when several men, commanded by a woman with some sort of display screen, incapacitated all the guards. The woman directed her team to capture Ox, Doc, Siri and Penelope, so they fired energy weapons at the party and everything went dark.

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When In Doubt, Kill Everybody!

As the vampire city woke and word spread of the humans that lived just hours away, the immortal predators began to flow down the Road of Origins. The great stone guardians slowed them for awhile, but eventually were disabled, seemingly leaving nothing to stop the oncoming tide of death. The party realized that there must have been more of a defense than the guardians or this would have happened long ago, so they examined the lights along the road and discovered they seemed to have a dual purpose.

Following the engraved power lines, they discovered a control panel in a building just beyond the entrance to the road. Placing Ox’s control stone into the panel, they switched the lights to their other mode, causing screams of pain and horror to echo down the road towards them and confirming their suspicions.

Realizing that maybe they shouldn’t just kill all the vampires in the road since that would undoubtedly start a war, Siri flickered the lights on and off a bit to try to make it seem like it wasn’t an intentional attack. However, Doc and the designated translator, Ox, each had their own ideas of what would be best when they set off down the road to speak to any remaining vampires about ceasing aggressions. In the end, diplomacy failed and Doc sounded an alarm to tell Siri to activate the lights, which were now powered independently so the vampires couldn’t cut the power, and the vampires were turned to sludge.

Siri set to work on a motion trigger to activate the light defenses while Doc left to get drunk and Ox consulted another ancient tome they’d discovered to be The Book of the Steel Guard. Beyond learning that the Steel Guard were humans infused with planar metal who could transform as he could and that Black Knights were members of the Steel Guard who had ‘corrupted their life forces’ to be able to walk amongst ‘creatures of darkness,’ Ox learned how to create Black Knights.

Ox went to get drunk with Doc and the two of them decided it would be a good idea to perform the ritual on Doc. Returning to the Church of the Black Knights, Ox followed the instructions and a portal opened above the altar. Darkness streamed through the portal and enveloped Doc, who found himself in Abbith facing a massive writhing blackness. Doc recited the Oath of the Black Knights and the black force welcomed him into the Order. The darkness receded from Docs body and the portal closed, leaving them with nothing more than to resume their drinking.

Later, Doc woke up somewhere dark, surprisingly without a hangover. He appeared to be in a simple stone room lit by a single glow globe. Jax was there, sitting by one of the walls, waiting patiently. In reaction to Doc waking, he stands and said, “What’s up Doc?”

He paused to let Doc shake sleep and confusion off further, then continued, “I’m here to present you with an opportunity. How would you like to finish what you started last night and become a member of the Steel Guard? I’ve figured out the process.”

After a moment, Doc recalled the ritual he completed last night to become a Black Knight. “What’s the catch? What’s in it for you, Jax?”

He shrugged, smiled and said, “Seeing if it works, of course.”

Doc laughed, exhausted. “So I’m to be the guinea pig, was that it? Oh, fine.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out Jax’s egg. “Here, you dropped this,” he said, and tossed the egg to Jax.

Jax gave Doc a wide grin at his acceptance then guided him out the door. They appeared to be in the tunnels under the City of the Sun. Jax commented, “These tunnels run all over under the city… and beyond. Just let me know if you ever need help finding someplace.”

They came to a spiral stone stairwell and headed up, arriving in some sort of ancient armory. Jax helped Doc into one of the suits of full plate armor that stood in display against the wall. It appeared to be made out of that strange metal from the other plane. Then he guided Doc, albeit rather haltingly, out another door and Doc realized they were in the church-like structure where he’d performed the ritual earlier that night.

Jax said, “When I saw you guys perform that ritual earlier, I realized that there were multiple places where they were opening portals in this city, and they seem to use this metal,” he gestured at the ‘altar’ “to somehow anchor and/or connect to the other plane at each location.” He continued, “I don’t think the placement was random, either. It’s like there’s weak points between the planes at each location. I noticed it when examining the destroyed city center. Either that or the explosion caused the weak point and there just happens to be another one right here over this altar.”

