Rise of the Planar Trade Consortium

Run 49 Rise of the PTC: Tangential Contact

The day continues with Mortice deciding to send them through the Tradegate and out of Sigil immediately. With Sioned’s recognition of this same foe a second time Mortice wants word carried across the worlds to the Blind Man, if Master Pizarro can’t figure out what to do about it it’s beyond the PTC’s resources.

The group quickly makes it’s way to the Market Ward and into it’s center, to the Tradegate itself. At the gate await a small company of mercenaries hired by the Temple of the Abyss, hill giant mercs that is. The Crimson Hand send a whole squad to deal with Sioned and her crew. The rockthrowers are nasty, dazing people with bursts of rock-shards, and the Smashers beat he living hell out of Rook. But in the end only one of the giants manages to retreat from the battle.

There’s a short rest, during which they watch the Cagers loot the bodies of the giants, then even the bodies themselves get taken away. Then the group enters the Tradegate, using Pizarro’s permanent key. On their way to Pizarro’s they are assaulted again, now that they’re back in The World they’re open to magics the Cage’s location made moot. A quartet of the mysterious four-armed creatures open a gateway to another world, to a Far Realm. They can be seen briefly in the background as foulspawn pour forth from the breach in The World.

Berserkers charge, hulks move up, and a seer scuttles around in the background. The enemy succeed in mixing it up, overrunning the front line in a brief moment. The seer is dropped by Alruna, with Rook’s help. And in the end a flight of griffon-riders arrives, dropping several bloodied foulspawn in a massed volley.

Captain Timeo Marik makes his customary pass at Sioned, wouldn’t do to not keep in good form you know. And when, as always, rebuffed he escorts them the rest of the way to the House of Pizarro.

Though it’s not mentioned Pizarro will view the entire episode with great interest. He will reward people with any magic items on your wishlists and a purse of 130 platinum. (13,000 gp) He will then detail top men, “Top Men”, to look into things.

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Run 48 Rise of the PTC: Tangential Contact

Returning to Zadara’s everyone sees as she opens the reverse portal and Estevan appears before her throne and begs of her an audience. After negotiations with Estevan are nearing the end of the beginning Zadara gives Sioned what she’d been looking for. Zadara funded Valdar, at his initiation, for the large buy of cavefire wine he made from the Temple of the Abyss.

Mortice suggests they try to turn Noxana and kidnap Noshteroth. Surely he’ll have the proof they want that Valdar’s behind it all. Using an executioner’s raven as a messenger they send to Noxana to meet them in the Black Sails inn, near the Temple. Noxana meets with them and agrees to turn stag on Noshteroth, the group goes to ambush him outside Lazz’s Vivid School of Unpleasantness, after he attends a concert by Phineas and Morvun.

The fight seems to go quickly, until the vrock appears. But even so it’s pretty much over as Pieter banishes Noshteroth, who is gone for several round before he can return. When he does so all his guards are dead. He surrenders.

Back in the Black Sails the group prepares to torture Noshteroth, but he pretty much rolls the moment they ask him anything. Though he’s remarkably evasive on some issues he give up that the whole deal had been set up and financed by an odd outsider by the name of “Suquiuh”. Suquiuh was very tall, and stick-thin, with blue-skin and four long spidery arms. Sioned immediately recognizes the creature that ran the bandits in the Earth Kingdom as a brother to this Suquiuh. She pulls everyone but Alruna out into the hallway to discuss it, Alruna stays behind to watch the captive.

Alruna and Noshteroth spar quite a bit verbally, they’re quite opposites really, then it gets physical as she knees him. In the fight that ensues he restrains her with a Black Briar Cage he learned from Ravel before leaping out the window. The group returns to Mortice’s, with the news they’ve wrung out of the priest.

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Run 47 Rise of the PTC: Tangential Contact

On the way back to Mortice’s, from the Court of Woe, the party is ambushed by a half-elf brigand, his tanari buddy, and some dwarven crossbowmen. But after dispatching them they push on through until they can rest in the safety of House Mortice.

The group question Mortice on the local situation, and get Estevan’s wishes for them for the day. They Talk to Zadara about Valdar’s financing. They get nothing solid from A’kin (the “Friendly Fiend”), but along with his gifts of toys he implicates the Temple of the Abyss and Noshteroth. Investigating with Tos reveals that she’d sold quantities of the wine to the Temple of the Abyss. At the Temple of the Abyss they talk to an underpriestess, Noxana.

On the way to Zadara’s, to bring Estevan himself, to get the final piece of information linking Valdar to the whole affair the group is assaulted by a street gang.

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Run 46 Rise of the PTC: A Conspiracy of Doors, Pt. V

The fight with Tarvas demoncaller is a bear. Tarvas continues teleporting around as he works on completing his ritual. Rook is dominated by the needle demon, the remaining immolith does some nasty damage to a bunch of folks. Sioned is knocked out by vrock attacks, and through it all Tarvas just keeps plugging away at his ritual. In the end the fight whimpers out rather than explodes as Tarvas begins to fail to complete his ritual, once his failure is certain he flies into a rage and attacks the party, but by this point they’ve outlasted most of his demons and he’s slain shortly after the last vrock falls.

