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The Center of Time

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
OOC Thread
Rogue's Gallery

Our Intrepid Explorers
Duncan Kull, A Strong Glaive who Fuses Flesh and Steel, played by fireinthedust
Echo, An Intelligent Nano who Wields Power With Precision, played by Shayuri
Seregal Chakane, An Intelligent Jack who Explores Dark Places, played by Tashtego
Antor Shull, A Swift Jack who Rides the Lightning, played by dragonwolf.
Wisco, A Tough Nano who Lives In The Wilderness, formerly played by Shadowsmith, now played by doghead
Xaion, A Strong Willed Glaive who Focuses Mind Over Matter, formerly played by Gamgee, now played by doghead

For ease of reading, everyone please put speech in "quotes," thoughts in italics and any OOC comments at the bottom of your post.

Like so:

"Well, I've never seen THAT before." Except during that one time at home, but I don't think I'll bring that up in front of the others.

OOC: Skasha rolls 1d20=18 to try to remember the weaknesses of the lead abhuman.

---

And until we get the hang of who is who, please put your character name and description in the title of your posts. So for my sample character I'd title my post with - Skasha Brae, Rugged Glaive who Howls At The Moon.

You'll be making your rolls with Invisible Castle.

And now... to the plot!

----

Norou, the entrance to the Sheer. The city is dwarfed by the fantastic size of the Clock of Kala, holding up the sky from one side the horizon to the other, erupted from the earth untold eons ago. The tops boil with stormclouds, and snow rides on the wind. The last warmth of autumn is fading, and the cold cuts the stink from the crowds at the gate. Merchants' trains of aneen, loaded with everything under the sun, pass to and fro beneath the watchful eyes of the plentiful soldiers. Goods are inspected minutely, and you can hear merchants grumbling as they open their coffers and scoop out shins. As you pass, you hear one muttering, "Lord Iron Pants gets greedier every year." Someone behind him adds, "Aye, and he gets more soldiers every year too." The first merchant snorts in exasperation and resignation as the crowd moves beyond you.

For a moment you're in a lull, facing a bustling trade city that is the gateway between the Beyond and... beyond. Before you lies three hundred and twenty miles without another town or village, hemmed in on all sides with sheer cliffs. And, if the heavily-armed guards traveling with the merchants' trains are any indication, there are those in the Sheer who would love to add your skulls to a trophy pile. Taverns and inns line the street directly across from the gate - The Plump Rugar, The Dancing Maiden, The Steel Fang, The Glaive's Glory, and The Scavenger's Art are just a few of the names that catch your eye. A beggar sits wrapped in layers of multi-hued cloth out of the flow of traffic, a chipped metal bowl at her feet containing a couple of shins and a crust of bread. Briefly you notice her raise her head - tentacles spring from where her eyes should be, and she uses them to explore the contents of the bowl. She brings the crust to her mouth and puts the bowl down again, shaking it to entice passers-by to feel pity for her.

A hulking brute with a shiny white ceramic axe stalks down the street, small glassy plates spinning about his head displaying incomprehensible symbols, a seskii hound trailing at his heels, while a young woman with a child in a sling across her chest sings softly to the crowd, displaying a basket of golden daffodils she has for sale. A fruit stand bearing fist-sized tart, juicy blue pummas, and sweet red square kilu-bar fruits is manned by an elderly man who hawks his wears entirely in sign language. A thin, scarred, wary-looking man with a shock of white hair stands behind a small table bearing bits of metal and other scavenged parts - his outfit looks as eclectic as his wares, patched together from at least a half-dozen different garments. A small group of what looks like mercenaries, some of them wearing fresh bandages, are heading up the street from the opposite gate. They look at the various taverns with determination on their faces, and woe to anyone who gets in their way. A pretty young lady with blue hair is tucked into an alcove, teasing a sweet air out of a glass flute, multi-colored bubbles rising from it as she plays.

You know your path lies beyond, but this is the last place of civilization for weeks. You have to get to Augur-Kala.

You need to be prepared.
 