Then he grinned, “And here’s where it gets really cool. I listened to the verbal commands you two used to open the portal here and have figured out how to open it without speaking the oath, not to mention opening it somewhere where there wasn’t a crazy dark tentacle monster on the other side.” He fidgets with a device and a portal begins to open in front of you. “OK, go ahead and step through. Once you’re on the other side, transform into the inorganic version of yourself and the armor should ‘become one’ with you.”

Doc sighed, “It’s not as if I have anything better to do,” and stepped up to the portal. He looked back at Jax and said, “if this doesn’t work, I mean if I don’t … Ah fuck it,” and walked through the portal.

Doc found himself in Abbith once more, but this time there was no crazy dark thing there, just glowing grasslands. Once there, Doc concentrated and began the transformation. However, when he did so, the etched linear designs in the armor began to glow, then the entire thing started glowing, then it fused together into a seamless skin over him. Doc felt practically invincible in it. When he tried deactivating his inorganic form to go back through the portal, he found that the metal disappeared within himself and he became ‘normal’ once more. It seemed that it had worked.

After Doc returned to the city, Jax tossed the egg back to him. “I think perhaps you should keep this. Being on the front lines, so to speak, it might be more useful for you to have it readily available just in case you need it.” He also tossed Doc a pouch with 150 shins in it. “For being such a reliably valuable employee,” he grinned. “I can’t wait to hear what you discover in the vampire city once you’ve ‘cleared it out.’ Let me know if you need any Steel Guard mercs or anything now that we know the process.”

“Sure… will do,” Doc said, feeling like a whore more than ever.

Meanwhile, Siri was awoken by that mysterious high, droning, disembodied voice she’d heard in the past. “Siri… Siri..” As she shook off sleep a bit further, the voice continued, “Beware the ritual of the Black Knights. Be careful about what you give up… they might take more from you than you can imagine…”

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Tastes Like Crack Chicken

Happy that they were all still alive, Penelope took Ox to see an ornate archway in the wall of the cave where they could spend a romantic night together. Also happy but dealing with the ordeal in a different matter, Doc and Siri decided to get extremely drunk, although noticeably away from each other.

Waking the following morning, Ox took a closer look at the archway. It was inscribed with ancient writing that read “The Road of Origins” and a road did indeed lead straight up to it. A cave-in had been intentionally caused to seal it off, however. Curious, Ox decided to force Siri and Doc to wake up. Begrudgingly, they gathered a team of miners and mercs and returned to the arch with him.

They excavated their way through the rubble and followed the ancient roadway deep into the mountain. Along the way they encountered tunneling creatures that caused the death of half their team. But despite the losses, they decided to continue on.

About halfway along the dark road, they came across a large chamber with massive stone figures at both the entrance and corresponding exit on the other side. The giant statues on the side they entered from appeared to be humans with their hands covering their faces. The statues at the opposite end appeared to be beautiful humans with great wings at their backs.

When they tried to pass between the statues at the other side, the statues raised a hand and spoke to them in an ancient language. Ox realized that he could communicate with them using Abbithean and learned that they required a password of sorts to allow passage. Additionally, he learned that they believed him to be a Black Knight, who apparently was part of something called the Steel Guard. Ascertaining that this gave him some sort of position of authority, he convinced the statues into telling him the required phrase and they allowed the mining team to continue. Interestingly, the pass phrase had to do with leaving the sun behind and walking into darkness.

They eventually came upon another ancient city. Although similar in exterior design decorations to the last, the buildings of this city had great rounded dome roofs. Doc decided to explore the closest building but could not see anything on interest. Feeling twinges of misgivings however, he began to cautiously back away from it.

Meanwhile, Siri decided to consult her egg, although unfortunately somewhat loudly. The egg stated that there were many life forms nearby, and with the noise, that they were starting to come closer. The miners considered running, but it was too late. Several guards in ancient, tattered armor emerged from the building. They looked surprisingly young, perfect even… but had great bat-like wings.

