Numenera: Marauder Kingdom

A Broken City
Part I

Day 1: Morning

The Peers were summoned to the Grand Spire by Dhaval, leader of the freedmen and the Nihliesh Republic. Sat around the ancient council table of the High Chamber, the Peers were informed of a crisis: the First Tier’s machinery was malfunctioning and ready to explode.

Nihliesh’s structural integrity and economy were threatened. The First Tier’s machines produced the city’s main export, an orange-brown substance called ‘churn’, which could be formed into any shape and dried to become strong as stone. The destruction of the machines would bring an end to churn production, and severely damage the city.

Dhaval assigned the Peers to address the problem and advised they speak with the First Tier’s chief operator.

The Peers were introduced to Chief Operator Kizzie, the one who first noticed the machines were malfunctioning and shutdown the area. Kizzie suggested the Peers find a hermit salvager named Rafal, who was likely to have the replacement part needed to repair the machinery. Rafal’s last known location was a two-day walk south-east of Nihliesh, in the cold wastes of the Matheunis Desert.

Before undergoing their trek, the Peers visited Mogo the Merchant for supplies, a devilweed-smoking mutant of the Second Tier. In order to afford all they needed, Phaenna and Reina made separate deals with him. As they left, the merchant reminded Reina that owing him was a dangerous game. With everything they needed, the Peers set off to find Rafal.

Day 1: Night

After a full day of travelling, the Peers made camp as the sun sank beneath the horizon. In the darkness, Phaenna heard a guttural noise similar to bleating and alerted the others. The rest of the camp awoke as a band of abhuman margr ambushed them.

The Peers fought and killed the margr leader, causing the other assailants to retreat…for now.

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A Broken City
Part II

Day 2: Morning

After a night’s sleep, the Peers continued south-east through wind and snow. In the distance, a bloody man in white furs ran towards them, screaming before vanishing into the sky. The young jack, Lumos, heard the terrible sound of wings beating in his head. Horrified, he shouted for the others to run and dashed ahead of them. Before they could react, a monstrous black carrion bird swept through the air and caught the nano, Tzefira, in its talons.

Garrus-Dorn turned and fired his cranked crossbow at the beast, clipping its wing. Injured, the bird dropped Tzefira to the ground and wildly thrashed its talons at the Peers. The comrades overwhelmed the beast and the Angulan Knight, Reina, felled the creature with her spear. Not wanting to let the meat go to waste, the mutant Twarog set his hooks into the dead bird and dragged it behind the group as they struggled to catch up to Lumos.

The Peers found the boy standing in front of a shanty built of mismatched metals with a leaning watchtower — Rafal’s home.

A heavy bolted door kept the house secure, prompting the Peers to knock first. They were surprised when a disassembler answered, greeting them in an unknown language of clicks and tones. Using his array of knowledge, Lumos was able to familiarise himself with the mechanical lifeform’s speech, prompting it to let them inside.

When asked about Rafal, the disassembler directed the Peers to a door that led to his workshop, warning them repeatedly that its master was not to be disturbed. Ignoring the warnings, Lumos devised a plan to infiltrate Rafal’s workshop without alerting the disassembler.

Much to the surprise of the other Peers, a second, naked Lumos with dark hair materialised outside of the machine’s vision. With the help of a light-footed Twarog, the dark haired Lumos sneaked into the workshop and discovered the corpse of Rafal at his workbench, with half his skull cleanly cut off. Meanwhile, the Peers watched as the disassembler showed apparent signs of instability.

Inside the workshop, the second Lumos searched through piles of salvaged parts to find the one the Peers needed to repair Nihliesh’s machinery. He eventually found the part, along with an old cloak to dress himself in, and a strange metal rod that made him sneeze when he held it. The noise alerted the disassembler, triggering it to attack the Peers.

Despite destroying Phaenna’s weapons and wounding Tzefira, the disassembler was defeated. Twarog’s hooks slashed into its wiring, dismantling it permanently.

Realising time was dwindling for Nihliesh, the Peers took the few valuable cyphers and oddities they could find in Rafal’s workshop and headed back to the city.

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Home on the Rise
Interlude

Day 5: Morning

The Peers arrived at Nihliesh with the replacement part in time for Kizzie to repair the machinery. The churn pumps were restored, saving the city from catastrophe. The group reported the news to Dhaval, who awarded them before introducing his new chief clerk, Jalessa Orli. She, Dhaval informed, would manage the Peers’ new residences in the 2nd Tier.