A short search reveals a letter to Tarvas from “V.”, the letter indicates that Tarvas was in the hire of someone looking to profit from a shortage of cavefire wine. After a short rest Sioned, Njalla, Alruna, and Three head to Estevan for instructions. Rook stays behind, lurking around the wharehoue, in case something happens. Estevan is of the opinion that the letter needs investigation and instructs Sioned to follow up on it, he confirms that Three and Njalla will stick around and help.

Back in the wharehouse Rook takes caution as he hears the large front doors being opened. A string of wagons, guards, two high-ups, labor shows up. There’s some commotion over the dead demons and Tarvas’ body, but after cleaning up the two high-ups (a tiefling male and a half-elf female) get the wagons loaded with cavefire wine and under way. Rooks proceeds to follow them to the Great Market. He follows the female agent for a bit as she sells cavefire wine to various distributors, but is spotted after a while. She confronts him with a squad of Sons of Mercy bashers, and rather than flee or explain Rook tries to fight his way out of it. The beatdown is painful, the blackness of unconsciousness would be a welcome relief for most.

Sioned and crew return to the wharehouse to discover guards of House Mortice present, and the wharehouse open. The guards defer to Sioned’s position and let her investigate, they tell that a caravan to sell cavefire wine discovered dead demons and such on arriving here but has no real information to add to the group’s knowledge of events. Rook isn’t present, the guards didn’t see him. The guard says that Sonnelea, a female half-elf agent of Mortice’s, is currently distributing the cavefire wine in the Great Market.

In the market Sioned fails to locate Sonnelea, who is like Duncam in that she’s so busy she’s always one step ahead of the players. But the group does discover Rook’s altercation with her, and the Sons of Mercy, and that Rook was taken to the city prison in the Son’s company. Rather than wait around people head through to the Lady’s Ward and the Prison of Sigil.

Waking in prison Rook is introduced to Sly Nye, who has been appointed his advocate. Nye sounds Rook out as a possible Anarchist, but susses that he’s not interested in turning stag on the Dusties. As such he says Rook will just have to wait out the night and take his day in court, tomorrow morning. Soon after Nye leaves Sioned, and crew, arrive.

Sioned has bribed the desk sergeant into letting her see Rook, and gets a brief on what he’s seen and done. There’s no good way to, legally, get Rook out of the Prison without a court hearing. So Sioned goes to meet Nye, again. Nye says that he can arrange for an immediate court-hearing, but that there’s only one court open at this time, The Court of Woe. Sioned insists timeliness is essential, and Nye says that he could bribe a few people to get paperwork done faster, and arrange for guards for a transfer to court, etc., etc., etc. . . . Sioned correctly understands him and gives him 200 gold to “spread around”, and promises 100 gold for his own fee should he succeed. Soon Rook is released and the group, with a large Sons of Mercy guard for the prisoner, march out of the Lady’s Ward and back into the Hive.

At Ragpicker’s Square Rook is marched up to a marble facade. The guards pull out an official Writ of Transfer and read Rook’s sentence, “Trial in the Court of Woe, His Honor Judge Gabberslug Presiding.” With the reading of the writ a gate opens up, and the guards shove Rook through, and toss the writ in after him. Nye leads the party through.

Rook is initially taken in hand by a death knight, bailiff of the Court of Woe. The Court itself is hideous and filled with vile creatures, both alive and undead. Everyone is warned to keep the peace lest the Dead Truce (which holds here) be broken. At the end of the court, on a huge throne, is seated a corpulent, pustulent, porcine demon, His Honor Judge Gabberslug. Nye and the knight are clearly old enemies and Nye takes some glee when Gabberslug, on seeing him, demands that he immediately come forward and present his case personally.

The Death Knight makes a good case against Rook, and Nye’s speech seems particularly disjointed and non-sensical. (which for an Anarchist is quite an accomplishment) But Gabberslug clearly favors Nye over his own bailiff and, quite in disregard for the evidence the knight presents, rules in favor of Rook. One badly scrawled scroll later, sealed with a rapidly solidified hawking of Gabberslug’s phlegm, Rook has his official pardon. Pardon in hand he, and the rest of the group, depart the Court of Woe and appear back in Ragpicker Square.

Returning to Estevan’s the party is assaulted by a street gang of dwarves led by a half-elf bandit, and backed by an abyssal eviscerator.

Thus endeth the session.

