Numenera: Marauder Kingdom

Two Faced

Day 28:

Strolrushi shook the Peers awake after a much needed sleep. Garrus-Dorn and Twarog awoke completely wrapped in bandages and covered in healing ointments. The healer offered the party mugs of gelatinous slime to drink and help accelerate their recovery, much to Twarog’s delight and the dismay of the others.

Having been treated and now well-slept, Strolrushi hurried the Peers out of his home. Thinking no more of their offer to return with them to Nihliesh, the varjellen directed them back to Mayor Ranaan for their reward as thanks for saving Gastera.

Ranaan offered the Peers shins, but was politely refused by Phaenna, who made the point that they came for a healer to help Nihliesh. Feeling indebted to the Peers, Ranaan agreed to try to persuade Strolrushi to join them.

The mayor explained the varjellen was dedicated to start a school of healing and academia, but Gastera didn’t have the resources. The Peers agreed to grant Strolrushi access to funds if he established a school in Nihliesh. Ranaan relayed this to the varjellen, who finally agreed to leave Gastera.

Unable to let the heroes of the aldeia walk away empty handed, Ranaan gave them gifts of cyphers and rations to aid in their future adventures.

The party mounted their esprons and readied to continue their main quest north, to the smugglers’ cove where they’d acquire a boat to Aian.

Keen to see Nihliesh, Strolrushi split from the Peers to venture south to the city. To help him enter the city without trouble, Lumos wrote a letter of introduction for the healer to give to the council. With Strolrushi’s departing, the Peers set their sights forward.

Day 29: Morning

The Peers arrived at their destination, but were surprised to find no settlement. Suspicious, Phaenna searched around the area and found a cliff wall that wasn’t quite what it seemed. Twarog threw a rock at the formation, amazed to see it phase right through and echo on the other side.

Hidden behind a holographic cliff-face was a grotto bustling with smuggler activity. Garrus-Dorn led the party into the cave, where they were welcomed by a woman named Brisca, who had been expecting them.

Brisca helped the Peers load the crates of devilweed onto her steamboat. The party left their espron mounts in the grotto and boarded the vessel, ready for their long voyage on the Sadara River.

Afternoon

On the river, Brisca showed her hospitality and directed the Peers around. She revealed the boat’s steam engine was powered by crystallised marteling whale oil, a costly fuel created by nano traders.

During the tour, a paranoid Lumos saw Brisca’s eyes flash to a reptilian shade. Fearing the smuggler to be more than she seemed, he sneaked away to inspect her private cabin. He found nothing suspicious and began to wonder if he was seeing maddening visions again.

Having had a long day, the Peers were pleased when the sun finally set and they could rest.

Night

Phaenna and Twarog woke, startled by a noise in the storage room. The two crept to the doorway to inspect the situation. A shadow cast on the back wall revealed a serpentine creature devouring the contents of a corner crate.

Using her estoeric knowledge, Phaenna teleported the crate to her and Twarog. A decapitated smuggler’s head stared up at them with a frozen, horrified expression, sat atop a pile of half-eaten limbs and pieces of torso.

Startled by the disappearance of its food, the creature thrashed about in the storage room. Crates fell, waking Lumos who was hushed by Phaenna. The three of them readied their weapons and stormed into the room, only to find Brisca staring at them in equal confusion.

She had heard a noise and came to investigate, same as them. Lumos, whose mind was clouded in suspicion, drew her attention to the crate of dismembered body parts. He raised the lifeless head for all to see and demanded an explanation.

The rest of the party woke to Lumos’s shouting. Brisca stared at the young man with bewilderment. The woken Peers joined Brisca in her confusion, as Lumos held a melon fruit in his hand.

To Lumos’s dismay, the crate was filled with foreign and exotic fruits, not limbs. Twarog and Phaenna inspected the goods, baffled by what they were seeing. Had they dreamed it?

Madness and paranoia crept into Lumos’s mind, drowning his reason in an ocean of noise. Brisca stood before him, her face distorted with human and serpentine features. The Peers watched the Fah priest descend into panic, unaware of the intense fear that gripped him. He drew his crossbow and aimed it at her.

