Part 3 of our first Album Adventure, based on Assembly by Theatre of Tragedy, a gothic metal/electronic band from Norway. Assembly was released in 2002 by Nuclear Blast.
A few days after a near-disaster at Dynafel, the Aeon Priests at the Dreaming Reliquary are being praised for their actions in stopping the recent yellow swarm attacks and putting an end to what is becoming popularly termed,"The Plague of Ghosts". If the players were involved from the previous adventure, they likely too are part of the celebrations, heralded as heroes. The King and Queen tiKalloban of Isobal are headed to Dynafel to pay a royal visit and give a personal sign of the gratitude for the protection of their people.
A thick, rolling mist has spread across the city and surrounding area, cutting off Dynafel from all but the most persistent travellers. Most travel has been cancelled for safety reasons and very few people are leaving the city, not only because of the celebrations and the impeding royal visit, but also because of disturbing rumours that somewhere, out in the mist, a single ghost remains - that of Queen Sarromere herself - and that she seeks to reclaim her throne.
Of course, the current rulers can not ignore such claims, so whilst they would normally cancel a visit due to the risks involved of travelling through the mist, they do not want to appear intimidated by the dead Queen they deposed all those years ago, especially given sympathies for her at at an all time high, given it was her obsessively collected dream numenera that helped save the day. Narla Deshu in particular is eager to try and put the rumours to rest - their recent triumph over the ghosts and swarms is just the ammunition she needs to secure a royal grant for the Reliquary's research, but an anti-tiKalloban ghost - ghosts they have claimed to have eradicated - will certainly do nothing to help matters.
Getting the Players Involved
If the players were involved in the previous adventure, they have plenty of reasons to stick around - a reward from the Iscobal royalty, celebrations in their honour and much interest from Narla Deshu about their exploits in the dream-world. Then of course are the barriers to leaving, which whilst not at all insurmountable, do come with their own risks. After all, bandits will be more than happy to take advantage of anyone wandering in the mist, where their dark deeds can go undetected.
In the event the players were not involved, they may already be in Dynafel and trapped by the mist, taking advantage of the celebrations or looking to find work - there will certainly be a need for skills of all kinds to prepare for a royal visit. If not in Dynafel, they may wish to investigate the tales of the great mist which has fallen over the region or be working as escorts for merchants who can not afford to cease trade between cities during mistfall. Other nations may be interested in the mist, perhaps curious that it may be an experimental weapon or defence system Iscobal are trialling and may hire or send people to investigate.
With the tiKalloban royals soon to arrive, mayor Harcorth Munn is eager to make sure they arrive safely and without incident. A call to arms to patrol the mists along the route from the mists edge to the city proper. Narla Deshu is also keen to send people out into the mists, not only to ensure her (hopefully) future benefactors safety, but also see if they can put to rest any of these ridiculous rumours about Queen Sarromere. Many people feel they are likely lies spread by the Sarromere family, capitalising on the recent ghost trouble to try and stir up discontent. Some of those loyal to the old crown think otherwise, and that perhaps their rightful queen has returned to wreak her revenge.
Out in the mists, creature that might otherwise stay away from human settlements are roaming around and bandits are also preying on those foolish or desperate enough to travel without protection. A perfect situation to throw in any number of random encounters with people and creatures from the Bestiary or Corebook.
Eventually in the mists, the sound of a great crash will be heard, with a difficulty 3 intellect roll, the player can pinpoint the location of the sound in the mists and discover a large carriage on it's side, it's hover plates flickering. Surrounding the carriage as several armed guard bearing the crest of the tiKalloban royal family but strangely they do not move. On closer inspection, the guards have all been frozen, their skin pale and blue beneath their armour and they stand in a grisly tableau that reveals their last intentions - they were defending the carriage against an unseen foe in the mist.
Inspecting the carriage reveals that it is empty, it's occupants - presumably the tiKallobans - gone.