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Run 45 Rise of the PTC: A Conspiracy of Doors, Pt. IV

A bit of magic lets Njalla confer with the dead Lubash, he doesn’t wish to return to the world and asks that they set Sarahmay free. The group agrees that setting her free in the Cage is a death sentence, so they head to Mortice’s. Mortice runs one of the PTCs houses, she keeps kip near the Hive. She’s a canny shadar-kai, business wise at least, and has a rep as an “unconventional” woman. (probably bespeaking odd personal habits as the Consortium believes she’s a fine factor) Mortice agrees to get Sarahmay back to Tradegate, and suggests that the group drop off Lubash’s body w. the Dustmen, who will dispose of it appropriately. (she claims his equipment for the Griffon Riders of Tradegate)

At The Mortuary the group hands Lubash’s body off to an emaciated female tiefling by the name of Ei’vene. Ei’vene writes his name into a large book, with some difficulty as her fingers seem capped by needles instead of nails, and summons help to cart the corpse away. Several zombies follow a dustie to the party, pushing a cart. As the zombies load the body onto the cart everyone is shocked to discover that the dustie leading them is Rook. Rook seems quite surprised to encounter Sioned and Alruna again, but seems accepting of fate, his lady (The Raven Queen) works in strange and mysterious ways and he’s learned to accept that. Despite having given up much of his past lives and taken up new ways he agrees to rejoin Sioned again, clearly his lady’s hand is apparent in their meeting.

Re-united, Sioned, Alruna, and Rook lead Three and Njalla back to the Night Market. There they search the House of Song, and find evidence indicating that Tarvas (known as “Demoncaller”) used a back room to conduct rituals related to summoning an odd and new kind of demon. Tarvas also seems to have been keeping a set of magic armor for a bribe or something, Alruna takes it.

After some searching the streets the group manages to finally meet up with Tos, the owner of the House of Song, and a dwarf. Tos is much like Master Trader Duncam, damn busy, and they only catch her at the end of the night as she comes back to the festhall she owns to rest. After some haggling she agrees to be bribed, and gives the five heroes more information about Cavefire Wine. Turns out her brother Thom and she are not just distributors, they’re the suppliers as well. But Thom recently sent her a letter indicating problems with the supply. She can’t drop everything and race to help him, if she even could help him she’s far too busy, but she will sell Sioned a gate key and the location of the gate to Thom’s location.

The gate is in a rickety building opposite a wharehouse Tos owns in the Hive, the key is a 400 gp silver death mask, and it’s consumed as the gate activates. Passing through the gate several people realize they’re back in the Shadowfell. Following that everyone realizes they’re being covered by a hostile force of dwarves, crossbows pointed, axes out. Everyone calms down once Thom confirms to his satisfaction the group’s claim that Tos sent them to help.

Thom explains how they make Cavefire Wine from the luminescent fungi that grow in this cavern complex. However there’s a problem, the current cave to be harvested has been taken over by a foul monster, some sort of pod-jelly creature. Until it’s gone production of the wine is on hold, and Thom has already lost several dwarves trying to battle it. Sioned offers to go take care of the problem, and Thom has a guide lead her to the cavern in question.

In the cavern Three and Rook battle the pod demon while Njalla and Alruna tackle some pod-spawn and try to disarm a magical trap that is causing rock falls throughout the cavern. Sioned has trouble keeping up with the, very mobile, fight. In the end the demon falls as everyone converges on it at once from the various sides of the cave. After defeating it they search the body of a cultist, who summoned it here and set the magical trap in place, and find a map to a wharehouse in the Market Ward, a PTC wharehouse it turns out.

The gate back to Sigil won’t open for the rest of the night, so everyone takes a chance to rest up, get some sleep (and food) and generally ready themselves for their return to the City of Doors. Returning to the Cage the next day the heroes proceed immediately to try to find the wharehouse in question. The Cage is getting pretty bad, food and other critical supplies are now getting in very short supply, and everyone is worried that the Festival of Doors this very night will fail and the Lady will close the Cage. Even getting to the wharehouse involves encountering a few dangerous situations that are quite close to being riots, but not yet quite over the edge.

At the wharehouse in question they find that Tarvas Demoncaller is engaged in a dark ritual. From his notes at the House of Song it’s apparent he’s intending to corrupt all food and drink entering Sigil through it’s portals. If he succeeds chaos is bound to erupt, with devastating consequences to the Consortium (and Estevan). The five heroes try to sneak up on Tarvas, and his demonic guards, but fail. Battle ensues.

Several early hits are landed on Tarvas, but he teleports away before he can be slain and then sucks much of the life out of a needle demon, healing himself. Two immoliths move to tie up the party, while a pair of vrocks fly down to attack the group before returning to the safety of perches high above their heads. Things look grim, even after the group finally kills one of the immoliths things still look grim. With poison clouds filling the air, blood everywhere, no one undamaged, and Tarvas still succeeding at his ritual attempts we stop for the evening.

The, climactic, fight will finish up at the start of next session. Good luck folks, this isn’t looking like an easy fight.

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Run 44 Rise of the PTC: A Conspiracy of Doors, Pt. III

The session opens with a dwarven wizard in the service of Master Pizarro speaking with him. Njalla has spent most of her time since becoming a wizard in Pizarro’s service as a spy-master, not the sort who goes out and does things, more the sort who puts together bits and pieces of information from the field and draws conclusions. Little does she know how that will soon change….

