December 8th — The Eleventh Tribe, Session Nine
Year Two, Late Summer
Ryan was not available this week, and Robyn went back to Cobalt, since Bin was trapped with the ghosts.
A need for food
After the disaster of the trip to the ancient nest, wandering ghosts have been sighted in the far reaches of Can-Teen. It's enough to put off any scrounging mouse, and so the food supplies of the 11th Tribe have been rather curtailed. The obvious answer is to deal with the ghosts, but Tribble is so overcome with grief and haunted by visions that he won't come out of his burrow — and Feather and Refil aren't inclined to help him either, so the rest of the PC's decide that they will go in search of a nearby food source.
When the tribe first arrived at Can-Teen, they were told of a place where the Eaters left huge amounts of food, a monolithic structure near the edge of the Empty that they have been calling 'scraps'. Although the monolith smells of food throughout the day, it seems to be empty and inaccessible at night, and the constant presence of Eaters makes tackling it in the daytime impossible.
Dusty, Cobalt, Lozenge, and Placeholder decide to take a look. They are accompanied by a yearling named Squab who wants to train to be a Scout, and looks up to Dusty. Refil, of course, won't allow Squab to go anywhere risky, but 'scraps' is just along the level from the 11th Nest, so she allows her to go.
The Monolith lies near the corner of two verticals, a little way into the Empty. It is tall enough that the Hylin can't see the top, but the bottom is visible from the little crack in the skirting that they slip out through. Everything in the Empty is lit green, by some light that casts deep shadows. It's scary, but they venture out.
The base of the monolith turns out to be inset, forming a space about the height of a Hylin standing on their back legs, with an overhang above. Although the outside of the structure is some sort of hard shiny plastic, the underside of the overhang is wood!
Lozenge immediately sets about trying to gnaw through ... that doesn't work so well. Not only does she not make a lot of progress (it will take weeks) but the noise attracts a roving rat, which has emerged to look for food. The four Hylin cower in a corner, paws over their noses, till it passes.
Plan B involves climbing the side. It's too slippery for paws, and too tall to jump, but they reckon that Cobalt's snail — D'artagnan — could haul a rope up, if they had one. They retire to the between to look for materials, and manage to scounge up some wire, and some strips of discarded plastic insulation from a Burning Line. With these they tinker up a long rope and a grappling hook made from a paperclip. It won't stretch the whole way, maybe, but most of it.
D'artagnan isn't all that smart, so Lozenge volunteers to ride him up. It's starting to get close to morning, but they don't want to give up, so they return to the Empty and set the snail on its way. The ascent isn't that easy (Lozenge falls once), but eventually she reaches a huge opening in the side of the monolith. Inside is a metal lining, dropping away below. Lozenge hooks up the rope and drops down into what seems to be a vast metal chamber. It smells of old food, and there are scraps of bread there that she can't resist eating!
Outside, the lights come on! The other Hylin shout for Lozenge, and then run for cover. Inside, Lozenge tries to find the rope, but she can't! She runs around in a panic, leaping up the walls and exhausting herself, but it's no good, she's trapped! A few minutes later an Eater enters and opens the monolith from above before dropping some sort of vast black Thing on Lozenge's head!
Panicing even more, Lozenge gnaws a hole in the black plastic and finds herself inside. Soon other Eaters enter, and start to drop food on her head!
Watchers in the Walls
The others know Lozenge is trapped, but there is no way they can help. Placeholder finds a vantage point further up the vertical to watch from, and the rest troop disconsolately back to the nest.
Placeholder keeps watch all day, snoozing when she can. Eventually, after a whole day, the Eaters pull the black bag out of the monolith and take it away towards the far reaches of Can-Teen. She runs to the nest and informs the others, who organise a rescue mission (without Squab). They head out along the verticals to the far end of Can-Teen, where they discover that they can slip through holes in the bricks to the place called Silver Pillars, where metal pillars support a metal roof over a floor covered in crumbs and fat. Beyond is the open floor of more Empty.
The Eaters carry their rubbish sack out of the back of Fac-Tory and dump it in a gigantic black container. Lozenge crawls out, but is stuck in the bottom, too tired to get to the top. As she ponders the problem, she spots movement, a strange Hylin is making its way along the rim of the bin.
Lozenge calls out for help, but the stranger is wary. He claims to be from Rubble Tribe, but Lozenge isn't convinced. Nevertheless she accepts an offer of help out in return for handing over the food she has on her.
The stranger says he saw Lozenge be thrown away. Once that happens, he says, she can never return to the Between. She is an exile now, and must stay here Outside. Lozenge refuses to believe this, and insists on being shown the way back to Facc-Tory. The stranger gives her a direction, but it's a lie. When she follows him — down a heap of rubbish and bricks — and heads away, she finds a huge vertical, so full of holes that it barely exists, with many plants on the other side, and beyond them some sort of flat black surface ...
Meanwhile, the others have crossed the Silver Pillars, tracking the scent of the black bag. It leads to the back of the Empty, where a narrow gap leads Outside. Mastering their fear (not without yet more Afraid Damage) they venture out, but soon lose their way. They don't know where the bag went, and don't dare cry out in case some Eater Beast hears them. They head towards a dark shape, and a bright light flashes out, blinding them! Luckily Lozenge sees the light, and scurries back to them, incredibly relieved to see her friends.
They all hurry home as fast as they can!
End of Summer
Although the adventure didn't secure access to food, it was a fine piece of exploration, so it increases their Territory score by 2. They allocate their Tribe Dice to Food and Nest and manage two successes on each.
Scores, end of Summer:
- This was a very improvised adventure, but the Trouble and Test systems held up well, and it was easy to improvise the encounters.
- It was hard to properly persuade the players that the Outside was suitably terrifying. I am not sure if I should have had a Penalty Dice alongside the Daring test, or maybe I should have scared them with an owl. An encounter like that would likely have killed them, though.