They moved sluggishly, as if awaking from a great slumber, but seemed to wake when they caught a scent on the air. They sniffed with increasing fervor, and eventually locked wide eyes upon the single remaining miner the team had brought along with them. The winged men launched themselves through the air with amazing speed and ferocity and tore into the miner, consuming him. Oddly enough, they ignored the others and even seemed repulsed by Ox’s scent.

Afterwards, they actually seemed embarrassed; apologetic even, as they sheepishly addressed the team. Also able to understand Abbithean, the guards conversed with the team, who learned this city was the original home of the people who had lived in the other ancient city. Because of the bloodlust the winged people had for the humans, there was some sort of conflict so the humans left to try to reach the land under the sun.

Still a bit unnerved by the guards even though nobody was eating anybody at the moment, especially considering the guards seemed so interested that there were more humans living out beyond the other city, the team returned to tell the others of what they had learned. The rest of the vampire city was being awoken, however, so the team decided the first thing they should do is examine the ancient records they had found to see what more could be learned.

Within “The Book of the Sun” the team discovered some relevant tidbits of information. The humans had indeed evolved from the vampires. It seems that as the vampire city had grown, it increasingly had difficulty feeding its populace. The vampires pursued several areas of research to fight the famine. They made a portal to another plane through which they gained much power and knowledge, but unfortunately they did not find anything to feed their hunger. They learned to the secrets of eternal life, and even how to raise the dead, but that also did not quench their hunger. In fact, it only increased their population. But they also developed a genetic virus to allow them to venture out into the sun, and inadvertently, they found a food source.

After a long list of test subjects disappeared from the lab which was developing the virus, the rulers of the city discovered the delicious beings that were being created by the sun serum and eventually decided to spread it through the population in order to quench their hunger. A bloodbath ensued with most of the turned humans being eaten. A small number were saved to be farmed in a secure facility, but eventually they escaped and formed their own community far away from the vampires.

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The Devourer Swallows

Deciding to put their new found memories to the test, each party member focused and was able to remember various moments from their supposed past lives. Exploring the city further, they’re able to use those memories to locate their past homes. Within Ox’s home are numerous artifacts relating to The Devourer. As part of his past life being the head of science and technology in the city, apparently he had acquired quite the interest in the legend.

Ox also found a secret passageway that led to a chamber directly under the city’s central planar portal. It also seemed tied to The Devourer legend, so Ox decided to inform Penelope about it to get her more scholastic input. Both found themselves unsure of how to proceed, however, as the legends about The Devourer seemed to suggest that the good or evil nature of the summoner dictated the nature of The Devourer’s actions. So perhaps it would be a good idea to summon Him? In the end, they decided to leave the decision to the wisdom of Sarik, whose scientific curiosity won out, causing him to instruct Ox to summon The Devourer.

The approach of the massive, ancient being caused considerable panic to those above by the portal’s edge, and unfortunately the unsuspecting Zon on the other side of the portal was destroyed by the creatures approach. Though terrifying in appearance, The Devourer did not attack, however. In fact, Ox’s every request was answered, including the resurrection of the team members who had died in the city. In fact, Ox restored everyone who had died in the city… including the past city inhabitants. And that’s when Ox met the real past version of himself, who was named Khorik.

It turns out, this was all his plan. The memories the party members were experiencing were actually being caused by nanites that Khorik had programmed to lead them into summoning The Devourer. And now that his plan had come to fruition, he didn’t have much use for Ox and the others.

Ox tells The Devourer to consume Khorik, but Khorik tells The Devourer to consume Ox. Not being overly picky, The Devourer decides to consume both of them. However, Ox has tricked Khorik and uses a device to create a duplicate of himself, which The Devourer consumes instead. Khorik is not so lucky, and despite attempting to fly away, The Devourer easily engulfs him.

But thinking Ox dead, The Devourer is left to its own devices. Witnessing the being has increasingly left most of the onlookers in a stupor of adoration to its grandeur, so it mentally commands the mindless people of the city to willingly march into its gaping maw.

