Somewhere in the lonely aldeia of Sleepy Fork, a man bursts into a local tavern, covered in blood, panting from exhaustion. He’s clearly been running from something, but whatever it is, it’s close behind him because he is twitching nervously, looking over his shoulder, terrified for his life. He runs to the nearest person, begging them to save him, to make it stop.
I never meant to do it. I loved her... But she was too beautiful! She was...
Before he can say much more, something rockets into the room, all tentacles and blades and things this world has no name for. It bares a face, a human face distorted as through warped glass and behind its snarl you can see it is a mockery of the face of the terrified man. The beast swipes claws at him, cutting a huge gouge across his belly and, as if noticing the others for the first time, lets out an unholy screech and flees.
The man collapses to his knees, struggling to hold his guts in, tears of pain and something else streaming down his face. As the life fades from his eyes, he whispers some words.
Don't let 'em kill my boy. Don't....let...them...kill....
Wherever the players are, the scene above could happen, however, you might not want to involve them directly in the scene and rather have them investigate afterwards. In that case, perhaps they arrive in town just after the events and will want to investigate. The man might be well known in town and his widow, friends, children or perhaps just the town guard might want to offer a reward if they can hunt down the creature that did this before it strikes again.
The aldeia of Sleepy Fork is a strange one, well, as strange as any other aldeia is in the Ninth World. Situated in a small, desert-like expanse of orange dust, nothing in particular would make the little settlement standout if not for the huge forks than dot the landscape. The forks, as the locals call them, are silver rods about as thick as a mans arm that stand approximately 50ft high. At the top of each rod, it splits into a right-angled U-shape, making it look loosely like a fork, though not a very pointy one, the rods being flat at the ends.
Built around a well which supplies the aldeias water, the villagers find the inhospitable, dusty landscape hard to grow crops in but luckily for them it is mostly a non-issue as they have a readily available supply of food. The forks have a curious power and anything that passes between the forks falls instantly asleep. As a result, the villagers have set up a series of nets all around the forks to catch birds and other animals that fly between them and while there isn’t always huge numbers, there are enough animals regularly getting caught in nets to both feed the villagers and to use as bait for larger, land-bound game.
Nobody knows how the rods work and nobody is too interested in finding out. Once some villagers tried to dig one out, but the rod kept going down deeper into the earth and they gave up. Besides, it doesn’t bode well to mess with very things that help them to survive. Rods have fallen down in the past from storms and they snapped cleanly off their base, the rods just grew back from their silver stumps in a matter of days, leaving the broken ones free to be used by whomever dared. The fallen rods lose their curious sleep inducing qualities, though some people swear that building headboards for their beds out of the giant forks at the ends make them sleep wonderfully.
Abroah Ersoel, the victim of the attack, was a lumberer of sorts. Strong and unafraid, Abroah cuts down rods using tools handed down to him over generations, once brought here by the original settlers. It’s long work and the rods are very hard, but perseverance and sweat win out in the end and after about a week of sawing day in and day out and pulling at the rods with rope and aneen, a single rod will fall. The rods grow back faster than Abroah can cut them down, so he reserves a small pair of forks at the farside of the aldeia for logging, as by the time he has cut down one, the other has grown back again.
At least, that’s what he used to do before the incident. Left behind are his widow Aynawn and two sons, Iankunn and Alliontiz in his cottage next to the forks he sawed. Like many other buildings around the aldeia, his cottage is built out of silver logs taken from the forks he cut down. Because the rods have straight edges, like planks, building with them is quite easy and many people have cut them into small bricks, rather than following a more traditional log cabin motif. The silver rod material is slightly magnetic, much more so when stacked together densely, so there is little need for mortar or other supports to hold structures built from it in place.
Sheriff and Mayor of the aldeia, Ardeil Asluinn, wants to see justice done and is rounding up a posse to go deal with the beast that slew poor Abroah, but isn’t fool enough to go in blind and wants to speak to his widow to see if she might have any information about what happened or Abroahs final words.