Pizarro informs her of the attack on the Tradegate, and on Tradegate itself. He tells her he’s consulted the Three Grey Ladies, and all three were in agreement that unless the future was changed tonight Sioned was certain to die. (He doesn’t mention that Ogg tried to keep from him that the prophecy could be changed at all, which Magogg passed along as part of her feud with her sister, nor does he mention that Gogg then told him that even if Sioned were saved another life must be paid for the prophecy to be changed.)
Pizarro does however give Njalla a temporary key to the Tradegate, a crystal linked to Sioned to use to find her, and takes her to the stables. There he introduces her to Lubash, a Griffon Rider of Tradegate, who has been on detached service and was working with Sioned. He send them both through the Tradegate to Sigil, where they soar into the positively vile air and head towards Sioned’s location.

Meanwhile Sioned, Alruna, and Three are on the run from Arthani’s forces. They succeed in escaping into the Night Market, but it’s far from safe. As they try to catch their breath they’re run off from an alleyway by a gang of goblins working for Sojah (a gang-lord near The Ditch), Three manages to look dangerous enough to avoid another fight, but they’re on the run again. After a few more harrowing escapes they manage to settle in at Alesha’s Pantry for a quick rest.

Alesha Sheevis doesn’t take too kindly to them however. As soon as she notices them she’s pretty much in their faces for bringing danger to the poor homeless folk she tries to keep fed. Alesha is an aggressive, confident, woman, and she doesn’t take any guff. But she does agree to let them at least rest for a short while. Soon she’s given new cause to be vexed with Sioned as a commotion outside turns out to be related to her, a griffon has landed outside and chaos is erupting on the street. Once that’s settled down Mistress Sheevis agrees to recommend a house they can get a safe room at, if only to get them out of her pantry so she can get back to business.

Following an extended rest in a spare room of a local widow, the group again heads to the Night Market to confront Arthani. This time they’re bringing friends, a wizard, a warrior, and a griffon. The fight is still far from easy, Arthani has hired even more ogres to help her out with bashing, and combined with the two demons she’s working with the fight is very hard. It is particularly hard on Lubash who is pushed into more razorvine, and dies from the multitude of cuts it inflicts on him as he struggles to free himself.

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Run 43 Rise of the PTC: A Conspiracy of Doors, Pt. II

Emerging from the gate to the crypt the four heroes, Sioned, Alruna, Three, and Lubash, find themselves back in Automata. There they debate briefly their next actions, before deciding to go confront Arthani in Fesdin Crale’s kip. His shop is empty however, Sioned briefly considers looting it, before deciding that sending someone from the Consortium is a better idea (as it is a PTC shop). At the back of the shop they find a peculiar alcove, only about a foot deep, behind a door. Guessing, correctly, that it’s a portal Sioned tries the coin to see if it’s the key. It is, and the distinctive appearance of an active portal appears.

Crowding through the four people, and Sarahmay, emerge into a quiet alleyway in Tradegate. Sioned recognizes it as near the burg’s center. On arriving Sarahmay is immediately dropped by hostile magics, which soon thereafter fell Lubash as well, using him connection to her to take them both down. Outside the alley things are suspiciously quiet as well, and some bodies can be seen on the streets.

Emerging from the alley Sioned, Alruna, and Three find the entire city has been attacked and magically knocked unconscious. The inhabitants seem to be alive, but in deep comas. More importantly there is clearly something afoot, they can see bursts of magic from the town center, and Alruna spots several giant figures there.

On entering the town center the trio sees a number of cyclopses guarding several magical rods that have been implanted in the ground around “The” tradegate. (the massive archway that forms the basis of the portal to Sigil that Master Trader Duncam controls with an iron hand) Near the tradegate an eladrin woman incants ritual words, focussing magic from the rods into an attack on the gate. Sioned can see that the wards over the tradegate are weakening, and she suspects that soon the woman will succeed in destroying or badly damaging it.

“Cease this wickedness,” Alruna demands, and charges one of the cyclops. Leaping into the air as she attacks she slays it with a blow striking upwards through it’s chest. Three moves towards the eladrin woman, and Sioned examines the nearest rod to see if she can disable it.

Arthani, the “eladrin” woman continues her ritual even as she reveals her true powers by blasting Three and Sioned with devouring swarms of insects and vermin. Alruna slays a few more cyclops, and Three takes some serious beating from the trio he engages. Sioned, meanwhile, succeeds in disabling one of the rods. When the last cyclops falls Arthani decides she can’t finish her mission and leaps through the arch of the tradegate, vanishing from the town-center after taunting Sioned saying “You’ll never stop the demoncaller in time to save your damnable Consortium”. On one of the cyclops they find a flyer for the “House of Song”, on the back of which is scrawled a name, “Tarvas”. (also on the cylcops are the 3000 gp in pay Arthani gave them)

Sioned then finishes disabling the rest of the rods and begins waking people. She is aided in restoring order when it is discovered that Master Pizarro, and some bashers, were in the town center in a carriage on the way to business. Pizarro takes Sioned’s report, and tells her she must pursue Arthani as best she can. He echoes Estevan’s concerns, doubly so now that a direct attack on Tradegate itself has occurred. He gives Sioned a copper sphere, and tells her to use his personal key to go to Sigil and solve this dilemma, he shall engage his own agents (spies to be sure) to determine if this attack was linked to the recent plague that was visited on the burg.