The party knew they had to act quickly. Remembering that creatures from the other plane required the portal to be open in order to sustain life, they come up with a plan to take the stones from the control panel and close The Devourer’s connection to the other plane’s power. Using the secret passageway from his dream, Doc and Siri are able to get close to the portal unseen. Meanwhile, Ox prepares to lead The Devourer down into the tunnels, allowing the others to sneak out and get the stones.

The plan goes off as intended, with Ox enraging The Devourer into chasing him, and the others sneaking out in its absence. However, Jax had been mesmerized by The Devourer and attempts to stop them. Siri sacrifices herself to keep him busy while Doc makes a break for the stones. Siri is hurt, but is not killed, and Doc makes it to the control panel. He grabs the stones and the portal begins to close, inciting a terrible roar from the beast.

But The Devourer has reached the secret chamber under the portal. Having devoured everything in His path, Ox steers Him into devouring the powerful summoning stone at the center of the chamber. A powerful explosion erupts up through the ground, sending Siri, Doc and Jax flying and destroying the control panel and dais. With a final scream of rage that rends at the very sanity of all those who can hear it The Devourer is ripped from this plane and banished back to his own.

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Stoners

Continuing to explore the research facility, the team discovered some trapped ‘animals’ from Abbith (the plane? on the other side of the portal). Revived by the opening of the portal, which seems to be source of their life force, the team was astonished to find them all living. Some were harmless, but the stumbled upon a larger creature that had escaped its cage and battled it. One of their guards was killed in the fight before the drove the creature back, where it consumed the body of the guard. Siri suspected there might be another creature loose, but could not locate it.

They discovered that the creatures had wandered through the portal and into the waiting clutches of the city’s inhabitants, who experimented on them. The team decided to let them go and had Zon shepherd them through the portal. Siri and Ox stood guard over the portal on the other side (in Abbith) while Zon gathered the animals through. Protected by the inorganic forms, they seemed safe in Abbith, and while they were there, they also found that their inorganic forms were energized by the energy there and were not so exhausting. Later, Penelope also snuck through the portal and did some exploring of Abbith of her own.

That night, Siri, Doc and Ox had more vivid dreams. In his dream, Ox, having observed Siri and Doc meeting in secret again for another romantic tryst, angrily heads to a building near the center of the city. Once there, he uses a familiar looking device with blinking lights, pressing them in a specific order and opening a hidden door. He passes through and heads down a winding stairwell into the ground… then wakes up. Siri dreams about how her fantasy tryst with Doc is apparently forbidden as they are “keepers of the stones.”

Doc also dreams of a secret passage:

Still fleeing the creatures, Ox will suddenly emerge from a side alley and pull the two of them to the side, blasting the beasts with some sort of force device that blows them apart. Frantically, he spins on them asking, “Where are the stones?”

Siri responds, “We don’t have them, they’re still in the control panel!”

Ox swears vehemently. “You left them behind?!? With the portal open, more of those things can just keep coming through! The city will be lost!!!”

Siri and Doc look down, ashamed by the feeling that they should have risked themselves to try to close the portal, as only they could do. Ox pauses, then simply says, “Follow me.” Turning on his heel, he leads them inside a nearby building, using a familiar looking device with blinking lights to open a secret door.

“What is this?” Doc asks Ox.

“Access tunnel,” Ox tersely responds. “Quickly, we don’t have time for this. Follow the passageway. When it branches, turn left. You will come up in a building next to the central dais. That’s as close as I can get you. You’ll have to make a break for it and get to the control panel from there. Retrieve the stones and close the portal, then meet me back in the tunnels. I have a plan.”

Siri and Doc look at each other, confusion and mistrust contorting their faces, but then an uncomfortably close scream shatters their moment of hesitation, and they race down into the tunnel.

Siri confronts Ox and Doc about why they’re acting so oddly and asks if they’re having strange dreams, as well. She asks everyone to be more open, yet she and the others don’t share any real details about their dreams. Penelope, however, reveals to Ox that she has also had a romantic dream involving Siri.