Following the trail, they see figures moving away slowly, only visible in the mist due to bright points of light that seem to flash from their bodies at random intervals. Wherever or whoever these figures are, they seem to be stumbling back towards the city.
As the player track them (if they choose to), they never seem to get close enough, the blinking, flashing lights always seeming to be further away after they fade back in than the slow shuffling gait of the figures would suggest.
Eventually the player find they are at the city gates, and the see the figures clearly.
Meanwhile in the city, mayor Harcorth Munn is laying preparations for the royal visit. The whole city is bustling with activity, cleaning up after the celebrations, organising banquets and parades and decorations and most importantly - security. With all the rumours that House Sarromere may be planning something, they have been placed under house arrest, an indignity to which they have made their displeasure well known and a small band of protesters campaign outside their large estate in the city, calling for justice and freedom and condemning the cowardly mayor for his unprovoked and uncalled for confinement of the honourable House Sarromere. While no-one has yet caused any trouble, Harcorth is anxious to sweep this whole thing under the rug. He is generally a pretty popular and well-liked mayor, and so he is quite sure that these 'protesters' are little more than hired shills of the two Sarromere brothers, looking to sow discord.
Throughout the city, people are beginning to report that they have heard a woman's voice calling from out of the mist. So far, no-one has seen anything to explain the voice, and usually it is so quiet, fading in and out, that most people barely believe they heard it themselves. If the players remained in the city, they hear a loud crash echo from outside the city walls, but before they can react the mist they hear a faint voice, fading in and out so that they hear a weird, overlapping jumble of words:
You specify me I know you suit me You can't deny me I'll make you happy
The voice fades away as quickly as it came. With an perception check of difficulty 3, the players can realise that they didn't all hear the voice together, but individually in their heads. It wasn't a sound at all, but a psychic message.
Figures in the Fog
Suddenly, out of the mist, stumble King and Queen tiKalloban. They are deathly cold and quite disorientated due to hypothermia and collapse as they come across the players. Shivering and barely conscious, the King clutches at a player and hisses some strained words, full of fear:
She's alive. She's alive!
After his outburst, the royals fall unconscious. During this time, bystanders have run for aid and several guards accompanied by the mayor himself come to bring the royals to the mayor's most trusted physician.
Naturally, having overheard the Kings last words before his collapse, the rumours of Queen Sarromere's return spread like wildfire. With all the rumours of ghosts and the recent events of the last few weeks, it is not long before crowds are gathered around the Sarromere estate, demanding something is done. Some wish to execute the brothers for treason, claiming they have tried another assassination attempt and that the terrible things plaguing their city has been all they doing this whole time. Other claim that the brothers must go into the mist to try and placate their mother's spirit. She who has returned from the dead will listen to no other but her own blood, they cry, send them out to soothe her spirit and prove that they have Dynafel's best interests at heart.
Harcorth, terrified that the King and Queen might be killed on his watch, has barricaded himself and the royals in the city hall and his personal physician attend them, doing his best to keep them alive. The mayor wants someone to pay and is inclined to give the Sarromeres to the growing mob. The players receive a message from him granting them safe passage past the guards posted at the Sarromere Estate to act as a neutral third-party to negotiate their surrender, as the Sarromere's own house-guards will certainly not let them be taken without a fight.
Out in the fog, Aeon priests are busy analysing the mist that hangs in the air. They are happy the share their findings with the players, if the players have been working with the guard, the mayor or previously with the priests, otherwise convincing them to share their information is difficulty 3 task. What the priests have discovered is that the mist isn't any mist at all, but actually a thick cloud of spores that has permeated the area. Who is responsible or where they came from, the priests don't know, but this is more than just bad weather and may also be responsible for both the freezing and the voices. The priests have also managed to cobble together a device that might be able to find the control point or power source of the spores, but with limited resources they don't want to wander about and feel a group of seasoned adventures might be better equipped to the task of tracking down the source of the mist.
Using the device, the players are lead towards the Sarromere Estate, but unless they can present any reason to be there, they are turned away by the brother's house-guards.