With a posse gathered, formed mostly of the strongest men and women of the aldeia and numbering less than 10 people, the sheriff wants to head on out and try and follow the trail before it goes cold.
If the players have discovered anything such as what Iankunn knew, then the sheriff thinks they should split up, with the players taking the mound and the posse tracking the creatures trail. If not, the sheriff suggests they all stick together and try to track the creature.
Tracking the creature is difficult. Despite its appearance, it hasn’t left any slimy trail to follow. However, some of the animal trackers in the posse recognise some weird patterns in the dust that might have been left by tentacles. Tracking the beast is a level 5 task.
The tracks lead around the village towards a series of rocky outcropping to the East, winding and skipping as if the creature jumped ahead or simply teleported somehow a short distance.
The rocks are recognised by the posse as a dangerous place. Rocks like that out in the desert make perfect hiding places for cragworms (Numenera Corebook, pg. 236) and if the players reveal any knowledge from Iankunn they may have gotten regarding a howl, this only further confirms their fears. Some of the posse want to turn back, saying that it must have been a cragworm that attacked Abroah, but other know that such a claim is nonsense, cragworms don’t look like that and certainly wouldn’t act the way it had. Still, the posse is afraid, cragworms are dangerous animals and even with their numbers, there is a good chance a single cragworm could hurt, if not kill many of them before they could take it down.
As the group gets closer to the rocks, a faint sobbing sound can be heard and as they round the rocks they find a woman, dirty and bloody, knelt on the ground weeping over a dead cragworm.
It killed my boy. My beautiful baby boy.
The woman sobs, rocking herself gently back and forth. Some of the posse rush over to comfort her and help her up and others stand ready in case other animals might reveal themselves and attack. The cragworm has been torn almost in two, as if something with immense strength tried to pull its mouth open. Through the splits in its belly can be seen partially digested tentacles hanging out, steaming in the air. It looks on a cursory examination that the cragworm solved the problem of hunting down the creature for the town.
The woman is clearly distraught and looks like she was lucky to survive a cragworm attack all by herself. If questioned, she is too upset by the loss of her child to explain much, but does say the cragworm died from something it had eaten trying to get back out before it could attack her. She takes well to the attention of the males in the group and seeing her smile for the first time, it’s clear under the dust and blood she is a stunning beauty. The women in the posse she couldn’t care less about and whilst she remains civil and polite, she doesn’t show nearly as much gratitude or praise to them as she does the males.
Getting back to the aldeia, the mayor thanks the players for their involvement and wishes them good luck in their endeavours. He seems quite taken by the woman and has offered her shelter in his home until she has recovered. The players might be a little suspicious of the woman however, as there are a number of things that don’t make sense, any of which a level 2 intellect task can reveal if they don’t notice them by themselves:
If the players are content to deal with things in the morning, the woman stays at the mayors house for the night. During the rest of the day before nightfall, preparations are being made for Abroahs funeral and the woman, who introduces herself as Ueaan, gets herself cleaned up and tries to help any men that are working on the funeral arrangements. She also seems to show quite an interest in Iankunn, and makes sure the boy is dealing with his fathers death okay, complimenting him on his bravery. Iankunn seems a little embarrassed by her attention, but also intrigued as only a teenage boy can be with a beautiful woman, though he is too upset to think of anything beyond the funeral.
The next morning is the day of the funeral and the aldeia gathers for the ceremony. A coffin made from the silver rods is brought forth with Abroah inside and the villagers take turns to tell tales and recount good memories of Abroah and all he did for them. The woman is sat with the mayor, next to Abroahs family and looks more beautiful than ever, somewhat inappropriately for the occasion, but no-one begrudges her given she had only the clothes on her back when she arrived. Iankunn looks angry, but the woman is stroking his arm, calming him. The mayor looks embarrassed and a little annoyed by the woman, but doesn’t notice her attentions on the boy and keeps to himself. Iankunn eventually stands up and says some words and, looking at the Ueaan the whole time, manages to say nothing but nice things despite his earlier anger.