Using Pizarro’s key Sioned and her companions gate through to the Market Ward in the Cage. There is some chaos as people scatter when the Lady of Pain appears, but She fades away through a nearby building’s wall without doing more than circumstantial damage to those foolish enough to fail to avoid the touch of Her shadow.

Asking around the group finds out several things. First, the Cage is remarkably uptight at the moment, the trade-war has escalated and food is getting scarce, and most importantly everyone is terrified of what The Lady of Pain might do if the Festival of Doors is derailed. Second they learn that the “House of Song” is a festhall in the Hive, near the Night Market. Travel through the Cage is always a challenge, they spend some jink in bribes for directions, threaten a few people to stave off muggings and gang-related violence, and eventually find themselves at the Midnight Gate.

There Sioned speaks w. Gwindor, a half-celestial paladin, and the officer in charge of the Sons of Mercy troops that man Midnight Gate. He tries to convince Sioned not to go through Midnight Gate and into the Hive as it’s very dangerous, he explicitly warns them against it, but when Sioned is adamant he allows that he’ll let them pass. However he urges them not to enter the Hive until dark, the Night Market won’t open until then and every hour in the Hive is a dangerous one. This seems reasonable and the trio agree to return later, with Gwindor’s permission the troops will not hinder their passage.

They spend the time catching a meal, and then going to the Hall of Records (since they’re in the Clerk’s Ward) to investigate the House of Song. They hire a local “barrister” by the name of Sly Nye to help in their research, despite his bizarre speech patterns he clearly knows the Hall well, and is cheaper by far than more respectable guides. (Nye speaks in sentences with . . .. peculiar word order, practically random in fact.)

It turns out the House of Song was recently purchased by one “Tos”, just a few year’s past. Also of interest is that a male half-elf by the name of Arthani was just here last week investigating the same records. Most importantly Sly Nye knows who “Tarvas” is. He tells Sioned that before the factions were exiled by Her Serenity he was an anarchist, and that he knew another anarchist by the name of Tarvas. Tarvas was a spell-slinger who specialized in summoning and controlling demons. He was also one of the more violent and destructive anarchists, Nye claims that he personally never espoused violence and acted through the courts to advance the anarchist cause.

Leaving the Hall of Records well after dark the group hires a young human boy by the name of Gareth as their light-boy. Gareth leads them back to Midnight Gate, and when bribed quite substantially, agrees to lead them through the Hive to the Gatehouse, where they’ll find the Night Market. Along the way they run into some of Sojah’s goblin bashers, but look too tough to extort and so manage to pass through her territory near The Ditch without a fight.

The Night Market is pretty much as wondrous as descriptions said it would be. (and at least as dishonest) The nearby cries of madman in the asylum of the Gatehouse fill the air as everything illicit is bought and sold. After a short time searching the three spot Arthani atop a building, talking with a spell-slinger of the human bent. At the same time she spots them. The spell-slinger vanishes, and the market clears out in a heartbeat as the unerring Cager instincts to avoid a fight about to break out work perfectly.

The fight goes terribly wrong, almost from the start. Arthani is backing a pair of vicious demons, a barlgurra and a beetle-like demon shooting lightning blasts. To make it worse they’re all supported by some hired ogre muscle. Three is hit by several vicious attacks from the barlgurra, and Arthani, and the runecarved demon, AND is knocked several times into patches of razorvine. After being knocked out, healed, knocked out again, and healed again, everyone figures the fight is a lost cause. Rather than die in the streets of Sigil Sioned calls for a retreat.

The three retreat in good order. Behind them Arthani’s taunts fill the air, “Run fools. RUN! You’ll never be my match, and my master’s plots approach completion! Your precious Consortium and the Cage itself are doomed!”

So the night ends with the three, badly beaten, racing into the darkness of the Hive seeking shelter … . any shelter, anything safe enough to at least catch a short rest in……

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Run 42 Rise of the PTC: A Conspiracy of Doors, Pt. I

The story opens with Three, a warforged slain in psionic experiments in Cyre, waking in Mechanus. He’s tended by modrons, who discard him as “broken and incompatible with universal protocols”, the result of House Cannith’s magics that create warforged. He is then shipped to Automata to be sold as scrap, to a tiefling woman. The woman, Nera, is an agent of Estevan’s, and offers him his freedom as she claims her master isn’t interested in slaves. But if Three is interested he would like to hire him, as a free “man.” Three makes several quite bigoted remarks about meat-bags, but agrees in the end to at least go hear Estevan’s offer out.

In Tradegate Lubash, a half-orc griffon-rider from House Vadalis, is speaking w. Master Trader Duncam. Lubash has been a short time in service with the Griffon Riders of Tradegate, and Captain Marik thinks he’s better suited to “independent service” than the more typical formation work the riders do. (Lubash defected to Tradegate to pair w. Sarahmay after House Vadalis continually refused his desire to be paired with a griffon.) Duncam asks Lubash if that’s what he would like, Lubash pretty much shrugs and says “whatever” as long as he and Sarahmay can stay together. Duncam then says he’ll send him to Automata, there to meet with Master Estevan, who will have work for him.

