Our third Album Adventure is based on Origin of Symmetry by Muse, an alternative rock band from England. Origin of Symmetry was released in 2001 by Taste Records.
One of life's greatest mysteries is what comes after? Where do we go when we die? An experimenter called Andriggeo believes she may know the answer. Working with some devices she unearthed in a nearby ruin, she has gotten fragments of conversations from people claiming to have died, people that now find themselves in an afterlife, looking down upon the world from a great height. At least, that's what she thinks - things are still garbled, voices stumbled, the signal cutting out all the time. But there is a signal and there are voices on the other end, voices that claim to be people that Andriggeo knows for a fact have died. Somehow, she has tapped into something beyond the veil of death and now she needs help to make it fully operational.
The ruins are full of strange, ancient devices, broken or just torn apart by whatever explorers came before. Likely there is a lot more to salvage here, but Andriggeo doesn't want anyone to touch anything. She doesn't know what virtually any of it does, but she has managed to get many of the machines inside to awaken and doesn't know which of them is responsible for the signal, perhaps they all are and any of them being broken apart for scrap may ruin this phenomenal discovery. What she wants is to repair everything, at least, as best they can. She has a short list of parts she needs mostly provided by the dead on the other end of the line - the afterlife is forever and as well as more recently deceased, also has others than claim to be from the ancient times, who build this place. It has been very difficult making a list, translating concepts back and forth, but Andriggeo thinks she has got it right and she has collected most of the things already.
She just needs one last item to finish repairing the ruins ancient machinery, a device that her translations can only describe as Hypermusic.
Getting the Players Involved
The players may get approached to perform a task by Andriggeo, as she could certainly do with some seasoned scavengers and numenera hunters to find this so-called Hypermusic for her and sending someone else will allow her to keep researching and improving the machines she has restored so far. The players might also stumble upon a ruin of their own accord and find Andriggeo restoring it.
In an aldeia built in the protective shadow of the cliffs inside which the ruins are found, people who have died recently have also been picked up on the signal. Word of this has gotten back to the aldeia and some of the residents are concerned - is the experimenter some kind of witch? Are their loved ones souls being trapped inside some kind of machine inside of being released into the afterlife? Or maybe it's real, maybe they could talk to their loved ones, even after death.
The possibilities are causing a lot of gossip and more than a little interest in paying a visit to the ruins in the old mines of the cliff (normally forbidden due to their dangerous nature). Only Andriggeo's reassurances and willingness to share her discovery, passing messages back and forth between the dead and the living when she visit for supplies have kept things from going sour.
The players might be interested and want to investigate or they might even come in to protect Andriggeo from a possible attack, perhaps at the behest of a potential benefactor that sent the players there to investigate her claims or learn more about the ruins she has harnessed to communicate with the dead.
Andriggeo has managed to put together a map to a place where the Hypermusic can be discovered. From what she can tell from translating the ancients language, it's a small device that can be used to boost the power of the signal, allowing it to come in clearer with less interference. The map leads out of the aldeia to just outside of Bodrov, one of the smaller, non-famous plateaus in the area. The voices also explained a lot has changed since their time, but they are pretty sure from what they can observe and extrapolate from above that this would be an Instrument, where Hypermusic can be found.
When the group arrives at the plateau, they discover no obvious entrances around the base of the rock. However, there is a lot of rubble, cracks and crevices and a thorough exploration yields a thin crack that seems to lead into some kind of cave inside. The crevice is very thin and constricting and only one person at a time can make it through.
Once inside, the place is as silent as a tomb. Even with the dim light from the crevice, it is almost pitch black inside, but despite that, the players can notice that it seems like they have stumbled into a nest of Laaks (Numenera Corebook, pg. 243). They are all sleeping, but the cover the ground. In the dark it is hard to tell, but there could be as many as twenty of the small green lizards, if not more, dozing quietly in the safety of the cave.
Without any kind of light source or ability to see in the dark, navigating the cave in the very dim light without treading on a Laak is a difficulty 6 speed task. If illuminated, or with the ability to see in darkness, the difficulty is reduced to 4. Making loud noises might wake the Laaks, and stepping on one certainly will. If awoken, they attack immediately, swarming the players and using their poisonous bites.
Further into the cave, past the entrance the Laaks inhabit, is a small tunnel. The tunnel is low and must be crawled through by someone of normal height, and passing through it, several primitive looking cave paintings can be observed, clearly very old, but well preserved here from the outside world. The paintings depict two people stood beside a large block, but one of peoples arms stretches out, the image drawn all along the tunnel wall until the end of the arm can be seen flailing at several smaller people, splashed in red stains.
At the end of the tunnel, a small chamber opens up. The far wall of the chamber has crumbled away to reveal another wall behind it, this one of silver synth and metal that lets of a faint blueish glow. In the wall is set a door, but between the players and it stands two figures in armour of a style no-one recognises. The figures watch them intently, but as long as the players do not approach, they do nothing.