Lumos advised Twarog to block the doorway, separating him and Brisca from the rest of the party. In a moment of trust, Twarog complied and barred the Peers from intervening. The priest aimed his shot at the smuggler, doubt heavy on his shoulders.

He fired. The bolt pierced the wooden wall behind Brisca, passing through her head of dissipating smoke. The smuggler smirked, her illusions melting away. Brisca lamented the quick discovery of her ruse, and Lumos watched in terror as her head split into twin serpents conjoined in the middle, one half covered in brilliant crimson scales, the other smoky and ethereal. Finally she revealed her true form, that of a magathan.

The Peers stared at the monstrosity in horror, suddenly aware they were its main course.

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A Time to Remember

Day 27

Atop a rocky spire, the Peers prepared for an ambush of thousands of chronal feeders. Above them the portal back to Gastera hummed with energy. Phaenna activated a cypher that formed into an air balloon with a gondola compartment capable of holding four people. Her plan was to use the balloon and return through the portal. There was only one problem — the chronal feeders surrounded them.

The Peers attacked, doing all they could to keep the horde at bay as the balloon began to rise. Lumos, Phaenna, Tzefira, and a near dead Twarog were chosen to enter the gondola, while the others kept the feeders distracted.

In the middle of battle, Strolrushi appeared over the side of the plateau mounted on a tamed feeder. Irritated the party followed him, the varjellen used his stronglass artefact to erect a force field around them and reversed time to heal their wounds. The shield gave the balloon enough time to enter the portal, with Lumos, Phaenna, Tzefira, and Twarog returning to Gastera and back into the sights of the chronal mother and her brood.

Phaenna and Tzefira launched a ranged assault on the giant feeder from the air balloon, now nestled against the organic ceiling of Gastera’s digestive tract. Fearing for those still in the other world, Lumos threw a rope down into the portal.

The chronal mother pierced her remaining pincer through the metal gondola, wounding Phaenna and almost killing Twarog. Lumos, who had let the rope slip, quickly caught it. In the other world, Strolrushi’s shield collapsed. Garrus-Dorn, Dahm, Reina, and the varjellen braced themselves against the horde, when they saw Lumos’s rope descend from the sky.

They raced up the rope, with Garrus-Dorn remaining at the bottom to hold off the feeders from following. In a bold move, the lattimor swung onto the rope and threw lit fuse grenades beneath him. The explosions decimated a dozen feeders and set the base of the rope ablaze, preventing the horde from ascending. The Peers and Strolrushi climbed through the portal, arriving in time to see Tzefira’s mind-slicing onslaught end the life of the chronal mother, the giant feeder’s body falling limp.

With their mother dead, the remaining chronal feeders retreated. The energy around the dimensional rift stabilised and Strolrushi retrieved the cause of the disruption without being caught in its wake a second time. With his hand, the varjellen took a ringed device held suspended in the air by time. Despite Gastera’s potent stomach acids, the slurge was unable to digest whatever strange numenera it had devoured.

Fascinated by his find, Strolrushi thanked the Peers for their service and offered them a chance to recover for the night at his home. They accepted.

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Other World

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Day 27: Morning

The Peers unmounted and entered the giant slurge, beckoned in by the mayor Ranaan. Inside dozens of people went about their daily routines, walking up and down a main highway of slime, entering and leaving organic homes and shops. Ranaan directed to the Peers to the end of the highway, where Strolrushi dwelled alone.

In the bowels of Gastera, the Peers met with Strolrushi — a brisk, bad tempered varjellen — who seemed more concerned with Gastera’s health than their proposition to aid Nihliesh. Strolrushi monitored the slurge’s unnatural quivers, believing them to be a symptom of a numenera item he found caught in the slurge’s digestive tract, guarded by insect-like creatures known as chronal feeders. The party agreed to help the healer clear them out and followed him into the darkness of Gastera.

Twarog, too impatient to use the haphazard organic door of Strolrushi’s home, cut through the venom sac walls of the organ house. Venom sprayed over the mutant, burning him significantly as he rushed to help Strolrushi.

Deep within Gastera, the party encountered a nest of chronal feeders guarding a hovering metallic ring that emitted a warped portal.

Strolrushi began work on closing the portal while the Peers dealt with the great number of chronal feeders. Twarog, still affected by acid, grew weaker as the fight continued — his rolls of mutated fat burning off in clumps.

