Numenera Short Story: The Heretic

The following short story takes place after Episode 79 of our long running Numenera Campaign.

In a large warehouse in the city of Glavis stood dozens of its citizens. Dozens of random people looking for hope in trying times, all whispering to each other, all hoping this would be the one. That this would be the one to lead them away from their living nightmare. The whispering continued, until they noticed someone walking up to a small platform in the middle of the crowd. Although in a heavy hooded black robe and wearing a wooden mask, it was easy to tell he was a rather large man. One who, despite the heavy clothing, looked light on his feet. His missing hand showing such strength might be due to a life of combat in a past life.  

The masked man simply stood on the platform for a minute, staring at the crowd before him. Although not a bit of him could be seen, the crowd could feel a presence from the man. As if he was staring into each of their souls.

“I see your looks,” the man began, his voice echoing in the warehouse. “The looks of people who have seen this so many times before. Ever since we lost the twins’ light, lone men or women have been standing on platforms like this one. Telling you that they know the path to salvation. That they know the path to return the twins’ blessing. All you have to do is follow their word and do as they say.

“It’s because of these men and women that our streets are lined with blood. Rival factions of priests using people like you to obtain power for themselves. Ignoring their vows for their own selfish purposes. And, let’s be honest, none of you are surprised. You’ve known what type of people these priests were since the beginning.

“But, you’ve always allowed these priests their selfishness. Because of the gifts they claimed they gave you from the gods. We allowed them to abuse our weakest, because we were comfortable. We allowed them to take our wealth, because we had a few more years than most to live. We allowed them to rule, because ruling ourselves was to much effort.”

The masked man began to walk in a circle around the edge of the platform. His head seemed to point at each person in the crowd.

“Now,” he continued, “you expect me to tell you what you must do. What actions or prayers you must complete to bring back the twins. You won’t get such orders from me. I make no claim to be your new path to salvation. I don’t require you to do as I say. I simply come to relay a vision. It’s why I wear the mask. So my face is not tied to the message and I gain no glory from being the messenger. I will simply be a mouthpiece that speaks and you will be ears that listen.”

Walking toward the middle of the platform, the man raised his hands and began to speak once more. As if reciting a prayer from memory.

“Several nights ago, as I meditated, I was struck with a vision. In it, I saw high mother Tepin and the harbinger Varrick. Now, many of you were told stories of the harbingers. Soulless monsters hellbent on our destruction. Their souls consumed by the many mouths before they were ever born. However, who I saw wasn’t a monster, but a young man. A tired young man who looked like he had the burden of an entire world on his shoulders.

“In the vision, the high mother tried to chastise Varrick. Tried to shame him for letting the twins leave our realm. But Varrick would have none of it. He explained what he did was right. That the gods had desired to go home and gifted us to help them. But instead, we tied them here for our own selfish reasons. His words had conviction. The words of a person who would do what was right, despite the harm it might do to himself. After that, the vision ended, and I was left to ponder its meaning. This is what I believe. Whether I am right or not, I will leave for you to decide.

“We as a people did what was easy. When the twins came, they blessed us. They gave us healthy and long lives and all they wanted was a path home. Instead, we tied them to this mortal plane. We grew fat and lazy on their gift when we should have used it as a stepping stone. A temporary advantage that allowed us to be better than what we were. A path to towards true enlightenment. And now, we are paying for it. We relied on it too much, and with it gone, we are lost.

“The question on your lips now is, how do we regain ourselves? How do we live in a world without the gods telling us what to do? Or at least, what the priests told us the gods wanted?”

The man stood silent for a moment. All around him the people of Glavis held their breaths, waiting for a word of wisdom, anything that they could cling to. Several agonizing seconds later, the man spoke once more.

“My answer is simple,” the man sighed, before lowering his arms and saying the last thing the people around him expected, “I do not know.

“Truth be told, I think no mortal really knows. I think what each of has to do is something we are not comfortable in doing. We must stop and consider not what those on high wish of us, but maybe, what we wish for ourselves. And that is an answer each of you will need to look deep inside yourselves to find. It will not be easy, but I feel that we have spent long enough doing what was easy. I wish you luck.”

With that, the speaker moved down the platform steps and walked out of the warehouse, the crowd parting before him. Hushed whispers were the last thing he heard as the doors closed behind him.  

Sometime later, after arriving at his home and removing his cloak and mask, Stargazer Narian stared at himself in the mirror. Staring back at him was a tired old man. A man who was lost until the vision from the twins a few days ago.

Narian felt in his heart the vision was true, that Varrick had yelled at the high mother of her evils. And, for days, he wondered what it meant. He tried prayer, even if he knew he would receive no answer. The gods were gone, to a place they had desired to go all along.

He still had no true answer even now, but he felt in his heart that the vision itself needed to be spread. That maybe, the twins knew that with them gone, the people would need to find their own path once again.

Sighing to himself, Narian once again put on his hooded robes and his mask, preparing for another gathering. As he walked out the door, he wondered about his two pupils, hoping that wherever they were, they would find their true path. And praying that the twins, before they truly leave to their home, would watch over them one final time.

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About the Author
Jesus “Arvandus” Rodriguez is the founder and website tweaker of the Fandible podcast. When he isn't out creating imaginary worlds for his players, he also runs a youtube channel where he writes short fiction in various fictional worlds.

2 comments on “Numenera Short Story: The Heretic

  1. Mattthew Proehl says:

    I really love these interludes. It makes the story you’re telling and the setting that you’re building upon so much more rich.

  2. Arvandus says:

    Thanks. I really enjoyed writing it.

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