The Sarromere Estate
If the players decide to try and talk with the Sarromere brothers, they are allowed onto the Sarromere estate by their house-guards as long as they relinquish their weapons.
Inside, the estate is a huge, sprawling mansion as only nobles and ex-royals can justify and afford. It has, however, seen better days, the years since their glory days have taken it's toll on the Sarromere family and whilst the mansion is full of various finery on prominent display, it is clear the estate doesn't get the attention it once did, with some areas showing signs of disrepair.
The players are brought into a study where the two brothers greet them. They have guarded expressions and speak carefully, no doubt all too aware of their public perception at the moment.
After some negotiations, it's clear the brothers have no interest in 'surrendering' and are adamant they had nothing at all to do with either the fog, or the near-deaths of the tiKallobans, though they certainly wont weep if they don't recover. If the players can make a make an intellect task on diplomacy of level 8, they can convince the brothers that turning themselves in pending a formal investigation is their best course of action, both for their own safety and the morale of the city.
The players may notice that many parts of the mansion are closed off and all windows to the inner ground gardens are shut and curtain or blinds drawn. Any attempt to view the inner gardens is stamped down upon, with any number of reasons and excuses made to prevent it. If the players persist, the house-guards will prevent them but the brothers will stop their guards before a fight breaks out and allow the players to see what they have been hiding.
In the inner grounds of the estate is a large tree cover in broad, pale green leaves that droop to the ground. Player may recognise it as a dream sallow by succeeding at an intellect task of difficulty 5, but if they don't, one of the brothers will mention what it is and that they are afraid of it.
The Dream Sallow
For the last few weeks, ever since the lights in the sky faded and the "Plague of Ghosts" came to a close, the brothers have been haunted by terrible dreams. In everyone, the tree has spoken to them, telling them that it can restore them to their rightful place as royalty, that it can make them happy, that the brothers suit its needs and have to help it if they want to have their mother back again, that she was never mad and she saw the world of dreams for what it was, a real place.
The brothers tried to ignore the tree and the dreams until one day it began spewing spores unlike it had ever done before, thick, white clouds of mist that spilled out of the grounds and across the entire city. They thought it had been a dream, but when they awoke to find the city almost completely covered, just like their dream, they knew that these dreams were not mere nightmares, but something else entirely.
The brothers explain that the tree is dangerous and that the spores draw people to sleep under it's boughs where it slowly kills them in their sleep. Their mother had one brought at great expense to the estate during the height of her dream obsessions and communed with the tree - she was the only one they've ever known to wake up again from it's effects and soon after that incident, her throne was usurped by the tiKallobans and she died soon after in exile away from her children and the lands she loved.
If the players want to examine the tree, the brothers will allow it, but bid them go through the furthest exit from their study. They saw the effects of the spores on their mother as children and they do not want to risk inhaling any of them. The players, once in the grounds, find it hard to see as the spores are incredibly thick. It is a difficulty 4 task to navigate through the gardens to the tree and for every failure, the players must make a speed defence roll against a difficulty of 3 to avoid stumbling into thorny bushes, causing 2 points of might damage.
As the players get closer to the tree, they begin to all hear a woman's voice and in front of them a phantasmal being appears in the spores, formed by their patterns in the air.
The Woman in the Fog 4 (12)
She is unarmed, but glows with an otherworldly energy.
- To be understood
- 4 points of intellect damage
- Immune to physical damage
- The woman flails around, yelling silently, a look of desperation on her face. The players are occasionally assaulted by a loud, mental voice that fades in and out too much to be understood, which causes intellect damage.
- If the players have any telepathic capabilities, they can attempt to communicate with the woman. Doing so causes her 'outbursts' to cease and she will communicate peacefully. If not, the players can communicate verbally to tell her she is hurting them and she will stop trying to speak and instead try to gesture to the players to head back to the building.
If the players defeat her, she fades away, but soon returns, this time able to communicate clearly and she explains that their intellect attacks have allowed her to calibrate her communications.