The portal grew to an alarming size, making way for a titanic chronal mother, a blanket of larvae on her back. The Peers distracted the chronal mother as Strolrushi charged into the portal, disappearing.

Dozens more feeders swarmed through the portal, surrounding the party. Overwhelmed, the Peers made way for the portal, hoping to escape the nest of feeders.

Twarog, severely burned and near death, was healed by Lumos and carried by him and his second self into the portal. Garrus-Dorn shouted for the rest of the party to run as he charged the chronal mother with two grenades in hand. Fire coated the titanic feeder as the grenades exploded within her mandibles, knocking Garrus-Dorn prone.

Tzefira helped Garrus to his feet and the two hurried through the portal behind the rest of the Peers. They exited through the other side, appearing in a dark world with a purple, stormy sky and an identical warp portal in the air above. The Peers stood atop a rocky spire, horrified at the sight below — thousands of chronal feeders ascending up the sides.

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Northern Journey

Day 23: Evening

As Phaenna wrestled against Pixx, Lumos and Dahm woke to their own nightmares.

A dead Kareen ripped Lumos from his bed, taunting him and naming him murderer. Lumos fought for control and summoned his second self, who snapped the ghost’s neck. Kareen’s corpse crashed to the floor and evaporated into black smoke, her presence nothing more than mental apparition. The second Lumos whispered a riddle to him:

Sight by mind; touch by tongue; smell by fear. Run, run, run!

In his house, Dahm faced the margr who killed his childhood friend Anat. In his rage, he tore the weapon from the margr’s hand and readied to slay it when the abhuman spoke with a human’s voice, startling him. Black smoke rose off the figure, revealing Kaden.

Meanwhile, Phaenna knocked Pixx to the floor. Pixx cried out to her with tears in her eyes and dry blood around her mouth before vanishing into a similar black smoke as the other visions. The wounds on Phaenna’s cheek also disappearing.

Unsure of what to make of their visions, Dahm, Lumos, and Phaenna individually decided to keep their experiences a secret from the other Peers.

Day 24: Morning

The Peers awoke and went about their daily routines. Lumos, still shaken from the night before, was introduced to Keelin by Reina, while Phaenna and Garrus-Dorn journeyed to the Steel Monger and Mogo’s to have new weapons forged and old ones upgraded.

Choosing to spare Kaden once again, Dahm escorted the would-be-assassin out of Nihliesh. The soldier left, vowing to avenge his comrades.

Afternoon

Yoosha-Ni tracked down the Peers and summoned them to a council meeting in the Grand Spire. There, they confirmed the details of their trade mission to Aian. They would travel north to the Sadara River, where they’d encounter a smugglers’ cove and a ferryman who could take them to the city via boat. Bacchian informed them of an aldeia located in the same route, Gastera, which was rumoured to be home to a renowned healer named Strolrushi. Realising the need for a healer in Nihliesh since the death of Gayv-oreth, the Peers agreed to seek out Strolrushi and set out on their journey.

Day 27: Morning

Mounted on the espron given to them by Dissicaeli, the Peers rode north through the icy desert where they encountered an alarmingly giant slurge. The slug-like creature opened its mouth to reveal an old man with a long, slime covered beard, named Ranaan, who welcomed them to Gastera.

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A New Dawn
Interlude

Day 22

The Peers spent the day recuperating from their wounds.

Day 23: Morning

Captain Henna – accompanied by a cohort of soldiers – woke the Peers and escorted them to the Overlook; Phaenna would meet justice for her crimes, and Twarog and Lumos would be officially named into the Fah hierarchy. Freedmen and loyalists alike stared as the Peers made their way to the Overlook, where Dhaval and the council waited atop a platform.

Phaenna’s punishment was first. She placed her forearm on a wooden block and screamed when Commander Galia Ezrek’s sword took her hand. Medics cauterised her wound and washed the blood off the platform as the council prepared Lumos’s inauguration as High Priest of the Fah.