Jalessa escorted the Peers to their homes and suggested they visit Mayim’s Bathhouse to wash off the four days of filth they’d accumulated, offering to install baths into their houses once they had the shins to pay for it. The Peers took up her advice and trailed over to the public baths.

The group were welcomed by Mayim the bathkeeper, a fat man dressed in orange silks, who guided them into his great establishment. The party undressed and handed their belongings to the servants, splitting up to enjoy the baths of their choosing.

In the male-only pool, Dahm questioned Lumos about his dark-haired doppelganger. The young jack panicked, screaming to his reflection in the water. When the boy finally calmed, Dahm noticed his turquoise hair had faded in the bath steam. Meanwhile, fresh out of the shared pool, Garrus-Dorn returned to the clothing room to discover his crank crossbow was stolen. After intimidating the head servant, he learnt the thief was employed by Ni-chodoss — Fahat, and former ruler of the 2nd Tier. Enraged, Garrus ventured to find his comrades before confronting the mutant.

Garrus entered the exotic pleasure baths, where Twarog and Phaenna were served by accommodating servants and sex-sellers. Clean and satisfied, the two left with Garrus and found the others. Mayim directed them to Ni-chodoss’s estate in the Lower Plaza and bid them farewell.

Afternoon

In the Lower Plaza, the Peers made a trip to Mogo’s. Reina paid her debt to the merchant, and Lumos purchased dyes — a curious act noticed by Dahm. The jack asked Mogo if he knew any rumours regarding Ni-chodoss. The merchant revealed that a valuable item of hers was stolen recently. Their business done, the Peers left Mogo’s and made their way to Ni-chodoss’s.

The mutant’s estate was the largest in the entire tier, its grand exterior dominating the Lower Plaza. The Peers approached its fortified entrance guarded by two grush. Garrus intimidated the abhumans into granting them access.

The party entered a dim-lit hall that led directly to a chamber clouded by devilweed smoke, where they were greeted by a jester with two faces. A pool of red wine encircled a dais of cushions at the heart of the chamber. There, exotic men, women, and abhumans covered in intricate tattoos and piercings gathered around to serve food and drink to a blind, serpentine woman with no arms and six breasts — Ni-chodoss.

Ni-chodoss welcomed the Peers to her hall, naming their intrusion a ‘dubious pleasure’. Garrus began to explain the reason for their visit, but was cutoff by the mutant, who was already aware of their situation. She informed them of a thief in her service, Kareen, who went rogue and stole a strongbox with a precious item of hers inside. The mutant confirmed that Garrus’s thief and her thief were one in the same. Ni-chodoss agreed to divulge the whereabouts of Kareen and some other piece of good information, in exchange for retrieving her strongbox. The Peers agreed and took to the alleys.

Evening

The Peers were attacked by a pack of broken hounds in the dark streets surrounding the Lower Plaza. The viscous skull-headed creatures circled and mauled Lumos. The jack was saved by Dahm, who aided the others in killing the beasts. The remaining hounds retreated. In the shadows, Phaenna spotted a figure watching.

Phaenna and Garrus pursued the figure, snaking through alleys after them. Phaenna reached the person first, knocking them to the ground for Garrus to pin down. The figure, a young girl with feline features, was carrying a bag full of stolen items, including Garrus’s crossbow and Ni-chodoss’s strongbox. Having captured Kareen, the Peers chose to rest for the night at their homes in The Peerage.

In the night, Lumos grew sickly from his wounds.

Day 6: Morning

The Peers returned to Ni-chodoss with her strongbox, and Kareen. The mutant thanked them for their assistance and revealed the contents of the box to be a rare devilweed pipe. Wanting to protect Kareen from any retribution Ni-chodoss might inflict, the Peers agreed to take her into their services. Before leaving, Phaenna insisted the Fahat tell them the ‘piece of good information’ she promised, hoping it regarded her former lover, Pixx. Ni-chodoss complied, and gifted them with a valuable bit of knowledge: Never steal from Ni-chodoss. The entire hall boomed with laughter as the Peers took their leave from the smoky den.

Outside, as the group discussed placing Kareen under Dhaval’s protection, Lumos fell into a hallucination. He saw the streets filled with panic and uproar, people shouting for blood. The jack collapsed, unresponsive to the Peers’ cries.

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Three Serpents

Day 6: Morning

The Peers brought a comatose Lumos to the High Chamber, where they met Dhaval and Bacchian Shir, owner of the Madya Cantina. Bacchian examined the jack, who suffered from the Broken Sickness; a disease common among broken hounds. Bacchian advised they visit Gayv-oreth, Fahat of the First Tier, to cure his ailment.