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Shayuri

First Post
Despite the wonders of the city of Norou arrayed before her, Echo's attention is taken up by the spectacle of the mountains that rise up on either side. Were they big enough? How could anything be bigger?

No, she decided. Too big. Too big...or maybe too close? Hm.

They might look different from the other side too. No, she couldn't write this off yet.

She spared a glance around at the others in the little group that had assembled for this journey, and wondered where exactly they were going and what they meant to do when they got there. There hadn't been a lot of socializing so far. By the time they'd stopped each day to rest, the hard pace they'd set ensured they just wanted to sleep. Even while walking they'd saved their breath mostly, or talked about where and when to stop, or other 'business' related things.

Maybe that would change now. Did she want it to? Echo wasn't sure. Well she'd deal with that question when and if the time came.

For now she strolled over to the strangely dressed man with white hair and stooped over a bit to peer at his collection of metal trinkets and odds and ends. She didn't have much money to spend...most of it would probably go to trail rations or other survival goods...but Echo was always interested in the possibility of numenera, and it could turn up in the most unexpected of places.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
The man smiles slightly as you come up to his stall, tapping his fingers nervously on the table as you peruse his goods. He has quite a few good bits of metal and ceramic, much of which could be fashioned into weapons. There are lengths of flexible tubing, strands of wire woven on improvised bobbins, small glowglobes, little arches and curlicues of copper, several glass disks in different sizes and colors, and a small selection of waxy-looking globes full of something that looks like liquid gold. There's a metal dial with odd-sized gradations, a violently pink rubber glove made with only three large fingers, a little crystal that sheens yellow, and a metal nodule speckled with tiny specks of light. Much of what you see might make good repair parts, or be useful in and of itself.

The little metallic silver puddle that follows you like a pet pauses when you pause, then forms a shape like a basket. The proprietor looks over it with interest, and the tapping of his fingers increase. A band around his wrist makes a little squeaking sound, and he abruptly ceases his tapping.

"See something you like, snow-hair?" he asks, smiling again and ruffling his own pale locks to show it's a friendly jest. "Just arrived, ya. This will be some of the best you'll see without going swimming through the streets, getting robbed by every desperate merchant and peddler. Going out with a caravan, are ya? Look like you could use protection." He picks up a gleaming arc of ceramic and pulls a handle out from behind the counter. "Fix these two together, make a good axe. Enough to slice off abhuman heads, be they get too close. Can't be to careful, ya?" The tapping of his fingers resumes, slower this time against the blade.
 

Shayuri

First Post
"I don't need weapons," Echo replies as she scrutinizes the pieces laid out for display. The puddle gets her attention for a second though. "Do you see something you like, Grey?" she muses. "I wonder..."

The little blob was still a mystery to her. She couldn't tell how much it actually reacted to things happening around it. Sometimes its self-sculpting seemed random. Other times it was oddly appropriate to the situation. Was it just chance though?

She sifted through the objects, pulling to one side a little handful of objects she was fairly sure she could use. The tubing was good, and useful for a number of things. A few of the copper curls had shapes she recognized...they could be replacement parts for several kinds of old devices if need was. The dial, gradations aside, would have a regulator in it that could be used to vary power going through it. She wasn't sure about the crystal or glove, but the glove looked uncomfortable, so she added the crystal to the pile.

"How much for these?"
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
The tapping man pokes his own wares. "These and these," he says, separating the tubing and copper curls out, "4 shins for the lot. The other bits have a bit more use, ya? The dial there, points to the closest road. Good for trekking about where there are none, that. The crystal, ah, good choice for a lady who says she doesn't need weapons. It'll move you. Shifts you straight out of harm's way. Doesn't last long, but for saving the life, doesn't need to, ya?" He squints at you as the wind kicks up a bit, a few flakes of snow falling. "Dangerous out there, can't be too careful." The tapping reached a higher frequency, and his wristband squeaked again. He stopped abruptly. "Dial, twenty shins. Crystal, thirty." He looks down at Grey speculatively. "Or straight trade, either one for that."

Grey falls into a puddle again and flows between your feet.