Mada-liviss, the central figure of the Fahat and former ruler of the First Tier, arrived dressed in her ceremonial regalia. With Ni-chodoss witnessing the event from her throne in the crowd, Mada-liviss spoke the ancient words of Nihliesh’s founders and kissed Lumos’s forehead. Justiciar Isak Hashem draped the holy robes over his son and proclaimed him high priest. But that didn’t conclude the ceremonies.

Twarog was named a brother of the Fahat by Mada-liviss, who proceeded to kiss the mutant on the lips and gifted him with a piece of her crystalline crown as a symbol of patronage. With this, Twarog was the ceremonious ruler of the Third Tier.

Following the ceremonies, the Peers separated and began helping Nihliesh recover from its battle with the Pytharon Empire.

Afternoon

Tzefira and Reina entered the Lower Plaza in the Second Tier to assess the structural damage caused by trebuchet fire, but were halted by grush guards. The Lower Plaza and its surrounding areas were under the authority of Ni-chodoss, as per Dhaval’s agreement. The Peers and the freedmen no longer had free access.

Reina advised Tzefira they should turn back to avoid unnecessary conflict, but the pair were alerted by a commotion behind the sentry line. Tzefira took out her golden whip and charged it with shrieking electricity. The grush withdrew, fearing the powers of the ‘witch’ and allowed them to pass.

In the Lower Plaza, an armoured teenage girl with a cloak emblazoned with the symbol of the Angulan charter raised her sword against a gang of mutants. Reina recognised her as Keelin Unox, a fellow red devotee.

Reina and Tzefira stopped the skirmish and took Keelin back to Freedmen territory.

Elsewhere, Dahm entered the Penitence Tower to find a prisoner of war he’d met on the battlefield among the Golden Commander’s bodyguards. Against the warden’s objections, he freed the Pytharon soldier and agreed to help him survive in Nihliesh as a kind of recompense for the dishonourable slaughter of the Pytharon forces. With no other option, the soldier agreed.

The two entered the blacksmith where they encountered Lumos, who had just come from the Gravitas. Dahm introduced the soldier, who revealed his name to be Kaden. After buying equipment, Dahm and Kaden left to visit Bacchian’s cantina. There they ran into the rest of the Peers drinking and dining, absent Twarog who was bathing in his new Underwatch residence.

The Peers discussed matters of trade with Bacchian. He mentioned an influential tradeswoman in Milave, named Sybil, who expressed interest in their crates of devilweed. The Peers agreed to travel to the city of Aian to meet her and establish a trade agreement.

Evening

During the night, as the Peers slept in their homes, Phaenna awoke bound in her bed. A mysterious figure coated her face in sauces and chewed her cheek. She wriggled free of her bonds and charged the figure, but was thrown backwards.

In the glimmer of glowglobe light, Phaenna recognised the face of her ex-lover, Pixx.

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Cost of War

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Day 20: Evening

The Peers found the Golden Commander to be a swift-footed, skilled warrior. After a lengthy fight, Lumos landed a bolt through the commander’s throat — forcing him to choke and die on his own blood.

With their commander dead, the enemy legion routed. Night fell over the land and the Pytharon forces withdrew. Nihliesh had survived a day of siege at great loss — and there were more days to come.

Dhaval and the council met with the Peers and Commander Galia Ezrek at the war camp to discuss battle tactics. Justiciar Isak Hashem suggested turning prisoners into a militia to act as cannon fodder to spare their legions the brunt of the Pytharon artillery. Yoosha Ni suggested assassinating the Pytharon general, Lord Myallatur, bypassing the army entirely. The Peers agreed and Galia suggested Khorev — Gayv-oreth’s assassin — be sent to do the deed in exchange for his life and freedom.

To increase Khorev’s chances of success, the Peers and council approved of Ni-chodoss hiring skilled assassins to aid him — a cost the council would be indebted to.

In the night, Khorev and his team of assassins infiltrated the Pytharon camp and killed Myallatur.

Day 21: Morning

As the sun rose, the Pytharon camp woke in panic and retreated en masse. One of the assassins were slain in the chaos, but Khorev escaped with Myallatur’s corpse in tow as proof of his success.

The Pytharon legions raised white banners and marched north to the border. Isak advised raining trebuchet and ballistae missiles on them to maximise enemy casualties. Dhaval reluctantly agreed; a decision that divided the Peers.

