Wherever he goes, he leaves a trail of rumours in his wake. A legend, some say, a myth, but others swear he is real, swears he has visited before. Some call him the Muse, because he travels, granting people divine inspiration. Some call him the Eraser, because he always exacts a price for his gifts, wiping the memories of the inspired until there is nothing left but an empty shell. Tracking down the Muse is very hard because rarely people can remember much about him specifically, remembering only his deeds, and their aftermath.
Some of the people left behind by the Muse are broken beyond repair. They create great works of stunning beauty and complexity, driven by a powerful, unnatural inspiration that eventually consumes them. Afterwards, they forget everything, even their own names. In the worst cases, they forget how to eat or drink or walk, eventually dying as they wither away or forget how to breathe and suffocate. Some end up fine, forgetting how they are, but retaining their increased abilities. Nearly always those chosen by the Muse are artists or performers of some description, but more rarely they might be mathematicians, inventors, architects or of other more engineering-based or ‘practical’ disciplines.
The players may have heard the rumours of the Muse and want to investigate or perhaps they need his blessing to achieve something, need their skills boosted in exchange for their memories to uncover some lost secret or solve some difficult problem for another quest.
The players may simply be in a village or city when the Muse visits or they may pass through an aldeia dealing with the aftermath of his attentions. Perhaps they have been hired to find and capture him to learn his secrets or a failing artist is desperately seeking one last bought of inspiration before they retire and ask to players to help find this rumoured Muse.
Aprinnias McKobbald, a well known sculptor, known more recently for his reputation as a recluse hidden from the rest of the world has revealed himself again in Kordech, a most unlikely place for a wealthy noble like Aprinnias to show his face. Aprinnias is famed for carving a sculpture commissioned by Queen Armalu of Naverene and the decorative arches of the old Horges mansion before the family moved into Castle Sarrat as well as several public sculptures in a number of cities across the steadfast. His works are sought after by collectors far and wide and now he is working on something new, there is a lot of interest.
Having bought an old slaughterhouse in Kordech, Aprinnias labours day and night on his new creation, consumed by an unnatural drive and inspiration. He neither sleeps, nor eats, spending every possible moment carving an immense block synth conjured up by cypher he brought with him. In many ways it is lucky Kordech smells so badly of shiol dung - not much else could cover up the smell of Aprinnias himself, where he has soiled himself or just performed his bodily functions in his workspace, rather than waste a single minute away from carving.
While most collectors and curious nobles stay away from Kordech despite their curiosity, that hasn’t stopped others from breaking into the warehouse, fascinated by Aprinnias and his work. He ignores them, oblivious to anything but his work.
Of course, all of this has taken a heavy toll on his husband, who has been ignored entirely by Aprinnias during the whole endeavour. Endroe McKobbald is gravely worried for his spouse and while he is glad to see him so engrossed in his work after a long time in retirement, he has never seen him like this and worries for his health, his safety and his sanity.
Endroe maintains a small room at the most upmarket inn in Kordech for himself and his husband, though his husband has never spent a night there. He is deeply worried about him and has spent the odd day in the slaughterhouse, just watching him work, once a joyful pastime but now a source of constant concern. Endroe is happy to talk about his husband, especially if offered hope of finding a ‘cure’ for his condition. He just wants the man he loves back, not this machine his husband has become.
A brief interview uncovers details of a strange visitor they had one evening at their private estate before coming to Kordech. A man in a white robe on a white four-legged animal they had never seen before rode up the the house. They were going to send him away, when the man produced a beautiful sculpture that captivated and entranced Aprinnias. He’d never seen anything so exquisite and when he asked the robed figure who he was and who had carved such a wonder, the figure merely smiled and gave them the sculpture.
You did. Or you will. It is the first of many items that will pour from your soul when you return to the chisel. I can help you make that happen, Aprinnias. You may call me Muse.
Endroe explains that Aprinnias was taken aback at first, but felt something true to the Muses words. After inviting him in, they had a meal and the Muse made them a deal. Aprinnias would return to fame, more skilled and wonderous with the chisel than ever before. The Muse would inspire him to create works that world had never before seen or even imagined, works that would be spoken about in ages yet to come. For this great gift, the Muse wanted one thing, a memory, a thought, an idea. He wouldn’t specify what, but it didn’t matter to Aprinnias. He agreed and it was barely a day after shaking hands with the Muse that he was suddenly consumed with his idea to sculpt in Kordech.