Twarog carried the sickly jack to the First Tier with the others in tow, while Garrus-Dorn lugged crates of food provided by Bacchian, hoping to please Gayv-oreth with the gift. They entered the Underwatch, home of the mutant.

The Peers were welcomed by the sight of an obscenely obese man covered in oozing pustules, bathing in a churn-cast spa with servants attending him. The mutant welcomed them, happy to see his food. Twarog presented Lumos to Gayv-oreth and asked for his help in curing him. Proving to be kind and compassionate, he accepted their request and feed Lumos healing elixir excreted from his pustules.

Lumos awoke, dazed but alive. As the thankful Peers made their way out of the Underwatch, Gayv-oreth invited them to return whenever they were in need.

Afternoon

In the lobby of the Grand Spire, the Peers encountered Jalessa Orli attempting to appease a beggar, who had once been a well-treated slave before the rebellion took his master. Phaenna gave the man shins to feed his family, giving Jalessa time to listen to the Peers’ request to find their captured thief, Kareen, a job in Dhaval’s service. The chief clerk agreed to make her the Peers’ private courier.

An alarm suddenly rang throughout the city, triggered by the death of Gayv-oreth. Dhaval assembled the Peers to the High Chamber, admitting they were the last to see the mutant alive, making them suspects. While he ran his own investigation, he warned the Peers not to leave Nihliesh.

The Peers split and set out to investigate on their own. Phaenna, Tzefira, and Dahm inspected the Underwatch for clues; Twarog and Lumos visited Bacchian at the Madya Cantina, suspecting the food he provided was poisoned; while Garrus and Reina spoke with Ni-chodoss.

In the Underwatch, Dahm spotted an image of a three-headed serpent branded inside one of Bacchian’s food crates. Phaenna recognised it as the emblem of the Three Serpents, a Fahat legion that was destroyed during Dhaval’s uprising. Its commander, Khorev, retreated to the Second Tier underworld, operating from a crime den called the Black Shack. Dahm, Phaenna, and Tzefira resolved to find him.

Two guards stopped them on their way out of the crime scene and threatened to blackmail them unless they were paid to keep silent. Phaenna seduced the guards the brought them back into the Underwatch, where she attacked them and warned them to stay quiet.

At the Madya Cantina, Lumos’s questioning offended Bacchian, who didn’t take kindly to being treated as a suspect. His offence turned to anger after Lumos accidentally knocked over fifty shins worth of food crates. Twarog proceeded to inspect the broken crates, discovering a brand identical to the one Phaenna discovered. After Twarog paid for the ruined food, Bacchian explained he bought the crates from a supplier named Avarra. Twarog and Lumos spoke with Avarra, who admitted she supplied Bacchian with poisoned food after Khorev threatened to kill her. Hearing this, they headed to the Black Shack to confront the criminal.

Meanwhile, Garrus and Reina talked with Ni-chodoss. The mutant swore to have had no part in Gayv-oreth’s death, though knew who was responsible. Before she told the Peers what they wanted to know, she requested they do her a favour first. Her rival, Khorev, was undermining her operations and needed him ‘out of the way’. Understanding their task, Garrus and Reina travelled to the Black Shack, unaware that their companions were in tow.

Evening

Garrus and Reina arrived at the Black Shack and demanded to see Khorev. The doorkeeper lured them inside, where they were ambushed by Khorev and his men.

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King of Nihliesh

Day 6: Evening

Despite being surrounded by mercenaries, Reina and Garrus persuaded Khorev to let them continue their investigation elsewhere. However, their exit was interrupted by two of Khorev’s henchmen, who had captured Kareen en route to warn them of the Three Serpent’s involvement in Gayv-oreth’s assassination.

Garrus and Reina were pinned in the Black Shack’s dark alley by the mercenaries, unable to act as Khorev beat Kareen for information. The girl revealed the Peers had discovered his crimes, but falsely told him Reina and Garrus’s comrades were away in the First Tier, still investigating.

Around the corner of the alley, the other Peers listened to Khorev’s brutal interrogation, trying desperately to think of a plan. Twarog stumbled forward preparing to improvise, alerting the mercenaries.

Unable to withstand the tension, madness gripped Lumos. Tzefira, Dahm, and Phaenna watched in horror as the jack threw a numenera device down the alleyway, unleashing an explosive singularity of immense gravitational force.