Artillery fire tore through the withdrawing legions. Soldiers routed and scattered across the Cold Desert, leaving hundreds of their fallen comrades behind. Dhaval ordered the dead men buried and made preparations for Myallatur’s body to be preserved and sent to Empress Challadien III in Pytharon, out of respect.

Nihliesh had won…

…For now.

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Grush at the Gate

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Day 20: Afternoon

The grush stormed the gate with a unit of soldiers and archers to reinforce them. Reina defended the gate, and Twarog, Phaenna, and Dahm flanked the enemies from behind. Garrus-Dorn and Tzefira found their way to the ground and joined Lumos in aiding Reina with archery fire.

The Peers fought hard and defeated the enemy assault unit with the support of Captain Firdos and his Blackbird archers. Reina took hold of the Thunder Cannon artefact, and with the help of Lumos, rushed to the forward line to use it against the enemy.

At the head of the legion, Captain Umar clashed with the enemy commander — a man clad in gold scaled armour and wielding a staff that spewed fire. Umar’s fur cloak caught alight, flames burning his face and arm. Fatally wounded, the captain was dragged to safety by his men while the Peers fought to keep the line.

Siege missiles rained down on Nihliesh, destroying portions of the Second Tier and knocking Dhaval’s mounted trebuchet off the side of the Third Tier, sending it plummeting to the battlefield and triggering unstable incendiary powders.

The trebuchet hit the ground with an explosion. Dahm, Tzefira, and Garrus-Dorn leapt in time to avoid the impact, but the others Peers were not as fast. The trio fought through fire and rescued their comrades and the Thunder Cannon, though Reina’s burns were severe.

They were being overwhelmed. The Peers fell back with Umar’s legion to the metal palisade. Captain Henna charged with her spear unit to allow Umar’s men time to recover.

The Peers recuperated in the safety of the palisade, where they were met by Commander Galia Ezrek, and her reinforcements. After learning the status of Umar, Galia took command of the Earthshaker Sons and led a second assault alongside Henna’s Snow Quebs.

Reina, too injured to fight, remained at base to be treated by the crude battle medics.

Galia and the Peers took point with the vanguard, smashing into the enemy legion — whose strength and numbers were waning. They again came upon the Golden Commander and his circle of guard.

Keen to avenge Umar, the Peers charged.

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The Siege of Nihliesh

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Day 15: Morning

Rrogan brought the Peers to Gislen’s laboratory, a dank room that stunk of blood and rotten flesh. Torture tools lined the walls and metal cages occupied corners. At the back of the room stood Gislen, a dark figure clad in cloth and armour, his head covered in the steel regalia of the Challifani priests of Lhauric. Behind him rested a mutilated man on a wooden table, his chest cavity torn open and his heart missing — replaced by a ticking numenera device. The Peers recognised the man on the table as one of Nihliesh’s scouts, who’d been reported missing.

Gislen treated the party’s wounds, using wire and boiled vinegar to sow them shut. Any infected flesh was devoured by metal maggot-like creatures the priest kept in a vial. As Rrogan left to escort the Peers back to Dissicaeli, he was offered a preserved human leg by Gislen as ‘snack’, which the grey captain accepted.

Dissicaeli’s hall was barren when the Peers returned, except for a nobleman named Telric, and the Grey Queen herself. Dissicaeli proceeded to interrogate the party, learning who they were and what their purpose was. With this information, Telric advised she kill them and march the Grey Legion onto Nihliesh and the Pytharon army both.

Before deciding the Peers’ fate, Dissicaeli recounted her past life. She was born a slave to a powerful lord in the Pytharon Empire. At a young age Dissicaeli was abused and raped, until she fell pregnant with the lord’s bastard child. Rather than live a wretched life, she used a kitchen knife to cut open her stomach, intent on killing her and the baby. She was found by servants and saved by the lord, who admired her resolve. Dissicaeli’s stomach was sown together and healed, and when her health was restored the lord sold her to the Sisters of Iron — a cult of warrior women.

