In the Ninth World people are going missing and there rumours flying about something whispered only as The Assembly, a group or gathering, perhaps cultists, fanatics or something else, that when revealed, could spell serious consequences for the Ninth World.
The players may have heard rumours about The Assembly and seek to investigate. As way of making them more invested, perhaps a friend, family member or someone else they know has gone missing and the only clues they have are that perhaps this ‘Assembly’ is involved.
Alternately, the players may simply stumble upon some strange events and decide to get involved, clues and hooks might include:
In the City of Yenth, people have been leaving, never to return. Many put it down to the portal to New Yenth and there is much dark talk about the ultra-terrestrials from New Yenth infiltrating their fair city for dark and nefarious ends. Amidst the growing discord in the city, there is a growing trade in entertainment, anything to relieve the general malaise that is beginning to consume the city as it turns upon itself out of fear and desperation. Pleasure has become a lucrative commodity, far more than usual and is in high-demand. People just want to lose themselves in something for a few hours, a brief respite from the oppressive sense that something terrible is going to happen, be it a witch-hunt for ultra-terrestrials, an assault against the portal or another discovery that yet more people have disappeared.
When the players arrive in town (or if they are natives, they already know) it is clear that Yenth is a city on the edge. People are leaving in droves and thievery is rife, abandoned homes being looted almost in plain-sight of local guards and militia who are too over-worked by the need to keep order and put an end to the disappearances to deal with all of them.
The players may be inclined to leave immediately, but if that happens a group of merchants looking to protect their stores will offer to hire the players as guards and escorts. The merchants refuse to be driven out of their homes and businesses by fear, and as proud citizens of Yenth, would rather die fighting rather than see their city fall to ruin.
The militia could also do with help and while they have little to offer with their resources stretched so thin, they can offer a number of cyphers and oddities from New Yenth, that given the current climate most Yenthians don’t want to be associated with.
If the players go with the merchants, during their duties they will hear several rumours and whispers about the companions and about something called the Assembly, but when they try to discover more, they find little more than half-truths, guesses, fear and doubt with little concrete information about anything. The only thing they learn is that a small group of companions have banded together for mutual protection and they have grudge against another companion called Tzenbroen, who they claim since coming to town has stolen or driven away their customers.
One of the merchants that have hired them also goes to be with Tzenbroen. The merchant never returns and the other will encourage the players to investigate, refusing to pay them any further until their missing comrade is found.
If the players go with the militia, they are asked to deal with petty rumours, tips and information the militia has received regarding the companion known as Tzenbroen. Several witnesses claim that Tzenbroen has been bewitching his clients and sending them off, never to be seen again. The players are expected to report back with what they discover and if necessary, deal with the problem.
An investigation into Tzenbroen reveals a number of interesting facts and rumours. He never sleeps and never seems tired or exhausted after any activity he undertakes. He is strong and fast, far more than his gentle frame would suggest and one thief claims that he once stabbed Tzenbroen, but the knife just slid off of him, like a flint off steel. Many rumours about him are of his prowess in providing pleasure and many believe that those that employ his services leave the city simply because they know they can’t cope being near him and not partaking of his services again and again until they are bankrupted.
Other companions are quick to accuse him of causing the disappearances, of deliberately inciting rebellion and fear in the city to profit off of the vulnerable and will slander him mercilessly if given an ear to talk to. It is clear that there is some severe professional jealousy afoot, and more than a few slighted companions that bear a grudge after Tzenbroen refused to tutor them in his techniques.
If confronted, Tzenbroen is happy to have a civil conversation, but refuses to divulge any client information or allow an inspection of his dwellings. If challenged as being an automaton, Tzenbroen will laugh, thinking the idea ludicrous and truly Tzenbroen isn’t even aware he isn’t human.
If the players gain entry to Tzenbroen dwelling, either as clients or by other means, they can easily discover the items within from the loot section of the panel above. They may also notice there is no food storage or preparation areas.
The house has two floors, the lower one is mostly empty, filled with old, empty storage boxes from a previous owner. The crates are mostly stacked haphazardly and players investigating must beat a level 4 careful movement task to avoid causing several towers or piles to collapse, causing a noise that will alert anyone within short range. The upper floor is mostly taken up by a luxurious bed, several expensive and high-quality silk drapes and various shelves of interesting and erotic oddities. Light is dimly provided at all hours by a single major glowglobe suspended near the centre of the ceiling.
If the players have snuck into the dwelling, unless they have made plans to keep Tzenbroen distracted, he soon returns whilst they are investigating as he is often very quickly employed, making a confrontation very likely. If a player is a client, they eventually will be confronted with Tzenbroen’s eyes (see Interaction in the above panel) or will need to explain themselves if they are investigating, as Tzenbroen makes a point of observing his clients closely.
If Tzenbroen is confronted and his true nature revealed, Tzenbroen will be shocked at the revelation that he is an automaton beneath his skin. He will offer to assist the players however he can, but his is severely shaken by the knowledge. He will also begin volunteering information about the disappearances and that he believe that he might unknowingly be responsible, as his clients almost always leave and never return after their liaisons.
Through trial and error, the players with Tzenbroen’s help can figure out that his eyes do something strange to the human brain when it is in a state of heightened arousal or relaxation. With some convincing, Tzenbroen will allow the players to examine his eyes so they can learn the message it programs safely.
Finally, Tzenbroen begs the players not to reveal his secret. All he ever wanted to do was provide pleasure to those that need it. If his eye-programming can be permanently deactivated (a level 4 difficulty intellect task) he will plead to be allowed to continue his work, if not, he will even offer to give the players his eyes if they will spare him and keep his secret.
Eventually the players learn that the disappearing people are all headed to Dynafel, a city over the border in Iscobal and home to the Dreaming Reliquary, a place where Aeon Priests keep - and continue to research - remnants of the prior queen’s obsession with dreams.