If the player can not damage her, eventually the brothers come rushing out, looking shocked, and call out "Mother?" to the apparition. She fades out soon after, but returns quickly and is able to communicate properly.
The players eventually are able to communicate with the ghost, who asks them for help. The brothers (if not already there) approach, recognising her as their mother. She reveals that this is not the case and she is only wearing her form, as the Queen was the last person to enter her dream-space. She asks to see the Queen and is saddened to learn she is dead, especially since she had once given her eternal life in the dream-space of the tree.
The ghost identifies itself as the avatar of the Dream Sallow and reveals that it has been ousted from the tree by an outside force. Some time ago (she isn't sure when, as time moves differently in the dream-space) an entity appeared in the dream-space and began taking over, she tried to stop it, but it is subsuming everything and the mass spore production is an unintended side-effect of that. She needs to regain control so she can protect the lives of those that live inside the tree's dream-space, as is her primary function. However, she is locked out of the tree by the entity and only able to manifest herself through the spores, but she has had trouble communicating.
If asked about King and Queen tiKalloban, she says she sensed the royals and, hoping it was Queen Sarromere, went to speak with her. However, when she arrived, their cart was frozen and the tiKallobans injured. A lone woman carrying an artifact was nearby, but saw her and ran off into the mist, presumably afraid. The avatar tried to guide the injured and confused tiKallobans back to the city with flashing lights before she was weakened by the exertion and faded away to reappear by the tree again.
The conversation eventually turns to why she wants to talk to Queen Sarromere. The Queen had entered her dream-space and wanted to live forever there as it's ruler. However, the avatar could not give her that kind of 'administrative access', nor could she allow the Queen to access the outside world from the dream-space because she did not have access to do so. She told the Queen that if she could bring an Operator Key, she could give her what she wanted and the Queen promised to do so, but never returned. The avatar was hoping she might have the key, because it is the only thing that would give her the power to regain control of the tree and exorcise the other entity.
If the players enquire about the entity, the says all she knows is that it is a machine and that it calls itself The Assembly. It is trying to work out how to use the spore emitters to build it a physical form or transfer itself to a living body, but she doesn't think it will succeed, at least not if they can bring her an Operator Key. She begs the players not to damage the tree - it is home to thousands of living minds from aeons past and they would perish forever if the tree was to be destroyed.
The Lost Key
The brothers think they might know of the key of which the avatar spoke. Their mother, even though they were separated, still wrote them letters until she passed during her exile in Ancuan. In her letters she detailed she had found what she was looking for, but never gave any details. The brothers think that perhaps she found the key but died before it could be of use. If it is anywhere now, it is in her tomb in Ancuan - she would have never let anything so precious be taken from her, not even in death.
The brothers insist they they accompany the players to the tomb. They have the knowledge to successfully navigate and/or unlock it, as in her paranoia the Queen used what little wealth and loyalty she still commanded to have her tomb trapped and protected. Not only that, but they wish to exhume the body and bring it back to Dynafel. She deserves to be buried in her homeland, not some exile's tomb in Ancuan. They visited it once in the past as children and didn't have the chance to do so, this time will be different.
First however, they will need to get out of the city. Under suspicion for an assassination attempt (which they still strongly deny - the Sarromere brothers are excellent manipulators and if the players try to detect a lie from them, they must beat a difficulty 7 task to determine that they are lying), the brothers will most likely not be allowed to leave, no matter what is said. They strongly believe that without their knowledge, the players will fail, and they say that some of the numenera traps and locks within are keyed to the touch of a living Sarromere (true, though they don't mention that they can also be bypassed using an override code they learned of during their last visit).
The players may also choose to reveal everything to the mayor and the authorities. If they do so, it is unlikely they will be granted leave to take both brothers with them, however, they may take one brother. The brothers initially refuse to help, but when threatened with execution, they will acquiesce to being parted.
The journey to Queen Sarromere's tomb in Ancuan continues in the next adventure.