In their monastery she suffered tenfold what she had in Pytharon, yet she grew strong. Using ancient methods and the numenera, the Sisters augmented Dissicaeli’s body, turning her bones to black steel and giving her reflexes beyond any ordinary human. In time she became the fastest, strongest, and most ambitious among the Sisters, craving power in the form of numenera. Her Sisters did not share her goals, and so she killed them all to prevent rivals. Her reputation grew and flocks of brigands, outcasts, and renown warriors joined her. Together, the so-called ‘Grey Legion’ ventured across the fringes of the Beyond, growing in number each day until they returned to where it all began to finish what was started many years ago.

Convinced the Peers would lead Nihliesh to victory against the Pytharon army and weaken the empire’s expansion campaign, Dissicaeli set them free. She provided them espron mounts and the resources they needed for siege weapons — an expensive gift, as noted by Telric. In response, the Grey Queen replied, ’What’s eight-hundred shins, to the worth of an empire?’.

Day 18: Morning

The Peers arrived ahead of the siege and delivered the resources to Dhaval, who informed them he sent a sortie of twenty to rescue them, though it was against the advice of Justiciar Isak Hashem. The sortie had yet to report back and seemed to have deserted Nihliesh.

During the preparation for battle, the Peers were introduced to the captains of Nihliesh’s army: Henna, Umar, and Firdos. Commander Galia Ezrek oversaw the defence constructions beneath the city, including a metal palisade that guarded the ground lift — a vital access point into the First Tier. Sentry towers were built from churn, and trebuchets constructed across the Third Tier.

Afternoon

To help the days pass quickly and right some of their wrongs, the Peers returned to the alleys of the Second Tier’s Lower Plaza and exterminated the remaining broken hound threat, appeasing the local residents. After which, they returned to Mayim’s Bathhouse and enjoyed the last of the peace.

Day 20: Afternoon

Twarog, Phaenna, and Dahm joined the vanguard under Umar; Reina led the defence of the palisade with Henna; and Lumos, Garrus-Dorn, and Tzefira stood with Firdos and their fellow archers.

The Pytharon army arrived in formation, breaking off into five legions of 400 soldiers who surrounded the palisade beneath Nihliesh. The Peers stood in their designated positions and listened to the battle horns.

The armies clashed, with arrows and siege missiles raining down on both sides. From the Overlook, Dhaval and Commander Galia Ezrek signalled commands and watched as Captain Umar led the charge on the ground, breaking into the enemy legion at the palisade gate.

Ballistae missiles showered Nihliesh, destroying the scaffolding beneath Garrus-Dorn, Tzefira, and Lumos. Dorn and Tzefira took hold of a ledge on one of the city’s ‘legs’, finding safety. Lumos fell, though was caught by his second self on the ground.

At the palisade gate, enemy shock troopers — two grush holding a Thunder Cannon — pushed forward and broke part of the vanguard’s formation. Reina met the foe at the gate, followed by Dahm, Phaenna, and Twarog who turned back to aid her, knowing if the gate fell, their first line of defence would fall with it.

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The Grey Queen

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Day 14: Evening

The Peers charged the armoured titan, attacking from all sides with every ounce of strength they could summon…

…They left hardly a scratch on him. Phaenna and Garrus devised a plan to use a cypher to trap the monstrous warrior in a void, but he was too strong and too fast. The titan wrestled free of Garrus’s hold and slammed his greatsword at Phaenna, shattering her kite shield to pieces and tearing his blade into flesh and bone. Twarog moved swift-footedly to reinforce his comrade, though the titan’s blade caught him fast in his side, slicing through fat like a hot knife through butter.

The titan was winning, and they needed a plan.

Realising he was still fighting against the magnetic repellent Twarog’s blood was emitting, the Peers threw all the metal they had, coating the titan in metal tools, melted batteries, and oddities to weaken his resistance. Slow and distracted, the warrior was overwhelmed by the Peers.

Phaenna returned her wound in kind, stabbing her Needle sword into the titan’s eye. Dahm and Reina pressed upon him, wounding him in both his shoulders. Lumos and Garrus rained bolts, distracting him long enough for Dahm to thrust his blade deep into his sinewy thigh. Blood sprayed out, coating Dahm in the colour he was infamous for: crimson.

The titan’s body shook and a bellow of laughter came. He raised his greatsword and cast a shadow over Dahm, placing the sword on his back and tying it in place with chains. He commended their fighting spirit and decided against killing them…for now. Instead he would take them to the Grey Queen — who was in need of capable warriors — on the condition that the Peers forfeited their cache to him.