If the players make any movement towards them, they bark out unintelligible words in some unknown language, clearly a warning or order to stop. If the players ignore them, the two figures attack, defending the door until death.
The doorway has a series of symbols etched around the edge. They look old, but new enough that they were not part of the original structure and were carved in later. The symbols are not in Truth, but those that have any knowledge of history (or beat a level 1 intellect task) can determine that they are from one of the many human languages that preceded Truth, dating the words at the very least hundreds of years old. Translating them reveals the phrase:
Here lies Prince Xofion Yefoa, slain in battle by a cowards blade.
No-one has any idea of who Prince Xofion Yefoa is, nor has anyone ever heard of the Yefoa family. Whoever these royals were, they must have been wiped out hundreds of years ago before their names could make it into the history books.
The door, when touched by a sentient, organic creature, opens silently. The air has a dead, sterile smell to it and the inside is illuminated with the same faint blue light that emanates from the door and outside of the structure itself. Inside the structure it is a cylindrical room roughly 20m in diameter. A thin staircase spirals up the wall to another floor and another spirals downwards. In the centre of the room is a thick glass tube in which a bluish-green liquid bubbles. The tube seems to go through the floor and ceiling, potentially running the full length of the structure, whatever that may be.
All around the room are small tables covered with various urns and small, ornate boxes. On the walls are hung rugs and tapestries and a few, faded paintings, the paint long since flaked and faded. Inside the boxes are various trinkets, medals and jewellery.
Down the stairs is flooded with the same slightly fizzy fluid the group observe in the tube. Through the goo, several tables with items can be observed, submerged, and a shattered section of the tube can be seen, large enough to fit a person through. The tube continues down but there are no further stairs in the room going downwards.
Examining the fluid reveals it is harmless, but does have strange physiological effects. Anyone who is immersed entirely in the fluid finds themselves with an addition two Intellect edge for the duration of their immersion, but equally, their other edges are both reduced by two - even if that will put them at negative edges (if edges are negative, all spends from that pool cost more by the amount of negative edge). The fluid also vastly enhances electrical conductivity and makes the effects of any electrical discharges on anything covered in the fluid twice as powerful.
Exploring upstairs reveals several more rooms and stairs, going up almost thirty floors before they are stopped by rubble where a wall has buckled as if from some hard impact from outside, splitting it open and spilling rock inside. Like the first room and everyone after it, this room is also filled with various items, decorations and furniture. Up to this point, the players through careful searching and exploration may have found up to 1d10 books in the same language as the message on the doorway and 1d6 cyphers. Through the rubble, a faint ray of sunlight can be seen. It shoul dbe noticed that many of the rooms seem disturbed, as if something has smashed through the ornate furniture searching for something. Perhaps explorers have braved this place before?
Exploring the uppermost room with the rubble disturbs a hive of chance moths (Ninth World Bestiary, pg. 30) that have made their way into the structure through the ruptured wall to feed on the numenera energies within. Over time a full hive has formed, meaning there are 20 or more chance moths in the enclosed space.
So far, exploring the rooms may have yielded cyphers, but nothing that seems like it might be the Hypermusic. The only options are to enter the tube through the shattered hole and either explore further downwards or swim upwards past the blocked stairs at the thirtieth floor to the one above.
If the players swim downwards, they find a dead end. The bottom of the tube looks out onto a series of coils pulsing with energy and a number of complicated machines, too tightly packed together in the small room underneath the one they entered to tube in to fit any person. At the bottom of the tube itself is a large spike, and swimming or sinking onto it causes 3 points of electrical damage (which when amplified by the fluid, becomes 6 points and conducts through the fluid to effect everybody who is immersed). Wrapped around the spike at the bottom are 2 skeletons, the bones ancient and charred by electrical burns.
Swimming upwards is easy, the fluid is semi-buoyant and causes the players the rise naturally, so the players can swim quickly into the final room above the one blocked by rubble. From inside the tube the players can see a stone sarcophagus topped in a carving in the likeness of a human at rest. The sarcophagus is flanked by two metal hound sculptures, one looking like it is sleeping, the other stood as if on guard. The walls of the room are lined with tapestries, weapons and shields. Opposite the sarcophagus is a plinth upon with a strangely carved box is placed alongside a bowl that may once have held water but has long since dried up. Wires from the box droop into the bowl and it clearly looks like some kind of numenera artifact - perhaps the Hypermusic they were sent to obtain?
The only way into the room is to smash the tube from inside. The material of the tube is level 4 and can be broken with a level 4 might task. Breaking the tube spills the fluid into the room, covering the floor in a few inches of the fluid. As the players enter the room, the sculpture of the dog on guard moves to attack - it's a Warder (Ninth World Bestiary, pg. 133)!