Arriving in Automata Lubash goes to the inn he was directed to, the Inn of the White Harp, and sits down for a bite to eat while he waits. Nera, followed by Three, walks in, brushes road-dust off her leathers, and asks if he’s the owner of the griffon outside. She then makes both of them an offer, in return for a bag of 10 platinum they’re to go to the room at the end of the upstairs hallway and listen to her Master’s offer.

In the room Estevan, in very fine silks and sipping tea from fine china, awaits them, along with Sioned and Alruna. He explains how he fears there is a conspiracy against himself, and the PTC. He believes it focuses on the upcoming Festival of Doors in Sigil, and in particular on the cave-fire wine supplies. He wants Sioned, his agent, to investigate, and wishes to hire Lubash and Three to act as muscle. “A few good minders at an agents back always make things go more smoothly,” he declares. If Lubash and Three are willing they can share in his reward, an astral diamond, with Sioned and Alruna. Everyone agrees that this seems like a fair deal, and some questions are asked of, and mostly answered by, Estevan. He then urges them to get to Sigil as soon as possible, to begin the investigation.

At Estevan’s direction the quartet go to Crale’s Arcane Antiquities, a PTC owned shop that can sell them a gate key to The Cage. There they meet Fesdin Crale, an old human spell-slinger who runs the shop. Crale and Sioned bargain a bit over price, mostly for fun on both of their parts, and settle on a favorable price for the gate-key. He hands them a small stone domino, and tells them it opens a passage in a doorway in a quiet alleyway.

The four proceed to the gate, and open it with Crale’s key. Passing through they emerge into absolute, quiet, blackness. The air is musty and stale. When they create some light they see they’ve stepped out of a dry fountain and are in a crypt of some sort, behind them the gate vanishes. Moments later they are attacked . . . .

A ghost spider, so called for it’s phasing not because it’s a ghost, comes through a wall to attack. At the end of the crypt coffins are tossed aside as wights advance, and Alruna just barely manages to spot another wight hiding in the shadows as it scuttles to the side. The fight is long, the ghost spider skirmishes with Sarahmay and Lubash while Three tangles up the wights advancing from the back. Alruna takes on the sneaky one in a side passage. In the end the ghost spider is driven off, and the wights destroyed. But the fight is a long slog, and costs the party many of their spells and prayers to win.

Searching the crypt after the fight reveals two things of note. First, and simplest, a suit of magic chainmail is found in one of the coffins. Sioned claims it. More importantly a human body is found in the rear of the crypt, it is dessicated and clearly has been slain by the wights, perhaps a day or so earlier. It is clearly Fesdin Crale’s body.

On Crale’s body two things are found that are of import. Firstly a journal, in which he details how he’s discovered that a shape-shifter by the name of Arthani is acting against the PTC. His last entry says that he must warn Estevan and the Master Traders immediately of the danger to the Consortium. The second thing found is a gold coin with the symbol of the PTC on the front, and engraved on the back “Crale’s Arcane Antiquities.”

The group takes a rest while they try to figure a way out of the crypt. After an hour or so the magic of the gate recharges and they succeed in re-opening it.

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Run 41 Rise of the PTC: The Hero's Journey, Pt. V, "Machariel's Fall"

In which our heroes ascend to Heaven and muster the Armies of Hestavar to save the settlers of the Berare river valley…..

The night opens with five heroes desperately fighting a hunting party of thri kreen, who seem intent on adding “humanoid” to the cook pots tonight. Alruna fight alone at the front of the battle-lines, desperately fending off a horde of bounders who swarm over her. While she does that Sioned and Rook tangle with a pair of vicious marauders, while Pieter banishes the mantis warrior who leads the hunt. Soon enough the warrior returns though, and Alruna’s situation starts to look desperate. Alruna blows a few more bounders away, constantly shifting position in an attempt to slow down the flanking maneuvers the bounders use, Pieter fires off his best healing and summons his healing spirit.

In the end, with one marauder down, the mantis warrior calls off the hunt. Three bounders escape. The mantis warrior leaps over a ruined wall, but Alruna charges around a corner and cuts him down in a heroic flurry of blows. The last thri kreen, the marauder, nearly gets away but is cut down as he flees.

The sounds of more thri kreen mustering drives the party into opening the gate before they’ve even taken a short rest. Rook touches the Pyramid of the Dead Sea, a tall tri-faced obelisk, and it steals from him the memory of him dying from drowning in the seas off the shores of the Caliph Al Rashiq’s lands. Everyone piles through in short order….

.... only to discover a horde of zombies moving to attack them when they exit the Pyramid of the Sea in the Sargasso Graveyard. Aeran quickly leads everyone out, dodging around buildings and using close “alleyways” between mausoleums to avoid sight of most of the horde. But without Sioned and Rook running interference, drawing zombies away from the path of the group, everyone would surely have been swarmed. Alruna guides the way, having spotted signs of life off in the distance.

Eventually the group escapes the zombie horde and takes a quick breather before continuing onwards.