On the street, the bandaged mercenaries have finally made their choice, ducking into the Scavenger's Art after a brief conference involving much gesturing and a brief wrestling match. A merchant on a loaded aneen navigates the street towards you, the animal picking its way carefully through the crowd. Its packs bulge with unseen goods, but several of them are scored with what looks like cuts and burns. A pair of elegantly-garbed men sweep past you, one wearing an elaborate synth-and-steel harness, the other with three nodules of silver and copper affixed to his face - clearly numenera. They are talking quietly as they go by, and you can pick out part of their conversation: "...that's what they're saying. I hope we don't have to use them, but I doubt we'll be that lucky." "Well, if we find dressel, though..." "Shins like rain. Hope the script dealer gets through..." "And we don't die." "Right, that would put a bit of a cramp in the operation..."

The wind picks up now, flakes of snow beginning to fall, the bubbles from the flute-player's instrument rising to meet them.
 

Shayuri

First Post
Echo smiles wistfully.

"Greygoo's not for sale," she admits. "He'd just worm free and follow me anyway." She pushes the two cyphers away from the pile, and pauses, tilting her head slightly as she listens to the two men's conversation when they pass. Shins like rain would be nice. Or snow. That would be appropriate too.

"Where do you buy your goods from?" Echo asks, separating out the tubes from the copper pieces. "Just anyone who has cyphers to sell? Also, how much for just the tubes?"

The copper would be nice, but she had other pieces already. And 4 shins would leave her nothing to buy food.
 

Tashtego

Explorer
Seregal Chakane, an Intelligent Jack who Explores Dark Places, currently disguised as "Father Seren"

Seregal stares at the old map in his hands. If the old beggar had been right, there was something significant at the top of the Clock; a ruin or mystery begging to be explored. Seregal imagines all of the great wealth of the Ancients, his for the taking...

The bleating of an aneen distracts Seregal from his idle daydream. Seregal adjusts his amber robes, glad that he had disguised himself as Father Seren today. The mendicant priest had almost taken on his own life, with his own friends and contacts who respected the wanderer; so very different from the shysters and grifters that Seregal often associated with.

Seregal hasn't been here before, so his plan is to find a caravan or trading group to join up with, to gain some safety in numbers as he journeys through to Augur-Kala. As Seregal steps outside of a nearby inn, he surveys the busy streets, looking around at the hustle and chaos of Norou, the trading town.

Then he sees by a stall - a glimpse of white hair. A familiar face. Adjusting his amber cowl, Seregal approaches the young woman, calling out a greeting.

"Echo!" he says, a merry twinkle in his eye. "I haven't seen you since our 'Adventure of the Jade Prism'. What brings you to Norou?" He leans forward, conspiratorially. "I have a treasure map of dubious origins. Perhaps I will finally make a mark in the Order's libraries if I can provide a detailed account of the exploration of Augur-Kala."
 
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Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Echo smiles wistfully.

"Greygoo's not for sale," she admits. "He'd just worm free and follow me anyway." She pushes the two cyphers away from the pile, and pauses, tilting her head slightly as she listens to the two men's conversation when they pass. Shins like rain would be nice. Or snow. That would be appropriate too.

"Where do you buy your goods from?" Echo asks, separating out the tubes from the copper pieces. "Just anyone who has cyphers to sell? Also, how much for just the tubes?"
"Worm free? He's bonded to you, then? Nice bit, that." His fingers start a slow tattoo of beats against the ceramic blade he still held in his hand. "Tubes, two shins. As for where I get my gear, 'tis no one's business but mine. And it's my business. You can find such things, if you know where to go. Perilous, ya, but you can find them. It's getting out all in a single bit that's the harder part." The tapping man puts on a broader smile as Seregal steps up to the booth.

"Be welcome, Father. Looking for a bit for repair? A numenera trick for safer passage? I sell both!"

The market is starting to get a little busier; criers are calling out the goods available down the sidestreets from the taverns and inns. "Cloth, solidly turned, warm and waterproof!" "Bread, fresh and tasty!" "Aneen pens, down this way! Travel in style and comfort with Norou's finest aneens!" "Candles, lanterns, glowglobes, illumination for all occasions!"

