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NUMENERA: A WORLD OUT OF TIME TALE "THE BLACKENING"

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There area billion stories in the Ninth World and it is easy to lose track of them one such lost tale is Firanis and the Workshop of the Telescopes. A tale both old and new it told of one of Firanis Flux's wild adventures of how she met Large Gord another famous wanderer, of how they encountered The Nox, one of the last of it's kind and how the Nox helped them to infiltrate the wicked City of Workshops. How Firanis and her companions became involved with the Cult of the Flaming Telepaths and how they fought their way through the Evil Priests that could turn a mans brain into a torch with mere thought. How they climbed the fabled Tower of the Telescopes and of what they found there and of the great discovery they made about our moon.

Sigh.

But alas the details of that insane adventure are lost to us. Only the protagonists themselves know what truly happened and they don't talk about it. No that was a tale from yesteryear the tale you are about to hear now, is one that happened not that long ago. And it all started when.....

 

Firanis stopped at the top of the rise and looked down upon the place she had once called home. She frowned in thought, she had expected this sight to move her to bring some old fondness to the surface but alas it didn't. She found herself missing Goutro and even Cyrinx truth be told. But they were far off trying to rebuild Goutro's spacecraft and while Firanis had found it fascinating she had grown restless and bored. And so she had set out to gater supplies and some of the much needed parts Goutro required. It was chance to get out to explore and yes adventure again. But she did miss her companions. Which is why she decided to come here. One of the things Goutro needed could only be found at a nearby settlement and since it was close she thought she could visit home. Now she wasn't so sure it was a good idea.

Firanis shook her head “This is a mistake.” she said out loud to the wind, her mind made up . She would not go down would not visit those who may remember her. She had plenty of other things to do. She turned to go back the way she came and that was when she saw it, miles away at the nearest settlement to her home. A black spot on the horizon where the town should have been a black spot. She pulled out her telescope and looked toward the far off town, bringing it into focus.

It was black. The buildings blackened the walls cracked as if exposed to great heat, the ground dry cracked blackened. The trees and bushes mere dead skeletons all Blackened. She saw no people, no bodies or any indication that any had been there whenever this had happened.  She swung the scope back and forth everything around the town was blackened as if burnt Suddenly she paused the scope on a speck of green a bush on the very edge of the blackened ground and as she stopped at the sight of the green thing she gasped in horror as the blackening moved it touched the plant and suddenly the bush withered and died and turned black. She watched that very spot for several moments to ascertain to herself that yes what ever was causing this was moving.

And it was.

She swung the telescope back to the south from where it was pointed at the Blackening back toward her home, then back to the black and back again to her village. She dropped the scope from her eye and looked down from the ridge on the place that was once her home.

The place that the Blackening was coming to.

Spoiler

A couple of you have indicated some interest aside from Sean. Let me know if you are still interested and I will write you in. Sean PM me if you have any questions, i may have some answers

 

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It seemed home truly was where your friends were, but with danger encroaching upon the place she had grown up, Firanis couldn't just leave Broley to fend for itself, not when she could at least give them warning of what approached. Besides, there were still a few she cared for there, if not family, even if they wouldn't be able to recognize her on sight anymore.

She had changed a lot, physically, while exploring the Ninth World, but had never really felt different. But with meeting Goutro - and Cyrinx, to an extent - the way she saw the world had shifted, or expanded. She still felt all the wonder the ever had, but there was a new, or deeper, appreciation for it, after having spoken with one who had witnessed it for himself.

Firanis returned the scope to her pack and tightened the various weapons strapped to her so they wouldn't rattle and shift. Then she began to run, her extraordinarily long legs eating drit and dirt, her pace swift, jumping and climbing as necessary to make down the ridge and hills.