At a large mausoleum everyone sees the Dustmen going about their business. They speak w. Mr’vin, a remarkably depressing watchman who seems to think there’s no real point to much of anything, he does take them into the mausoleum before handing them over to a senior “dustie.” Ei Vene is an older tiefling woman, she’s emaciated to the point of appearing skeletal. She agrees to pass them through the gate to Sigil, collects the toll of a platinum a head, and instructs them on the principles of Dustman philosophy. The key to the gate is simply to think of the death you wish to have, but the gate itself is somewhat intelligent (and a great believer in Dustman philosophies) and will punish anyone who does not understand them, though belief is not necessary.

No one is injured as Ei Vene’s explanations are very good, and everyone emerges safely in the Cage. Jerek’s is a funeral parlor in a bad part of town, but seems to be run well. Jerek, a tall and thin human man, rushes them out saying “You need to leave, Factol Skall is soon to be arriving.” He apologizes at the brusqeness, but nonetheless deposits the group on the street.

As business is finished up the group notices a group of “trouble” walking down the street towards them, looks like a liche followed by a pack of followers. Given how little reaction they draw it’s even more shocking when screams from Sigilians erupt from the other end of the street. As the Lady of Pain emerges from an alley, flanked by a posse of dabus, her shadow slices outwards mercilessly cutting at least one innocent.

The dabus speaks, warning Skall to surrender peacefully and depart the Cage lest he meet the same fate as the other reluctant factols. Everyone except Sioned knows it’s time to get out of Dodge as Skall replies that he’s grown in power and is not about to back down to the Lady of Pain. (Sioned is too busy feeling the laser-like focus of The Lady’s gaze on her, for though she says nothing it’s clear the Lady of Pain is intensely interested in Sioned.)

As explosions and violence erupts the group dashes down the street to escape the destruction. Behind them there are the sounds of a fierce battle, featuring deadly-powerful magicks, for all of about 7 or 8 seconds. Then there is a deadly, and ominous, silence. No one anywhere will ever see or hear from Skall again.

Tiki, and Princess Lysistrata, take their leave of the group. Tiki takes the group to the House of Valdar, the PTC House in Sigil, and arranges to pick up payment later before departing with Lysistrata. People comment on what a dog Tiki is as it’s apparent he’s managed to seduce the princess as they’re clearly looking to rent some rooms for a little fun now that they’re safe.

In the PTC’s house they find chaos. Valdar has apparently fled the House now that Sigil has become so dangerous. In his place he’s left Pietra, an overworked and slightly desperate half-elf. Pietra expresses some dissatisfaction with her factor to Sioned, and says that Valdar would surely not help one of Estevan’s agents even if he should. But since she’s really quite upset with Valdar, and since Sioned’s mission is to the advantage of the PTC, she writes Sioned a letter of credit and sends her off to the Forge.

Pietra warns Sioned that the Godsmen were recently decapitated by Duke Rowan Darkwood’s “Takers” who slew the Godsmen’s factol. (their leader) That war is over as “The Lady slew or banished the lot of the Takers right quick afterwards”. However the upshot is that Silvari is the new high-up-man in The Forge, and he’s quite hostile towards Valdar (and thus the PTC). Pietra asks Sioned to try to keep the price low for using his gate to Hestavar, and to keep an eye out for the key if they can discover it, but says she expects Silvari’s anger to keep the price high.

As they depart the House of Valdar Alruna suffers a vision of men battling desperately at a makeshift wall. Some call out to Alruna, praying to her for aid. Robb puts a stop to it, saying they would be better to pray to Erathis . . . a real god. The vision passes as Alruna chooses not to go to help the battle.

The group successfully navigates the Lower Ward and reaches the Forge. Though the journey is not without some trouble as they are ambushed by a gang looking for a tithe for passing through their territory, Rook threatens the lot of them and they retreat without a fight or payment.

At the Forge Sioned and everyone cool their heels for a while before Silvari comes out to see them. He’s an immense, grotesquely, obese man. (tiefling) He clearly knows Pizarro is the PTC’s spymaster and as much as calls Sioned a spy when she says she works for him, Sioned is bluffing at the time to conceal her relationship with Estevan. The two bargain, in a process that both clearly enjoy, and settle on a fair price of 12,000 gold to use the gate. Silvari suggests that Sioned betray the PTC by letting him pad another 10,000 gold onto the bill, for which he’ll give her 10,000 gold. (his goal is to make Valdar poorer) Sioned cannily agrees, takes the money, signs the bill, and resolves to return the 10,000 gold to the House of Valdar when they return. She knows no agent who would betray the Consortium in such a manner, but she’s met several who would let their outside contact think they had done so in order to close a deal on more friendly terms.

The passage to Hestavar itself is uneventful. Everyone emerges into bright light on one of Hestavar’s islands.