The cacophony of the marketplace begins to make its own peculiar music.
 

iamrpgdm

Explorer
Antor had been here once before. It was many years ago, but Norou seems every bit as hustle and bustle as he remembers. His father had made some good money here selling his wares. Until they were robbed that is. They were walking along cutting through an alleyway to avoid some of the town soldiers looking to take their share for Lord Iron-Pants. They would have been better off with the soldiers though, as they had a net thrown over them and everything they had of worth was taken. Antor's father knew another merchant in town and was able to borrow some shins and enough supplies to see them back home. Antor was much older now and wasn't afraid of this town anymore. Besides, what could be safer than traveling with an Aeon Priest?

Antor saw Father Seren come out of the inn and walk over to a merchant's stall, engaging in conversation with a woman there. Antor kind of liked how others treated you when you were traveling with an Aeon Priest. They were typically more courteous and prices for items seemed to be a bit less. He finished paying the merchant for the rations and headed over to where Father Seren was. He was ready to continue on as there was numenera out there just waiting to be discovered.




OOC: - Antor bought 3 more days worth of rations -6 shins
 

Shayuri

First Post
Echo turned to regard Father Seren with an owlish blink of surprise.

"Hello!" she greeted, with a little awkward gesture that was midway between the beginnings of a hug, and an extended hand for a handshake. Finally she just took the hand back and seemed to pretend she'd never done anything of the sort at all. "What bri...oh, a 'treasure' map, of course."

With a fond shake of her head, she said, "I'm looking for an old city...mostly ruined but some people still live there. It's half buried in glass sand, and has tall mountains nearby...so I'm just checking different places with mountains for now. There's a few others I came this way with too."

She paused, then added, "What kind of treasure?"
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
The merchant smiles a bit when Antor walks over, his fingers tapping against a fine ceramic blade with an increasing pace. "I'm popular today," he mutters to no one in particular. His ears perk up slightly when Father Seren talks quietly to Echo, and his fingers turn into a blur before his wristband squeaks again, and he stops. He waves slightly at his collection of goods. "Step up, and see what's been found. I've got good things here, fine things. Things you might be needing before taking off out of the city, ya?"

The elderly fruit seller, positioned nearby, rolls his eyes extravagantly as he continues to hawk his wares with elaborate and energetic gestures.
 

Tashtego

Explorer
Seregal Chakane, an Intelligent Jack who Explores Dark Places, currently disguised as "Father Seren"

"The greatest treasure, of course," Seregal replies to Echo. "Knowledge! The lost secrets of the ancients! Imagine, if the great age of wonders could be restored to modern civilisation." He scrunches his face up, as if thinking hard and then he smiles again. "Say, my map does lead to a ruined city. Or at least the site of one. Why not come with me? My city could be your city! If not, at least you'll see some spectacular views. I'm sure this will be a relatively straight forward journey; with nothing like that pit of brazen spiders from last time, or the Skarros Labyrinth." He beams again, giving Echo some time to think his proposal over.

Seregal hears the vendor, and then turns, distracted. "I have everything I need, young man," Seregal says, tugging at his pack.

He tugs at his scruffy beard and stops.

Someone is watching him.

Seregal carefully turns around, trying not to break the pleasant, absent-minded demeanour of Father Seren.

His fingers reach into his robes, closing on his short sword.

Then he spies the watcher.

It's another familiar face. Seregal waves, once more relaxing into the Father's comfortable persona.

"Antor!" he calls out. "What are you doing here? How ever are your parents? I do hope that they're keeping well." Seregal points to Echo. "This is Echo, an old adventuring colleague of mine. I'm trying to persuade her to travel with me through the Sheer. I have a map! It might lead to some promising insights. Or at least an interesting journey, at the very least!"
 

Shayuri

First Post
Echo nodded absently at 'Antor,' but her attention was on the salesman behind the rickety counter. On that bracelet.

He's doing something with it, reacting to what we say. Especially to what Father Seren said. I think he's...communicating with someone or something else.

