Our second Album Adventure is based on The Smell of Rain by Mortiis, a gothic synth/baroque-pop band from Norway. The Smell of Rain was released in 2001 by Earache Records.
After the door was opened and the monolith revealed, life seemed to go back to normal. What the group did with the secrets they learned from the maw, if any, is up to them, but that seems to be the end of their adventure until one night, the dreams start.
Everyone exposed to the monolith dreams the same dream. They are floating naked in the starry night and the monolith turns slowly, like a shadow against the backdrop of stars all around them. As much as they try, moving through space seems impossible and the players just flounder as the monolith turns silently in front of them. They can feel a pulse, and steady heartbeat coming from within and it gets louder, louder until it feels like their own hearts are beating in their heads but it isn't their hearts. The sound in the empty place comes from the monolith, like the beating of a heart and as their own hearts beat in unison, unbidden words come to their lips, along with a terrible knowing of their truthfulness.
I am the Monolith
A bright light shines from the monolith, as if curtains were parted in a dark room to let in the sun as the beating pulse reaches a crescendo and then the dreamers wake up, drenched in a cold sweat, their hands shaking. They feel words on their lips and as they wake, they whisper them out, almost without knowing they are doing it, hushed as if the very words themselves are sacred.
Half my kingdom to, him that helps me through.
The dreams keep happening with more and more frequency. They start off slowly, one every two weeks for 3 months, then once a week for 3 months, then once every 3 days for 3 months, then every night without fail, regardless of whether or not the dreamers eat or drink dream suppressant foods or use dream-related cyphers. After 3 months of dreaming the dream every night, the group find themselves sleep walking, though at first the evidence isn't obvious - they find they have cyphers (always intellect-boosting related) they didn't have before, but soon enough they start waking up in different places than they went to sleep.
As it turns out, they are building something in their sleep, something they learn for certain when they eventually wake up a few miles outside of Jaston in the Sea Kingdom of Ghan, a semi-dismantled cypher in their hands and the scaffold of some vast object stood before them, built out of cyphers and oddities.
Getting the Players Involved
Even if the players haven't been party to any of the previous adventures, the dream can still come. The Monolith works in mysterious ways and the players find themselves victims of it's terrible power for some inexplicable, unknowable reason.
Alternatively, the players aren't affected at all by the dreams but others are, perhaps friends, colleagues or others close to them succumb to the monoliths terrible power and the players investigate.
Monolith, You Put a Hex on Me
Jaston is home to around 8000 people, non of which have much trust for the numenera. They are a practical, non-nonsense folk and the activity outside their agricultural community is making them nervous. Distrustful of nanos, they are more likely to take matters into their own hands than seek the help of experts in the numenera if they feel the need to act.
With the structure taking shape, it's clear it is an enormous undertaking, one that will likely take years to complete and hundreds of thousands of man hours. Sketches and diagrams made by the dreamers during their trance-like building of the structure and the skeleton of it coming together reveal it to be a complex, densely built cuboid almost 100ft tall, by 40ft long, by 10ft deep. Even the simple farmers know that that much numenera in one place means disaster and they are getting nervous.
When a villager on the outskirts of town nearest to the structure begins having terrible dreams about a floating monolith not dissimilar to what the structure is becoming, the town has had enough.
However, the nearby varjellan settlement of Deverlaush has other ideas. They find the phenomenon of the construction and the gathering of ancient devices fascinating. Seemingly unaffected by the dreams, some varjellan have even chosen to help the builders, employing their expert toolcraft to help in the construction. With a sense of general unease between the varjellans and the humans of Jaston, these acts firmly drive a wedge between them and numerous raids by the humans of Jaston have been made against the varjellan home and against the growing structure.
The varjellans are not quick to anger, but attacks against their own village will no be tolerated and so revenge attacks have been carried out, but only ever to maim, well, most of the time. The varjellans have taken it upon themselves to protect the structure, and some have died defending it when the villagers from Jaston tried to set it on fire. The varjellans want to see what will become of the strange structure and what it will do - they have never seen such mastery of the numenera to see so much brought and crafted together without disaster that they hope to learn something. The structure seems harmless to them and none of them have had any bad dreams. Some of the varjellans have even allowed the sleepers to stay in their village under their protection when they are awake, so they wont fall victim to the scared folks of Jaston looking to drive them away or put a permanent end to their building.
Equally, some of the builders have joined Jaston and are desperate to find a cure. They fear that demons have taken root in them and while the people of Jaston mostly shun them, keeping them isolated, they willing make use of them to help sabotage the construction during the waking hours and some of the villagers have been brewing strong drinks to keep the builders awake. Whilst those that stay awake do not build, they have been becoming weak and shaking, occasionally having seizures and some have died trying to avoid their night time compulsions.
Jaston Villagers 2 (6)
While some might resort to fists, most villagers can rustle up a pitchfork, torch or other farm implement as a makeshift weapon and some might even have swords or spears.