After the funeral, gossip can be heard. Some people say they heard the woman and the mayor had a thing last night, but that he wasn’t up to the task. Some are jealous the mayor even got to be with her at all and others simply don’t believe it. After all, she is grieving the loss of a child, the mayor would never take advantage of a mothers grief like that.
Soon, it becomes apparent the woman has left the gathering. Iankunn is also missing. Speaking to some of the other boys from the aldeia, they can be heard gossiping about how Iankunn is going to get laid by the new woman in town.
Whether the players choose to investigate or not, Iankunn comes screaming out of his home for his mother. He is half dressed, clearly flustered, and begs his mother to come back with him to their home. Of course, the whole aldeia is gathered, so more than a few people follow to see what all the commotion is about.
They get to the cottage to find Aynawn screaming at Ueaan to staw away from her boy, branding Ueaan as a filthy witch. Ueaan is adjusting her dress and putting back her hair. As radiant as ever, she has the glow of someone post-coitus but more than that is something far more shocking. She looks six-months pregnant.
He is strong, like his father, and fast. And here, he wont die this time, he'll be safe, protected. Please, don't be upset, you're going to be a grandmother. I can work, I can help you.
Ueaan pleads with Aynawn, but Iankunns mother is too shocked and appalled that her son, mere minutes after her husbands funeral, was seduced by this… woman… who somehow fell pregnant with his child almost instantly. Ueaan waddles over to a large saw lead outside the cottage and picks it up one-handed as if it was nothing. She then turns to one of the forks Abroah used to cut and begins sawing.
I can help you, please. All I ask is that you let me into your family, me and the baby. Please.
Ueaan in a matter of minutes, despite being heavily pregnant saws down the fork without so much as breaking a sweat.
Whilst this has been going on, Iankunn has been sneaking up on Ueaan, a look of horror and hatred upon his face. He raises a hammer above his head and attacks Ueaan from behind.
It was you! You tried to steal my dad away, and now you're trying to do the same to me! I hate you! I HATE YOU!
Ueaan takes a hit from the hammer on her arm and spins, faster than would seem possible, but not so fast that Iankunn’s second swing doesn’t connect - with her pregnant belly. She lets out a blood curdling shriek of utter hatred and swings a fist at the boy, back-handing him across the yard where he lands hard, hitting his head against the fallen fork with a sharp crack. Blood begins to trickle from underneath him as Ueaan spins back.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt him... he tried to hurt the baby. I have to keep the baby safe, it's.... ugh!
She doubles over suddenly, her belly visibly contorting.
It's coming! The baby is coming!
She buckles, slowly collapsing to the ground and lays out, legs arched, making a tent of her dress. Aynawn rushes to her boy, checking to see that he is okay. The rest of the aldeia is stunned, not sure what to do. On the one hand, they have an injured boy, on the other an impossibly pregnant woman.
As they are trying to decide what to do, a deep rasping hiss bellows from from between Ueaans legs and a slithering sound echoes out. A shrill, piercing cry is let out, inhuman and from out of the tent of her skirt slides a grotesque creature, all tentacles wrapped around a distorted human face, a face that look similar to Iankunn.
He's so beautiful. So beautiful.
Nine Worlds! That's the beast! The one that killed Abroah! Kill it! And the witch that birthed it!
The mayor yells and the group of villagers leap to action.
In addition to the baby, Ueaan tries her best to defend it from harm. Ueaan is a Nibovian Wife (Numenera Corebook, pg. 249) and fights to the death to protect her offspring from harm.
The town is torn apart emotionally by the events of the last few days. Not only have the lost a valued member of their community, but a boy is critically injured and may never recover and a monster had walked among them. The mayor is ashamed and disgusted by himself and whilst he tries to stamp down on the rumours of his liason with the Nibovian Wife, the taint of it has tarnished his reputation too much and he decides to leave the village, taking some supplies and seeking a new life away from the terrors of his past. If the players are also leaving, he enquires if they might help him reach the nearest settlement, but he is willing to go it alone and more than a little nervous that the players might expose his secret in whatever place they take him to.