Knowing they were still outnumbered and too injured to continue fighting, the Peers agreed and asked the name of the man they were surrendering to. Meanwhile, Lumos secretly activated a cypher, sending a message to warn Dhaval of their situation.

The titan Introduced himself as Rrogan taij Aman of the Undying Tribe, a captain of the Grey Legion. He was assigned to overseer the margrs’ operations to supply the legion with all they needed. With introductions out of the way, he tied the Peers with metal wire and led them to the Grey Queen.

Day 15: Morning

After riding all night on espron mounts they arrived at the Husk, a mobile fortress with powerful anti-gravity engines. Clearly numenera in origin, the guts of the Husk was stuffed with built-in apartments of wood and metal, standing 150 feet high with fourteen storeys. Atop its domed shell was mounted ballistae and archers. Surrounding the fortress was a war camp consisting of thousands of brigands and armoured warriors — the Grey Legion.

Rrogan’s party was met by a sortie of riders heading to the great Southern Wall, led by a young, auburn-haired woman named Euanthe. The two shared friendly banter, the woman noting the titan’s extensive wounds and supposed abilities of the Peers. She wished them luck as she rode away.

Inside the Husk, the Peers were brought to an enormous hall packed with hundreds of men, women, and visitants from all regions of the Beyond and the Steadfast. Smoke of various burning weeds and plants choked the air; the pungent smell of strong wine that resembled clotted blood intruded their noses; brawls ignited across the tables, and orgies occupied all corners of the room. Worn and blood-stained banners displayed the emblems of various kingdoms, cities, and orders that made up the bastard legion.

The Peers were brought to the back of the hall, where a dark-skinned woman occupied an ugly throne made of poorly melted metals and encrusted with hundreds of gems. Before her were two brawlers; a muscled lattimor with horns and a spike for one hand, and a barbaric grush. The lattimor brought a quick and brutal end to the fight, bashing his giant fist into the abhuman’s face until his skull broke and collapsed to mush. The victor shouted to the hundreds in the hall, demanding another challenger for Gravish-Morel, the Pirate King of Ingwald. Rrogan and others stepped forth to meet the challenge, but it was the woman, the Grey Queen herself, he faced.

The brute strength and size of Gravish-Morel did not serve him as well against the faster, more skilled queen. Her movements were blurs, her strikes fast and piercing as if her very bones were steel. Gravish-Morel crumbled against her calculated hits. Skin tore from her knuckles, yet still the strikes came quick as the flutter of hummingbird wings.

His ribs broken and the air knocked out of him, the lattimor yielded and laughed off his defeat. With the champion crowned, the queen turned to Rrogan and confronted the Peers.

Her name was Dissicaeli, and she demanded to know why she shouldn’t kill them for their attack on the margrs and one of her captains. When Reina pointed out that the cache Rrogan stole was theirs, Dissicaeli corrected her by saying it was now hers. Lumos interjected, arguing they were more useful to her as allies than the margrs.

Dissicaeli studied the boy with eyes black as volcanic glass, and ordered Rrogan to take them to a man named Gislen to patch-up their wounds.

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Big Storm Comin'

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Day 8: Morning

The Peers were arrested and dragged to the Penitence Tower, where they’d await a trial. Dhaval ordered the city watch to find the other Lumos, who would face quicker judgement for the twelve deaths he caused, including Kareen’s.

Inside their cells, the Peers took the time to discuss Phaenna’s secret nano abilities and Lumos’s falsified mutant status. As the sun sank over the city, they wondered what other secrets still hung between them.

Day 9: Morning

A smug sergeant woke the Peers and was happy to report the real Lumos was in custody and sentenced to be executed. The sergeant and his retinue of guards escorted the Peers in shackles to the High Chamber, where they met Dhaval and Bacchian; joined by Galia Ezrek, Commander of the Army; and Yoosha Ni, the emissary of Ni-chodoss. The sergeant was surprised to see Lumos in the room, standing beside a nobleman with an intimidating gaze.