It had been some time since she'd last been here, but with every step, Firanis felt the familiarity returning. She had played and explored all around the village of of Broley as a child and adolescent. But it was almost a stranger's familiarity. She knew this place, but was seeing it with new eyes. Well, to be fair, her eyes were one of her many changes since being here last, but it was the vantage from which she saw things then the eyes themselves that made things seem different. She was much taller than she had been last time she'd come home.

Firanis slowed to a jog as she wove between the trees, breath deep but steady, a wistful smile crossing her youthful features as she heard the crystalline trill of quartzkaws in the boughs. She could just make out Broley in the distance, the distinct shape of rounded domes of buildings made of greenwood coming into view. Living wood grown over inflated bubbles, a material and method developed by her mother. She carried a buckler of the same material.

Coming to the edge of the village, she ran a hand through magenta hair darkened by sweat. She wasn't sure who held ultimate authority in the village anymore - she wasn't even sure who it had been last time she was here - but Firanis presumed Camila Beyett still held influence. Camila had been a close friend of her mother's, a leader of the Cosmicologists, a philosophy that Firanis followed.

Firanis' hand went to the miniature time piece she wore about her neck. And Camila would recognize the Time-Maker, and in so doing, would know Firanis for who she was. If she couldn't find a means of arresting or diverting the creeping Blackening, she hoped she could at least give the people of Broley the time to evacuate. The call would be more persuasive coming from Camila than from someone who was a veritable stranger to the village.

Her chest tightened, surprised to feel a pang of hurt at the admission.

 

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The caravan had been in the settlement of Broley for a little more than a half day and would be moving on later this afternoon toward the next settlement. Large Gord leaned against the wall of the merchants hall, sheltering in the shade, waiting for the trains masters to get off their fat behinds and start the caravan moving. The giant shrugged his wide shoulders and once again wondered idly why this place, that he had never been before, was familiar to him, a sensation that had been bugging him since he had first spied the place when they came up the road. He paused in his musings when the girl called Sigil, came up to him with a tankard of short beer.

She had joined the caravan at the last stop and for several days had been the focus of much talk among the guards due to her strange looks and the way she carried herself. Despite the efforts of many to win her attentions the girl remained standoffish and was eventually ignored. However Gord had never been one of those who had tried to socialize with the girl so naturally she had gravitated to him after the others ceased their pestering. While the two spoke little to each other and perhaps less to anyone else they did socialize in a odd manner, eating together and walking with each other, not so much friends but somehow recognizing something kindred in each other.

Gord took the beer and drained half of it in one swallow before thanking the Sigil but he wasn't paying much mind to her he was looking up the way at a figure coming into the village. Gord's mouth opened into an 'O' of recognition and he suddenly realized why the village seemed so familiar. This had been the home of one of his former companions the weird girl Firanis. She had spoken of the place often with her weird little rodent friend, and lo and behold who was it walking down the street but none other than Firanis Flux

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Sigil, having settled down in the shade cast by Gord, noticed his reaction and leaned over a little to get a better look at what was surprising him so much. What she saw was not immediately of much interest. A female human, showing signs of some alteration. Perhaps Gord found her attractive. Or perhaps he was seeing something she wasn't?

Her forehead creased slightly with concentration as she expanded her senses, sampling everything from electromagnetic emissions to minute details of trace nuclear decay in the vicinity of the purple-haired female. Gathering information was, after all, her purpose.

(Scan esotery on Firanis, hehe)

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"Firanis!" The big, booming call surprised both her and Sigil. Then she saw Gord waving her over with a broad smile and a tankard of beer. Surprised at seeing a familiar face that recognized her, she came over. "Good to see you! I just realized, this is your hometown isn't it? I'm here escorting this caravan. And this is Sigil." He took another long gulp of booze and gestured at her. "Not the talkative sort. How have you been doing?"

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Intent on finding Camila, Fi didn't notice Large Gord at first, her improbably long legs carrying her swiftly and gracefully down the street. She was two steps past him and the girl by his side when he called out and her head whipped around, the expression on her exquisite, mobile features going from worried determination to one of surprise.