That combined with his uncharacteristic defensiveness about his sources gave Echo an uneasy feeling.

"Let me see the map," she offered, turning a bit so the shopkeeper wouldn't get a glimpse of it as she looked it over.
 

Tashtego

Explorer
Seregal Chakane, an Intelligent Jack who Explores Dark Places, currently disguised as "Father Seren"

Seregal detects Echo's wariness. He smiles. "Of course; but I have a wonderful plan." He hopes that she remembers him well enough to pick up on his intonation. "Let's go to a place where can all catch up, out of this dusty street and chill air, preferably with a bottle of mulled wine at hand!"

He gestures at one of the inns.

His plan is to visit the room where he stayed last night, which had a nice view of a back alley. Then, they'll make a show of entering, order some wine, lock the door and slide down the outside drainpipe.

Or at least that's the idea flitting through Seregal's head.
 
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iamrpgdm

Explorer
"Hello Father Seren," Antor says as he draws closer. "It's good to see you again. My parents are doing well. Father is still stubborn as ever and mother is always after him for this or that. Seems they argue more now that they've stopped traveling. I guess they have to burn energy somehow." A slight laugh escapes his lips. Antor looks at the woman Father Seren pointed to. He sees that she seems to be a bit distracted by the vendor at the moment and turns back to Father Seren. "So, you're heading to unearth some new discoveries? I'd be interested in joining with you if you have need of another companion. I've been around here and there, but haven't quite found anything too astonishing of late and my funds are running a bit low."
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
[Psst, everyone, it's late autumn and darned cold out. It's cloudy and starting to snow lightly. I assure you, there's no hot sun, and very little dust.]

Seregal, you stayed at The Scavenger's Art last night, a delightfully cobbled-together place with a clientele as diverse as its building material. The bartender, a tall, wiry, clever looking fellow with skin like a moonless night and eyes like diamonds in the rough, had welcomed the touch of class an Aeon Priest had brought to his establishment.
 

Tashtego

Explorer
Seregal Chakane, an Intelligent Jack who Explores Dark Places, currently disguised as "Father Seren"

"It would be a pleasure if you would accompany us," Seregal beams at Antor. "Onward, my friends, to the inn! There we can warm up out of this chill and start to make plans." He waves his hands languidly towards Echo and Antor, beckoning them to following him, and heads towards the Scavenger's Art.

There, no doubt, he can persuade the innkeep to let him have the room of his choice for a few shins.

And some mulled wine wouldn't hurt, either.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
The Scavenger's Art is as eclectic inside as out, with no two tables, stools, or chairs built to the same lines, or even of the same material. But the bar is wood. Mostly. The clientele matches the décor, looking like a veritable sideshow of sizes, shapes, colors, and dress. Many are armed, many more are sporting some numenera device or another, and all look some variety of avaricious or dangerous. You can acquire some mulled wine and a relatively quiet alcove without too much difficulty, and just close enough to the bandaged mercenaries to do a bit of eavesdropping, should you feel so inclined. Should you care to stretch your ears, you can hear the following:

"...Not going back. Not having to scratch together a fire every night was pure misery when every misshapen mutant and his bastard aunt decided to come calling," one man is saying, taking a pull on his tankard and slamming it down decisively.

"I would have welcomed that. At least you can scare the abhumans off if you get nasty enough," a woman mutters, her dark hair streaked with dust and snow. She presses a hand to the bandage on her calf and blanches slightly. She grabs for her ale and take a couple of long pulls before going on. "The hounds just wouldn't shut up. Howling like we were disemboweling their kin, and worse when we actually did. Stars of my fathers, they'd have to give me a small fortune to head out again."
 
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Shayuri

First Post
Echo makes her decision and gives the shopkeeper an apologetic nod as she pushes the tubes back. It was not a terrible deal, but her money was very tight right now, and the circumstances too hurried to give it the proper consideration.

"Maybe later," she assures him, "Thanks for your time." Then she follows Father Seren, hurrying her steps a little to avoid being left behind.