Isak Hashem, revealed to be the second wealthiest person in Nihliesh — and Lumos’s father — dismissed the guards. The lord remarked their services were no longer needed and demanded the sergeant’s resignation by dusk. Dhaval detailed the conditions of the Peers’ parole before releasing their shackles.

Dumbfounded, the Peers asked what was happening.

Galia Ezrek revealed a large army from the Pytharon Empire was sighted crossing the Sadara River to conquer Nihliesh, likely taking advantage of their weakened state. The force would arrive in eleven days.

To create stability and consolidate the city’s resources to mount a defence, Dhaval spoke with the most powerful figures in Nihliesh and established an agreement that benefited all parties. In exchange for financial and political support, Ni-chodoss would be granted authority over the Second Tier’s Lower Plaza and surrounding districts.

Isak provided 10,000 shins to the republic as well as a hundred of his elite household guard to replace the corrupt city watchmen, who’d be reassigned to the army to bolster its numbers. He was named Justiciar of Nihliesh in return, and his son Lumos was freed and promoted within the Fah priesthood to fill the vacant position of high priest, with the backing of Ni-chodoss. To balance the scales of power, Dhaval recommended Twarog take Gayv-oreth’s position among the Fahat, as a means to breach the gap between the Fahat loyalists and the free republic.

Finally, the Black Shack would be demolished and in its place a statue of Kareen erected. Plans were in motion to name the girl a martyr of Nihliesh.

The Peers realised Dhaval’s urgency to save the city, astounded all this had been decided before they left their cells. They agreed to help defend Nihliesh, though Dhaval reminded them that this would not erase their crimes and they would be punished in time. The Peers took note of the warning and the chamber began planning for war.

Commander Ezrek recommended building artillery, mainly ballistae and trebuchets, though it required a great amount of wood — a scarce resource in the Cold Desert. Bacchian reported a caravan from Guran, loaded with the supplies they needed, was due to arrive five days ago. Ezrek’s scouts in the area had also vanished. The Peers agreed to find the missing caravan and were reminded by Dhaval that time was of the essence.

Day 14: Afternoon

After five days of trudging through ice and enduring howling winds, the Peers found the caravan looted. Bodies of merchants littered the area, most stripped and some half-eaten by the giant carrion birds. Phaenna took notice of the hoof tracks, identifying them as margr prints.

Tzefira, Dahm, and Reina searched for survivors while Garrus, Twarog, and Lumos checked crates. A man lying in a pool of crystallised blood called out to Tzefira for water. Badly injured, he spoke of a margr tribe — the largest he’d ever seen — and how its chieftain split him open with his warhammer. The tribe had taken everything before leaving them to die in the cold. Hallucinating, the man mistook Tzefira for his daughter, Sara, and apologised to her as he wept. The tears froze on his face and his eyes glazed over.

The Peers burnt the bodies of the dead and pursued the margr tribe.

Day 14: Evening

In the husk of a burnt down aldeia, among black huts and scorched fencing, the Peers found the margrs around a campfire, surrounded by stacked wood, metal, and other stolen material. They sneaked close, counting twelve warriors and a chieftain.

Garrus used his hover belt to fly over the camp, dropping a smoke bomb that turned the margrs into humanoid plants. He fired an incendiary bolt and spread the smoke across the camp, paralysing all but the chieftain.

As the chieftain watched his men grow sprouts and roots, the Peers charged and ambushed him. Phaenna fired a dart that shot radiation into the giant margr, weakening him. He fought fiercely, snapping Reina’s spear and throwing her hard to the ground. Tzefira’s lightning onslaughts and Garrus’s bolts pushed the beast back long enough for him to succumb to the radiation poisoning. He fell forward, dead.

Before the Peers could sigh in relief, a group of twenty brigand riders approached, led by a monstrous warrior in bone plate and mounted atop a frilled baul. Garrus used one of his cyphers on Twarog, granting him the ability to repel metal in a large radius equal to his enormous weight. The magnetic field halted the brigands, though their leader muscled through until he reached the Peers.

The warrior dismounted and towered over the party, standing half-beast and half-titan at eleven feet tall. He mocked their efforts against the margr and removed his greatsword from behind his back, the heavy blade of bone easily capable of cleaving a man in half. As the Peers looked on, the warrior gave them a choice: stay and die fast, or run and die slow.

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