She walked over to the two with enviable grace. Standing close, Sigil realized just how tall the young-looking woman was - Firanis stood as tall or more slightly more than Large Gord himself, though far more slender. With her expanded senses, Sigil could notice hints and remnants of layer upon layer of alterations the vivid-haired woman had experienced, so much so, she could hardly guess what she might have originally looked like.

Firanis blew a lock of magenta hair from her face as she glanced back down the street before returning her gaze back to Gord and nodded, her brows furrowed in clear agitation. "Yes, I grew up in Broley and I'm surprised to find you here, Gord. Surprised, but pleased." She flashed him a quick smile - it wasn't forced, but she clearly had more on her mind.

"And you as well, Sigil." Firanis returned the shorter girl's appraisal with a frank one of her own. The girl did have remarkable auric eyes. Firanis gave her head a small shake, her grin fading. "I have been well enough, just needed to get out and stretch my legs, as it were, and a supply run was just the thing after the tedium of helping Goutro with his..."

Firanis trailed off with a sigh. It wasn't precisely a secret, but the fewer others knew of Goutro's ship and the less about it, the better and less dangerous it was for them. "I hadn't expected to be coming this way, but I - Sorry!" She shrugged a sleek shoulder impatiently. "I would like to speak with you more, Gord, but this is not the more serendipitous of times. You should encourage the caravan you are escorting to quickly pack up and be ready to depart."

She grimaced, looking more like a pout on her young, very pretty face. "There is a.... black... ness, something like char without fire heading this way. I mean that in truth. I saw it, visibly encroaching this way after having consumed the next closest settlement. I mean to go speak with a friend of my mother's and mine who should hold some influence, to get preparations for evacuation started before I go to investigate myself to see if this... blackening can be curtailed or diverted."

Firanis gave Gord a wry grin, a flash a humour in her lavender eyes despite her worry. "I'd ask if you'd like to help, Gord, but I'm short of shins at the moment and I can't say what manner of salvage there might be to make it worth your while."

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The mountainous man shrugged. "Eh, they're stingy employers anyway. I'll do my duty and warn them, but then I'll join you." Having made this promise, Gord turned and sought out the train masters to explain to them what was coming their way and see if they were going to make a decision now - or laze about complacently still.

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Fi smirked with gratitude as she watched Gord head off to his erstwhile employers. She wasn't sure what use his fists might be against an encroaching cascade of necrotic char, but after traveling Goutro and others subsequent to a largely solo adventuring and exploring career, Firanis was privately grateful for some company.

Firanis glanced down at the shorter woman, who was still looking at her strangely. "What of you, Sigil? Will you accompany Large Gord and I, or do you have far more common sense and will remove yourself from the path of this clear and present danger?

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The pale-skinned woman gazed imperturbably at Firanis. Her eyes subtly refocused on a point past the violet-haired mercenaries head for a moment.

"I'm not familiar with the phenomenon you describe. I will go with you. It, and your efforts to overcome it, must be catalogued and documented."

She paused, then added, "Proceed."

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Faber burst into Camila's work-center breathless, the door banging against the outer wall before slamming closed behind him “Mistress Camila...,” his voice faltered as he became aware that the Cosmicologist priestess and ipso facto Village leader was not alone.

Camila, a handsome woman in her mid fifties fit but with gray showing in her braided brown hair, was sitting at her work desk and before her was a tall woman with short very pale, almost white, hair, the woman wore tight-fitting clothes that resembled leather but was shiny, and she had two swords at her right side, her face the skin tanned to a medium brown was unblemished and unnaturally beautiful.

Faber stared.

“Don't be rude Faber, what is it?”

Camila's voice broke Faber's reverie and shaking his head and pulling his eyes from the unknown woman he faced his leader. “A woman,” he glanced back at the pale haired girl, “has come into the village from the mountains. I heard the name Firanis spoke by a caravan guard.”