Frustrated by her inability to get answers from the eggs about what is affecting them, Siri experimented with a device she found in the city and discovered it translates the language that the eggs speak. Finally able to interrogate her stone, it indicates that it found her and recognized her and her dreams are memories, leading her to think that they may be reincarnated from the people that they’re having dreams about.

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Tiny Terror

The first night spent in the vicinity of the cave holding the ancient city, Penelope came to Ox and said, “My father wanted to give you a couple of things he thought might come in useful for you as a thank you for what you did.” She gives him a small metal box as well as a synth cylinder with the fine, glowing lines etched across, explaining to him what each could do and how to operate them.

“And I wanted to give you something that’s specifically from me. It was actually the first real find of any value that I discovered since I convinced my father to let me come work with him. It’s a Skin of Fire Sloughing. I know, it’s a terrible name for such a beautiful, diaphanous fabric, but when stretched over your skin, it is almost invisible and adheres and conforms to your body, protecting you against fire.”

Ox responds, “Penelope, I’m flattered by all these gifts. It would only be fair that I give you one in exchange. Not because I owe you, but because you are a wonderful person. Even Banshee likes being around you, and that’s saying something. The work we do for your father is hard, and sometimes dangerous. I keep feeling like my life could end at any moment, this sense of doom that follows me everywhere. But whenever I look at you it disappears, like a magic whirlwind of fresh air takes away all the dust and grime from the days’ shift. I’ve got not much to give you, but I will find it. With your fabric, I can now go to the balzing infernos of hell and back if that what it takes to find an artifact worth of your beauty!”

She blushes and looks away, then says, “You’ve already given me so much… I don’t know what to say.” Then she impulsively kisses him (not on the cheek this time, but still relatively quickly), smiles and takes his hand. “I want to show you something.” She leads him to the camp ‘kitchen’, grabs some food, then takes him away from the camp altogether. She heads higher up the mountain to a ledge overlooking the capital city, rolling foothills and forest as dusk begins to settle and color casts out over the land.

As the two of them settle down to eat, she says, “I found this spot last night… just wait, it gets even better.” They ate and talked as the sun set, then watched as little lights blinked into existence across the darkened city like fireflies in the night.

Meanwhile, Siri has been having some rather intense dreams lately. First she had a romantic dream with Jax that felt extremely real, both physically and emotionally. It happened the that night she and Doc met Zon. Now she’s had another intensely real dream, this time with Doc. When she wakes, what feels like actual feelings of love linger for awhile afterwards. This dream occurred after spending the last couple of days getting the camp and her equipment set up, the night before the team began to explore the ancient underground city further.

That same night, Doc has a really vivid dream, as well. In it, he’s standing with Siri. The two of them are hiding around the corner of a building in the city, clutching eachother’s hands. Screams fill the city around them. She looks at him, her eyes wide with terror and her voice breaking with panic, “Someone has deactivated the portal’s safeguards! They’re coming through!”

Just then, they saw someone run past in the street and get brought down by a couple of those creatures (the Tarik’th’aa that they forced back through the portal with the help of Zon). Doc and Siri break off in a dead run, dodging around the convulsing bodies littering the streets who were all slowly being consumed. The two rarely dared to look back, but when they heard the clattering of the approaching beasts get too close, they both spin around together, launching electricity from their fingers and destroying the nearby monsters.

The emotions he felt during the dream are intense, real. Even stronger than the fear, though, he felt the overwhelming need to save the woman he loves. But there are too many of the creatures, and even as he neared the great doors that would provide escape from the city, the clattering sounds of the Tarik’th’aa can be heard closing in all around him…

And that’s when Doc. wakes up with a start, drenched in sweat. The emotions stick with him, almost palpable, for some time afterwards and are only beginning to fade when he heads out for work that day.