At the Scavenger's Art, she seats across from the Father, but doesn't order anything. Instead she just watches him, inscrutably expressionless, as she waits to see this map he's so excited about.
 

Tashtego

Explorer
Seregal Chakane, an Intelligent Jack who Explores Dark Places, currently disguised as "Father Seren"

Seregal holds up the map carefully so while Antor and Echo can see it, no one else can. He keeps his voice low-pitched so it won't carry.

"About a few months ago I was on my rounds between the aldeia when I stopped at the Hospice of Turning Swallow. It's a little out of the way; it's where members of the Order treat the sick, those with rare diseases, often caused by the numenera.

"There was a dying man who wanted to his last words recorded for posterity. Since they were busy, Sister Makhoram asked if I could do it.

"So for a few days I sat by a dying man's beside, and wrote down his last story. His name was Zorak of Redstone. He was a numenera hunter, and his conscience was wracked by something that had happened over twenty years ago.

"He and his expedition had gone to Augur-Kala, at the behest of an Augur, Jastor Kannop, who wanted to explore some ruins. Now the thing was that the Augurs didn't go near these ruins, for reasons known only to them. That was why Jastor was hiring humans to do his dirty work for him. Jastor told Zorak that there was a steel garden at the centre of the city, and that Jastor wanted Zorak to take a green orb from a machine at the centre of the garden. In return, Zorak and his expedition could take whatever they wanted from the city. All they had to do was give the green orb to Jastor.

"So Zorak lead his expedition to the city. He learned that the Augurs called it Iszat Girrem, the Waiting City, or the City Adrift on the Time Tides. It's out of phase; if you go at the wrong time, you'll just see dust and glass and ruins, and if you go at the right time, you'll see a shining city, fresh as the day it was made.

"Zorak's nano, his wife, was the real brains of the mission. He never told me her name. The nano figured out from Jastor's notes how how the expedition could phase into the city when it appeared. There was a clock or something at the city's entrance that she was able to use. So, when the city appeared, the expedition went in. Zorak said that it was the most wonderful thing he'd ever seen – water flowing backwards, beautiful gardens, succulent fruits and delights for everyone. Zorak said that there were Aurgurs in the streets; but they weren't hostile. They were curious, they didn't think their city was ruined at all. Zorak talked about the wondrous machines, the numenera, things he'd never seen before or since.

"But with his mind on the job, Zorak led his team to the garden and pulled out the green orb. Then everything started to go strange. Zorak said that he saw buildings age to dust, and saplings grow into great trees from a single heartbeat. He kept his expedition together and they ran for the entrance to the city. The nano told Zorak to wait for her while she fiddled with the clock and got everyone to safety. Zorak waited, but then he saw one of his other other expedition members panic and run forward before the nano gave the signal. She turned instantly into dust. Zorak lost his nerve and ran, carrying the orb. He saw the nano screaming at him, beating her hands against something like a glass shell in front of her. Zorak ran and lost consciousness. When he woke up, he found that half of his body was aged, like it was an old man, while the other half was smooth and young, like a youth. He tried to go back for his expedition members, but the city was in ruins. He scavenged a handful of cyphers from the ruins, great wonders he said, never had anything like them before or after. Then he took the green orb, smashed it, and never returned to Augur-Kala again. He never met Jastor again.

"But the mission haunted him for the rest of his life. He kept talking about the nano again, and how he should have waited for her. Maybe everything would be all right. He wanted to go back there, but was too sick. The old half his body was dying and while the young half was eternally youthful. He swallowed some poison that would give him a long death, but then I wrote down the history of his expedition. Then he gave the map, and asked me if I could find out what happened to his wife. Said it was her map, with her notes. Then he died. He closed his eyes and that was it."

Seregal is quiet for a few moments, wiping at his eyes.

It's a beautiful story.

Most of it it even true.

He holds up the map. "So, this is the map made by Zorak's wife. She's got notes on it. If I can figure it out, we can get into the Waiting City. At the very least, it might be a good place to find cyphers, or at least." Seregal shrugs. "That's if we can believe the words of a dying man."
 
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