“Firanis Fluxx?”

“That was the name but I did not recognize the woman. She is very tall and slight at the same time and her hair is a strange magenta,” he looks again at the woman before Camila's desk, “and short, cut oddly.”

Camila pushes her chair back and stands excitedly a broad smile on her face. “Firanis has returned praise the universe. Come Nyr I want you to meet her she is an incredible woman in her own right daughter of Holeon who was my very best friend and the savior of this very village.” She comes around the desk and grasps the woman named Nyr on her upper arm. “Come we must welcome her home. Faber lead us please.”

 

Tessereah slowly walked around the monument for the umpteenth time. The singularity itself was fascinating and the field which surrounded it and blocked it from influencing the surroundings...remarkable. And still she could not discern the mechanism by which it was created and this both baffled and annoyed her Such things do not simply exist.

She had come to Broley to see the monument and to participate in the Revelry of Wonder, a festival and contest a few days off. She liked this place the people all worked together in a harmony seldom seen. And their leader Camila a self appointed priestess of something called Cosmicology, was charismatic and strong yet fair and just. Since her arrival she had taken an interest in this strange non religion. A good portion of the town gather in the main square not far from the monument and in orderly line perform a ritual exercise part martial kata part dance. After the silent ritual which lasts about an hour the group of about 600 or so will break into smaller groups for a communal midday meal.

Tessereah came around the monument and looked at the sculpted face of the woman who vanquished the threat off to her left she caught movement and saw the woman who led the village, and another woman of striking looks who were following a man toward where the caravans gathered. Looking that way she caught sight of another woman she of the magenta hair. On a whim Tessereah fell in behind them and went to see what the commotion was about.

 

Firanis saw Camila approaching as he was talking with the girl called Sigil. A smile broke as her old friend called to her.

“Firanis!” Camila ran the last few yards and took the daughter she never had into her embrace. “Praise the Cosmos! Welcome home Fi.”

 

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Tessereah was sure that when it came to figuring out the unusual, one must simply follow the unusual people that surrounded it. And this town seemed to have a gathering of the most unusual people yet. She tried to keep as close as possible without being overtly intruding. That would be rude. But she wasn't going to let any opportunity to waste to learn more of the events in this town and how that marvelous singularity was contained.

All she needed to do was keep a close ear, and wait for an opportunity to open itself up...

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Firanis gave Sigil a wry grin. "You sound like a Mechanical Man I know --"

Whatever she was going to say was left unsaid as she caught sight of Camila, her smile widening. Fi stiffened for a moment, then melted into the embrace, bending slightly and hugging Camila tight. She was much taller than the last time she'd been to Broley - among other changes - but Fi wasn't surprised Camila recognized her on sight.

There was the Time-Maker hanging about her neck, that Camila had given to her on her mother's behalf after she'd died. And having been trained by Camila herself in the Dance of the Cosmos since she was a child, Camila could recognize her from how she moved alone. Firanis realized she had missed Camila -  like a favoured Aunt or a second mother - more than Broley itself.

After a moment, Camila and Firanis stepped apart. Camila arched a brow at her dear friend's daughter as she gave her a bemused once-over. "You haven't been back to Broley in some time, Fi. You've changed so much." A snort of laughter. "Again."

There was just a hint of a blush to Firanis' pale cheeks, her smile growing somber and wistful as she glanced at the statue of her mother. Once, she had shared a familial resemblance with the savior of Broley, but she hadn't in a long time, save occasionally in expression. Taking her eyes from the still likeness of her mother, Fi looked around the village, realizing the Revelry of Wonder was almost at hand. She should have known, just by the position of the stars when she gotten into the area.

"Yes, well..." Firanis ran her hand through her vivid hair, then shrugged and gestured down at herself. "This is better than the sharp scales I used to have, wouldn't you say? You on the other hand, have barely changed at all."