The Muse left as unceremoniously as he had arrived and they found themselves here, Aprinnias consumed by his work.
The Muse did something to my husband, something unnatural and cruel. He turned his gift, his art, into a disease. Please, you have to find him, you have to cancel the deal they made, before Aprinnias kills himself. I've tried to feed him and clean up his mess, but it's too much, he never stops, never rests. I fear he wont rest until he is in the grave.
Before the players leave him, he remembers something and pulls out a red glove.
The Muse wore this. He took it off to shake Aprinnias' hand, but must have forgot it. He never showed his face, but perhaps you could use this glove to find him again. I was going to take it to the Aulifex, his sorcery is very powerful and he may divine something from it, perhaps you could do so in my stead, I need to tend to Aprinnias.
The Aulifex is well known as a powerful sorceror in Kordech, based in a huge metal tower in the centre of town. A large, sweeping walkway leads up to a doorway high on the tower. It has no hand rails and rises at least 50ft, so it is a little nerve wracking to ascend, but the walkway is wide enough that falling off isn’t likely unless one chooses to walk right on the edge.
The door remains closed, but a human face morphs in the metal surface and speaks.
Who seeks an audience with the Aulifex?
If the players mention they are interested in the Muse and are seeking help finding him, the door will stop them short.
The Aulifex will see you. You may enter.
If they do not mention the Muse, convincing the door to allow them in is a level 3 intellect task.
Inside, the door leads to a small chamber with some simple metal chairs positioned a small plinth. When the players take their seats (are are just enough for them), the Aulifex appears in a flash of light on the plinth, robes billowing dramatically.
I am the Aulifex. What do you ask of me?
The Aulifex will answer simple questions, but anything remotely secret or unknown that might be of use to him he doesn’t speak about, resorting to cryptic phrases or outright telling the players they are not worthy of the knowledge (or it is too dangerous for them).
When asked about Aprinnias, the Aulifex nods knowingly.
Yes, another victim of the entity that calls itself the Muse. I would be very interested to speak to this Muse. I can assist you in seeking him out. Bring him here, and I will reward you greatly.
If the players agree and they previously got the glove from Endroe, the Aulifex flicks his hand and it appears, teleported from whomever was holding it. If not, the Aulifex demands the group go and retrieve an item from Endroe so he might aid them on their quest. When he has the glove in his possession, he casts a spell that floats items from all around the room, or ones that just flicker into being as if teleported, and combines them together, the pieces warping and reshaping around the glove until it forms a sort of round, circular object with an arrow embedded in it. The arrow always points in a certain direction, regardless of the orientation of the object, like a compass.
This shall lead you to that which you seek. Remember, bring back the Muse, alive, and I will grant you each a boon. Good luck.
The object is floated into one of the players hands and then the Aulifex claps and in a flash of light, the players find themselves outside at the foot of the tower.
The slaughterhouse Aprinnias has taken over at the edge of town is bustling with curious and nosy onlookers, all keen to see what all the fuss is about or to get a glimpse of the famous sculptor frantically carving away, half-covered in his own filth. For the most part, the crowds are kept away by some very overworked private guards hired by Endroe McKobbald to protect his husband. Any attempt to enter results in the guards directing people to speak to Endroe for permission, otherwise their orders are to keep everyone out so that Aprinnias will not be disturbed.
If the players ask Endroe and have demonstrated they are willing to try and help, Endroe will provide a pass the guards will recognise, granting them access. Otherwise, the players will need to sneak in. Due to the crowds, finding a distraction is easy. The slaughterhouse is in ill repair and there are several patches in the walls where a well aimed foot or crowbar could break open enough of an opening to squeeze through.
Inside the place stinks with the smell of old blood and filth. It smells so bad it’s hard to imagine anyone could stand working here for a few minutes, let alone days on end. All the equipment has been cleared out and dividing walls removed, turning the whole slaughterhouse into one gigantic room. In the middle sits an immense block of semi-transparent synth almost 60ft high. Ladders are rested against it at various positions and heights and there are signs of carving all across the blocks surface, some carving even going so far as to be full blown excavations deeper into the block.
From one of the deep tunnels hard-carved into the block emerges Aprinnias, babbling to himself. He looks haggard and drawn, barely shadow of a man if not for the fire behind his eyes, a burning passion that is consuming him from within. Trying to talk to the man gets nothing, he pushes himself away from others if they get in the way if his carving and if prevented from working, he becomes violent and upset, desperate to continue his work.