After having worked in the cavern for a few days now, Ox also has a really vivid dream: In it, he’s walking down the street away from the central plaza. The ancient city is alive and vibrant around him, and its streets are filled with its inhabitants. Up ahead, he notices Jax and Siri walking… or wait, perhaps that’s Doc and Siri. Curious and somewhat suspicious, he decided to follow them as they disappear down an alley.

Peering around the corner, he saw Siri leaning up against a wall and Doc pressing in close to her, kissing her passionately. He bristles with anger as she laughs with pleasure. The keepers of the stones are forbidden to have this kind of relationship! Betrayers! Two of the three cannot be allowed this kind of alliance. They would hold far too much power. Something must be done.

And with that he awoke, still livid with anger, which only finally began to fade as he headed in to work.

Fresh from their dreams, the team united in a less organized, more uncomfortable fashion than usual. But they decided to keep things professional and moved past the disorientation caused by their nocturnal adventures, not speaking to each other about the dreams.

They chose to explore a research facility that had been discovered and thankfully Ox’s stone gave them access to the rooms within it. They found a variety of equipment apparently designed for experimenting on a wide variety of technology, both large and small. They also found some bizarre glowing metal tablets with inscriptions in them. Ox found that he could surprisingly read the inscriptions, which spoke of something called the Devourer, who brought great power in service of those who serve it. There also seemed to be what almost sounded like an incantation to summon the Devourer on one of the tablets, which Siri stopped Ox from finishing out loud.

In other drawers, they found a variety of cylinders and slides, as well as some syringes. Although Doc accidentally broke a slide with some tiny robots on it, he luckily (or so he thought) discovered the syringes held the same tine robots… which he also proceeded to drop, breaking the syringes across the floor.

Although they didn’t realize it at first, this released the nanites, which spread throughout the team so they could perform their intended function, to allow the team to change their bodies from organic to inorganic material. Not all of the team was compatible, however, and one of the gophers was killed before Doc managed to communicate with the nanites to stop and eventually reverse the conversion process for those who couldn’t survive it. In order for Penelope to survive, he even transferred some of the technology within himself (apparently the same as was in Siri) to her, and she suddenly discovered that she could now communicate with machines, as well.

Ox oddly discovered that he had already had the process done to him, but that he could transform into metal like Zon was made of instead of the simpler inorganic material that Doc, Siri and Penelope could now metamorph into.

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Balls O Steel

Returning to town in order to heal from their battle with the other-dimensional creatures, they realized one of the vermin was running loose in the streets, killing people. Convinced that they still held the key to profits, Doc decided that they should capture it instead of kill it. Once it was safely trapped within some cookware, they returned it to Sarik for study.

Sarik devised a device to repel the creatures and allow the team to return to the underground city safely, whether to learn more or simply deactivate the portal and regain their stones. When they entered the cavern, however, they could not see the creatures anywhere. Instead, they saw a gigantic metal ball. For once, Siri chose not to attack first and so they thankfully learned it was a friendly giant ball named Zon. In fact, this ball could shift his metallic structure into other forms, including one mimicking the humanoid shape of the team. It seems another being had come through the portal, and once they learned how to communicate with him, he was of great assistance understanding the portal and sending the creatures, called Tarik’th’aa, back through it.

Since he also consumed organic material, the team encouraged him to go eat a crazy numenera mutant elk while they explored the center of the city further. After he’d had his fill, he also returned through the portal and the team shut it down, promising to be in touch. In the absence of Jax, Doc held on to his stone from the control panel.

In the days that followed, a camp was setup outside the cave and the Deep Delvers’ team began to study the ancient city’s secrets. They’ve learned the metal that comprises the ‘bodies’ of the creatures from the other plane is unique and allows an infusion of planar energy, the combination of which somehow allows sentience. As yet, however, they have not found a way to keep the energy active for long on this plane once the portal has been closed. And although anyone can use the control panel once the stones are in place, only Doc and Siri can communicate with and command them specifically.

The denizens of the city had learned the secrets of channeling the energy to their own purposes, however, and the understanding of those techniques and/or what they created from it entices the team on…

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