True, there was more grey in Camila's hair, more lines at the corner of her eyes, but she still looked fit and vital. And I look barely older than the day I first left Broley to explore the Ninth World.

"I wish I could say I came back to Broley for a long overdue visit, Aunt Ila, but it's not so."

Firanis nodded a greeting at the woman beyond Camila's shoulder, tall, if still more than half a head shorter than herself, her gaze lingering for a moment on the remarkable symmetry of the white-hair woman's face and a taut figure displayed in form fitting synth or leather of some kind with unabashed interest. If Camila was comfortable with her presence, there was no need to be circumspect.

Fi straightened her shoulders, her expression growing more serious. "I was in the area on another matter and I witnessed something very... troubling. The next village North of here has been... consumed by a withering blackness." Firanis tried to explain what she had seen as concisely and well as she could. "It seems unsparing and uncaring in what it infects and it comes this way, Aunt Ila. I'm going to investigate of course - two others have agreed to accompany me as well. One I have worked with before and this one."

She nodded down at Sigil. "But if we cannot find out how to stop it, I believe the people of Broley need to be prepared to get out of its ways, regardless of what they may have to leave behind."

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Camila's smile faded as Fi's words registered, she looked past the slender woman whose arms she held, off into the distance where the neighboring village of Rell lay to the north. It was to far to see the village itself a good day and a hall's march on foot. "The People," she asks softly. Behind her Faber gasped at what Fi said and the woman to only person other than the caravan guards who was armed shifted almost imperceptible from the casual observant stance to one which was decidedly more lethal in bearing. Fi was sure that only one with her own experience and training would have even been able to discern the change.

Spoiler

 both Sigil and tessereah are close enough to hear Fi as well

 

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As Firanis' story mounted, Tessereah's eyes seemed to stare into the horizon, where - according to the tall woman's gesturing - Rell was. Or, had been, to be more exact. In thought she bit on her thumb nail, etching every word into her brain. At the end of the story, she turned back to the women at the heart of this, and stepped forward.

"Excyuse me," she said in Firanis' direction in what she was sure would be her best skilled-and-confident voice, "but when hyou said it moved, did hyou mean it spread along the ground, or did it reach outward, like a psyeudopod?"

She leaned her five-foot nothing in towards Firanis a bit, her head cocked slightly to the right and up while awaiting a response. 

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When Camila asked after the people of Rell, Firanis shook her head sadly. "The people, perhaps they -- but no, I couldn't see them, nor if the Blackening had already taken them."

Firanis pursed her lips as she regarded the petite, brass-hair woman peering up at her with a cocked head. Her accent was one Firanis wasn't familiar with. "No, it is more like a sharply drawn shadow moving across the land, swiftly enough to be seen."

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"A shyadow,  shyarply drawn," Tessereah repeated after Firanis, almost as if tasting the words. For a fraction of a second her eyes seemed distant, as if she was processing something internally. Then, as quick as it went, the gleam in her eyes returned. "Too many variabels, but still potentially orgyanic in nature."

Her mind was racing at the opportunities. If it had no discernable thickness it might be an energy pattern radiating from a central source, or maybe a transdimensional shadow cast by a disaster in some coterminous existence. If it did, it might still be some form of living nonsapient entity, consuming all around it in order to expand its size. Did its blackening indicate heat, cold, or acid? Was its spread linear or exponential, focused on one location consecutively or simultaneous among its borders? Did it consume biological or also mineral material? Too many questions, too many exciting possibilities.

She raised her hand enthusiastically. "I volyunteer as well to investigate. I can contribute." She lowered her arm, pointing down at Cheslet Street. "For the science of Numenera, but also becyause if that shyadow reaches Entropy Zero, the results would be inconceivable."

Catching sight of Sigil she craned towards the pale young woman. She had noticed her when Firanis pointed her out as 'this one' before, but only now her mental checklist seemed to have caught up sufficiently to process her. "Ow, hyello. And you are?"

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