- Between 2 and 6, depending on weapon
- While not trained in the arts of war, the villagers fiercely defend their village from what they perceive as a terrible attack by unnatural forces. If injured, they flee and they prefer to attack the builders at night when they are defenceless. The varjellans on the other hand make for more dangerous opponents and they will use their superior numbers go at least 3 to 1 (acting as a group, raising their effective level as a single unit to 3)
- Angry, afraid and deeply suspicious of the numenera, the villagers are not easily swayed from their path. However, they can be negotiated with and anything that can be offered to them to rid them of this accursed situation will be eagerly sought after.
The Varjellans of Deverlaush 3 (9)
- The varjellans are not battle hardened, but they do practice with weapons and hunt for their food. They use their superior sight and relatively small numbers to their advantage, trying to fight mostly at a distance if possible, picking off opponents one by one.
- The varjellans have no particular loyalties to the builders, but they have chosen to align themselves with them none-the-less. A case could be made to convince them to turn against them, after all, it is a lot of trouble they are going through for a matter of curiosity, and the varjellans, whilst mostly not holding grudges, do not easily forget the acts the villagers of Jaston have taken against them directly.
Things come to a head when some people in Jaston are discovered brutally mutilated. Bodies are found with large metal pins driven through their heads or with their skin flayed or cut off. Some people are even still alive, missing parts or horrible disfigured and scarred, with bones or skin removed, blood splattered around their homes from attacks with needles, bails and broken glass. The villagers of Jaston naturally blame both the builders of the structure and the varjellans that are working with them for these terrible acts. As well as the mutilations, both children and adults have gone missing, seemingly at random. No doubt, the Jaston residents murmur, that this was the acts of the builders too, wanting to turn their neighbours and children into more slaves to their dark work.
The varjellans of course deny any such things, stating simply that if they wanted to harm the people of Jaston, they would just kill them simply and efficiently with not of the unnecessary pain or torture these killing demonstrate.
Some basic investigation soon reveals that the events began around the same time as a witch doctor arrived in town.
The witchdoctor, whilst odd by the standards of the folks of Jaston, has been welcomed by both the Jaston residents and the builders that seek to cure themselves of the dreams and compulsions that drive their actions at night. The witchdoctor, through unknown methods, does seem to be able to cure people, but it takes a lot out of her and she needs rest between sessions.
Nobody seems to know exactly what the witchdoctor does to cure people, but it involves a lot of chanting and the rattling of a bag of bones around a fire. The practical folk of Jaston tend to think of such things as nonsense for simpletons, but they can't deny the results and have come to believe in the witchdoctors power.
Such behaviour does little to turn away the constant attention of the builders seeking a cure however. Most view her as a necessary evil, a cantankerous woman who is probably so ugly or disfigured she can't bare to show her face - no wonder her attitude is so poor. Little do people know though that the witchdoctor is no woman at all, but a slidikin (Ninth World Bestiary, pg. 118), come to take advantage of the situation between Jaston, Deverlaush and the builders for it's own ends.
If exposed or confronted, the witchdoctor flees, using it's speed and stealth to avoid capture. Of course, if captured, it says nothing and likely the people in Jaston kill it with a lynchmob before any information can be extracted. The bag of bones used in it's curing rituals can be found to have the bones of several of the victims of the terrible acts in Jaston.
After about two weeks of construction, including the set-backs due to attacks, the structure is simple gone one day, even in it's unfinished state. The dreams the builder had cease and everything seems to have returned to normal. The Jaston residents are quick to take the opportunity to drive out and ex-builders from their walled village and tell them never to return.
An examination of the build site yields no sign of the structure, but it is constantly cold there, even in the height of summer. Fire in the area where the structure was doesn't burn, eventually spluttering out as if starved of oxygen and water left to open air boils into frozen shards. Creatures and people seem unaffected, but have an unexplainable sense of unease in the area. Cyphers, artifacts and oddities left in the area over night inexplicably disappear, popping out of existence over the course of the night. In some ways, the people of Jaston see this as a blessing and begin using the spot as a dumping ground of sorts for the unnatural items they occasionally find whilst working the fields, knowing that they will be gone forever.
What is Going On in Jaston?
That doesn't mean that you can't make up your own explanations. One explanation might be that the structure and the dreams were the monolith encoding its own construction instructions into people and once enough of it had been built, the structure could begin building itself and released it's thralls, phasing out of material reality to protect itself.
Whilst not so much an adventure in and of itself, this track of the album adventure serves as a backdrop and potential home-base (due to the building compulsion) for running other adventures of your own. It is a phenomenon that might last for years and no doubt people will travel far and wide to investigate the strange tales of Jaston and the dreaming builders. One thing is for certain, Jaston will never be the same and their fragile relationship with Deverlaush may never fully heal.
Free of the compulsions, the players might want to do a number of things. They may wish to speak with the stone heads again or revisit the island where they first saw the monolith. Strangely the island is now gone, the small spit of sand, rocks and jungle completely disappeared. Investigation of the area underwater reveals it hasn't just sunk, but more like a large structure pulled itself free of the sea floor and floated away. Perhaps there is another floating head out there now, somewhere...