The mercenaries and the Peers were caught in the singularity, none able to escape its pull. When they awoke at the epicenter of the destruction, the impaired Peers discovered several had been caught in the eruption. Khorev crawled free from the bodies of his men. Corpses of mercenaries and homeless alley-folk littered the street, among them Kareen.

Realising the extent of the carnage he’d caused, Lumos snapped. His body flickered out of phase, his abilities somehow altered by the singularity. The city watch arrived in time for Khorev to lay blame on Lumos, before the jack vanished out of reality.

After taking time to recover, the remaining Peers convinced the guards to keep out of their way while they interrogated Khorev. Under duress, the Three Serpent’s leader admitted to poisoning Gayv-oreth’s food, but insisted he didn’t orchestrate the mutant’s assassination. He served Fah-orez, High Priest of the Fah. With this knowledge, the Peers delivered Khorev to the city watch and returned to Ni-chodoss.

The mutant expressed her delight at Khorev’s fall, commenting that the Peers’ way of doings things was amusing, as they managed to kill everyone but the man she wanted dead — yet derailed his operations nevertheless. Ni-chodoss rewarded them with information confirming Fah-orez had Gayv-oreth assassinated. The high priest had been silently at war with the Fahat, using the Three Serpents as his proxy. He killed Gayv-oreth in a bid to take his place as a member of the Fahat, so he could usurp them and become king of Nihliesh. Ni-chodoss warned the Peers to approach him carefully, for in his paranoia he had increased his security.

As the Peers left to sleep, Tzefira remained to ask Ni-chodoss if she was aware of any slavers who might have gone underground, hoping to get information that would lead to her lost enslaved siblings, Niva and Dror. The mutant gave her a name — Dvorah.

Day 7

Still dealing with the emotions of the night before, the Peers took a day to mourn Kareen and reflect. Unable to sleep, Phaenna trained and Garrus-Dorn crafted incendiary bolts. Dahm drank with Twarog at the Madya Cantina, hoping to forget their concerns for Lumos, who remained missing. Tzefira investigated the tiers in search of Dvorah, discovering the slaver had fled to the city of Aian in Milave after the Slave Rebellion.

Day 8: Morning

Dahm awoke in a haze, somehow feeling drawn to Lumos’s house. He entered the building, finding a naked, dark haired Lumos muttering to himself. The other Peers gathered in the house and attempted to snap the jack out of his catatonia. With no other option, Twarog carried the boy to the Black Shack alleyway to confront his actions. Unable to run from his memories, Lumos broke into tears as his comrades contemplated their next move. Realising Fah-orez had ruined them and threatened to undermine everything the republic had worked for, the Peers set out to confront the high priest at the Gravitas.

The Peers entered the chamber of the high priest, where they found Fah-orez mounted on a hovering golden throne with a numenera crown atop his head. The priest showed signs of advanced mutation, possessing tentacled limbs and gelatinous milky skin. Tzefira attempted to push Fah-orez into confessing his crimes, but the mutant proved cunning and twisted her accusations back onto the Peers. The discussion ended when Fah-orez summoned his guards in ‘self-defence’.

The guards were quickly killed, prompting Fah-orez to release gazers from a hatch in the back of his throne apparatus. As the Peers destroyed the flying machines, the priest utilised his throne’s blast cannons against the party. In the confusion, Phaenna unleashed a physical onslaught of esoteric energy at the priest, revealing she was a nano (much to the surprise of her comrades).

Fah-orez targetted Tzefira and Phaenna, believing their esoteric abilities to be heresy against the Fah. To defend his comrades, Garrus fired an incendiary bolt, which struck the priest and caused his throne to malfunction. The device exploded, electrocuting the mutant. The high priest cried out for help as his membranous skin melted. Dahm and Tzefira hurried to save him, but were unable to prevent his death.

After investigating Fah-orez’s throne and finding a key, the Peers broke into his bedchamber and uncovered a letter written by Khorev, connecting the priest to the assassination of Gayv-oreth. With all the evidence they could salvage, the Peers decided to bring their findings to Dhaval. Before speaking to their leader however, the party concocted a plan to save Lumos from the possibility of execution for his crime at the Black Shack. Lumos materialised his second self, who the Peers bound and escorted to Dhaval under the pretense of bringing him in for justice.

The party met Dhaval in the High Chamber, but before they could conduct their ruse, Tzefira blurted out the truthful events of the past three days.

Dhaval stared at his companions with a stern face, clear in his judgement.

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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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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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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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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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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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