To see and to be what you want and you need, the truths unwinding, scraping away at my mind.
Aprinnias babbles, half to the sculpture, half to himself, over and over.
Visiting Aprinnias reveals little about what happened to him, beyond the immediately obvious symptoms, and yields no information about the Muse or his whereabouts.
With the device from the Aulifex, the players can track the Muse. He is travelling North into the Dark Hills, a dangerous place full of deadly creatures. Alone on his animal mount, it seems unlikely he would survive. The hills take their name from the perpetual gloom that hangs over the landscape their, even during the brightest days of summer. While there are no forests in the hills, there are small woods and patches of dense overgrowth and shrubbery. For the most part, the Dark Hills have never been fully explored due to the dangerous creatures that lurk within the gloom. Whilst following the trail, the players will undoubtedly be set upon by Broken Hounds (Numenera Corebook, pg. 232), whose whistling howls echo eerily across the hills.
The trail eventually leads the players into darker and darker territory until it seems almost as if nighttime. Eventually they catch a glimpse of white and see the Muse’s steed tied to a post outside an old wooden shack. A dull light shines from within the hut and the door opens, the Muse standing silhouetted in the doorway, face hidden deep in the cowl of his robe.
You better come in. The hounds are out.
The Muse gestures to some seats and sits down on the floor by a small fire in a hearth.
You have been following me.
The players may confirm or deny this, and may or not accuse him of being the Muse. The Muse is unconcerned in any event.
Endroe sent you, or perhaps the Aulifex. They want my power, one way or another. Do you intend to deliver it to them? It is too late for Aprinnias now, there can be no reversal. His puppet strings are cut and can not be retied. I gave him what he wanted, what he asked for. Who am I, who is anyone, to take that away from him?
If the players attempt to capture him, he makes a deal, not out of desperation but out of curiosity it seems.
Leave me be, and I can give you what you want. Do you even know why I do what I do? Abandon this folly and I will tell you.
If the players agree, it explains the following:
Have you ever noticed how, even in this world of ours, nothing is unique? There is always a copy, a duplicate. Sometimes identical, sometimes merely similar. Our world is a reflection in a mirror and there is another world on the other side of the glass. Sometimes, things cross over, those copies, those duplicates. The more our worlds stay the same, the more we are at risk. What happens to the reflection when the person leaves the mirror? What will happen to us? So I change things, make things different, more powerful, more driven. I have a curse and a gift, so I use it push back at the glass the only way I can. If you want the real truth, the real answers you will leave this place and seek the Origin of Symmetry, the place where our worlds meet and split apart. I can tell you where it is and you can see for yourself. Very few have ever seen what I have seen, you could share that privilege, that knowledge.
If the players agree, the Muse gestures for a player to give him the compass. He clasps it in his hands and chuckles to himself.
The Aulifex, that amateur. He barely understands what he has.
There is a flash of light and the compass now points somewhere else.
This will show you where to go. Now leave, please. And I am sorry for Endroe, truly, but it is not his choice to make. Fear not, the beasts will not harm you now.
He gets up and shows them to the door, following them out and climbing atop his steed.
Farewell, travellers, and good luck.
If the players decide to attack or try to capture the Muse, he simply slides off his hood, revealing his face. He is a Nalarus (Ninth World Bestiary, pg. 90), and immediately the players are effected by the swirling patterns on his face.
I'm sorry it came to this, I really am. But the work must continue, the symmetry must be broken. If you survive, seek out the Origin of Symmetry, it will give you the answers you truly seek.
The Muse raises a hand into the air and the compass the players used to find him flies into it. He holds it and there is a flash of light, then he drops it into a players lap. It is no longer pointing at him, but somewhere else.
Goodbye, and good luck. Give the Aulifex my regards.
The players might outright kill the Muse, or kill him whilst trying to capture him, as any prolonged attacks or restraints causes him to fight to the death. In the event of his death, as he takes his final breath he whispers:
The work must continue, the symmetry must be broken. Seek the origin, you have the tools you need.
His body then shines with a bright light and disintegrates and the players notice their compass is also glowing and now pointing in another direction.
The players are left with a mysterious clue and a strange explanation - tales of other worlds and broken mirrors and a compass that leads them to where? Knowledge? Power? Doom? The only way to know for sure is to follow the device, but no doubt the Aulifex will be interested and Endroe may fund their expedition if it might at all yield some kind of cure.