The carved cube can be picked up and pocketed easily, but if the players pour a fluid into the bowl while it's wires are in it, it comes to life, green energy pulsing along it's strange, right-angled patterns and it lets out a curious music of rapid high-pitched sounds. It sounds oddly beautiful and energetic and as the fluid is used up, the lights and sounds fade out.
If the players search the sarcophagus, they find the dusty bones of a human being, clutching a long verred. The corpses hands need to be broken to loosen it's grip on the verred, but nothing happens if they players do so. The verred is ancient, but made of a strange green material similar to the lights let off by the cube. Like the cube, if a fluid is poured on the blade, it shines and lets of a curious musical sound until it has drawn all the water into itself.
The cube and the verred are drawn to each other like magnets if brought within 1 meter of each other and if they touch, they can not be pulled apart unless immersed in a fluid. If a player is caught between the two items, they are crushed, causing 6 points of might damage and they can not remove the items from themselves without being immersed in a fluid (which neutralises the item's attraction).
The Verred of Yefoa (The Hypermusic) 5 (15)
- Attracted to the cube with enough force to crush a person if within one meter of it. Attraction neutralised when immersed in a fluid. When wet, the verred and the cube both increase the processing power of any nearby machine by 2 steps each, granting a total of 4 assets when used together for information processing tasks performed with a machine. Dowsing the either the cube or the verred requires a depletion roll. When both are depleted the attraction and assets no longer happen but the blade still works as a heavy weapon.
The body in the sarcophagus seems to have some kind of machine embedded into it's skull. Removing it without breaking the device is a level 6 speed task. The device is a cypher which permanently bonds to the users skull, granting them a permanent increase of 1 point to their intellect edge.
The other weapons, shields and armour in the room are ancient and look likely to fall apart from age at a moments notice. The only way out of the room is back the way they came.
Plug In Baby
When the players return to Andriggeo, they find she has gathered a number of components and rigged together a large artifact to one of the machines in the ruin. Eagerly she asks if the players have managed to find the Hypermusic and if they sure her the verred and cube, she grabs them and inserts them into the device.
Using another machine to try and get a signal, she tries to contact the deceased again. A voice, semi-garbled comes out of the machine but the new creation with the cube in begins the thrum and the strange music plays from the verred and cube. The voice soon gets clearer.
Destroy the machine! Stop it! It's been lying to you! Stop--
Then, it's suddenly cut off. The whole room begins to shudder as the music of the sword gets louder and the new device Andriggeo constructed begins to shimmers as if in a haze of heat, the very air around it vibrating. There is a further shudder and the device begins to deactivate as the floor caves in nearby and a magmid (Ninth World Bestiary, pg. 79) emerges. It flexes it's attachments and limbs and turns to Andriggeo.
Thank you, Andriggeo, for downloading me to this machine. I've been stuck in that star-machine for too long. Now it's time to save us all from that fate.
Asking the magmid what it means, it explains.
The dead here do not die, this place, or something nearby, it captures us, sends us to a machine in the stars where all we can do is watch as everyone grieves, and moves on, and dies. We can't communicate with each other there, but I managed to determine I wasn't the only one. I lied, Andriggeo, I'm not some ancient, just a dead priest from generations ago. Perhaps your grandfather might remember me. I needed your help, I'm sorry for the deception but it seemed the only way. Now, we destroy this place and tear that aldeia to the ground. No-one must ever come here, no-one must ever suffer this fate again. Alone, watching, for over a century - do you have any idea what that is like? People deserve peace after death not... that. It took everything I had to work out this plan without going mad, I will not be stopped.
The magmid pushes past the players and begins using it's claws and drills to tear the place apart. Andriggeo begs it to stop, grabbing at one of the claws, but it flings her aside, sending her crumpling into a heap.
I can't go back there. I need to end! We all do!
If not stopped, the magmid uses it's abilities to raze the entire ruins to the ground. It then proceeds to the aldeia and begins to destroy it, but takes care not to kill anyone. It then begins tunnelling and excavating the entire area, looking for anything else that might be ancient technology responsible for the dying being sent to this star-machine. Soon after, it stops, confused.
No, the future, that isn't, no... I don't understand... They have to die! They all have to die!
The magmid returns to the aldeia and begins gathering up survivors and crucifying them painfully using the broken remains of their homes.
It is the only way to unbreak reality. The only way. I must crucify my enemies. The pain will set them free...
It then attacks the players and the unconscious Andriggeo, no doubt a similar fate for them in mind.
If the players stop the magmid before things go too far, Andriggeo still has a chance of salvaging the ruins, though she is unsure what will happen to the countless others that may still be trapped in this star-machine the magmid spoke of. If not, the players are left in the aftermath of a massacre.
Any survivors of the aldeia, if they were attacked by the magmid, are very angry, primarily at Andriggeo for messing with things she didn't understand and bringing this all down upon them. They are looking for someone to punish and without intervention, it is likely she'll hang.