Alruna brings the group straight to the War Academy where she sees the cadets arming for battle and the officers racing around mustering the armies of angels. The one angel she speaks to directs her to Erathis’s palace, there to speak to “the Fallen one, Machariel”. (some explanation of angelic nature to the non-religious members of the group follows as Alruna explains how an angel should be just a tool, not a person)

At the palace the group is brought by Machariel into the presence of the three Gods of Hestavar; Erathis, Pelor, and Ioun. Also present is the exarch of the Raven Queen known as Akasha. Together they reveal that Alruna has been given the power she has in order to lead the hosts of Hestavar into battle on the world of Carta. Alruna is shown the Wardrobe Gates, and told that when she is next called she must take one of them with her. Ioun grants Sioned a boon, a boon of knowledge, though it’s fuzzy at the moment she promises Sioned that when the time is right what she needs to know will become clear.

Everyone then rests for a time.

An hour or so later everyone finds themselves on a great mustering field. Machariel is there, along with Akasha and a host of angelic and exalted warriors. Both wardrobe gates are there as well. As Alruna steps onto the field a vision overwhelms her.

Alruna vision shows Torgar and Yuggoth battling, they are both huge figures (towering over the hills) and are locked in mortal combat. Nearby Grithka lies wounded, her brother standing over her blazes fire forth in a wave that washes over hordes of creatures charging them. Goliaths from Tablarax and settlers die trying to hold back a horde of minotaurs charging down on the escaping women and children fleeing south along the river. Alruna’s vision finally draws down to an old, gray-haired, woman. Tara (“the Terror”) is in the back of a bouncing wagon tending to Jeb, who lies unconscious in the wagon’s bed alongside other casualties of the battle. She prays to Alruna, “I’ve never had truck with gods, but if you have the power to save us as you saved your companions you must come now. For if you will not come we are surely doomed. Save us Alruna!”

Answering the call Alruna’s body collapses on the mustering field in Hestavar. Her spirit flies down from the heavens towards the world, but not so quickly that she fails to graps the wardrobe as she passes by it.

There is a blaze of light as Alruna appears, floating, above the wagon. As she descends there is a tremendous explosion as the Wardrobe Gate shatters. The explosion is deadly, and it injures several settlers who were too close to it. Afterwards a black hole in reality is left, a cracked in the worlds, a gate created by the destruction of something as powerful as the Wardrobe Gate.

Machariel charges through the rift in time and space. Following him the angelic hosts stream forth. With a lending of divine power to Grithka Machariel heals her, though she is still wounded. Together with the Fire Lord the three assault Torgar, even as he tears the last essence of Yuggoth to shreds.

Leading the battle lines Alruna, and the rest of the group, fight through waves of minotaurs. Alongside them are settlers, goliaths from Tablarax, orcs from the nearby hills, and fiery demons summoned from the depths of Carta. The combined army is irresistable, and soon the minotaurs are fleeing back towards their camp, pursued and slaughtered by the army.

When the battle is done it is discovered that Boss Simkins and about a hundred of the settlers and orcs who held the pass (at what is now being called Simpkin’s Wall) have survived by retreating into a cave in the defile. Simkins is injured, as is everyone still alive, but is in fighting form. Robb is much worse, his penchant for leading from the front combined with his willingness to die for Alisse and his future children have again resulted in him taking critical wounds, he will survive but will not even awake from his coma for some days.

The gleanings from the barbarian camp results in the settlers giving Sioned 100,000 gold in loot in thanks for her services. Machariel learns to channel the power of Carta (the world) to create souls, but warns Erathis not to come here for the link is permanent and now that it is made he can never leave the lands of the Berare river valley again, which is not what Erathis wants for herself at all.

Spiritually we can count Robb as a true convert to Erathis, Boss Simpkins converts (though his heart isn’t in it he is a man of his word). Machariel is pretty much now a local god in the valley. And it seems there’s a new religion in town, so to speak, though no one will admit it there is an underground worship of Alruna that is starting up as well. (let’s hope Alruna never hears of it)

The next day everyone meets in Sigil, at the Golden Apple. Estevan takes some of the gold from Sioned to fund operations in the Cage, the rest he uses to buy people magic items.

Thus endeth the Heroic Tier.

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Run 40 Rise of the PTC: The Hero's Journey, Pt. IV, "Descent"

In which our heroes descend through the Abyss itself into the Lands of Death on their journey back to the center of the Worlds…..

Having defeated the neogi spawn and their guardians, and their prey, the party moves downwards towards the bole of Yggdrasil. Before they can reach the next fork in the branch they are stopped as they descend towards a “wooded” (think bromeliads, moss, lianas, and ferns) “plain” (think “a wide and flat-topped section of the branch”).

The group spends some tense moments negotiating with a patrol of ratatosk which are holding this position against the neogi who live further out the branch. Kik’churakk, the patrol leader, eventually agrees they aren’t spies for the neogi and negotiates with them. He will agree to let them past his position on two conditions, first they must wait until his relief patrol arrives and secondly Pieter must aid his tribe with some healing. (as Pieter had offered)

Approaching the C’churakk tribe’s main camp the group splits up to deal more quickly with things. Sioned and Aeran ask around, looking for a route to Hestavar (or back to known lands). Pieter and Alruna go to help the healer M’rristakka, who tests their skills. Rook tries to stay out of trouble…..

Aided by Alruna Pieter succeeds in saving a badly injured hunter that M’rristakka had been sure would lose his leg, which went gangrenous after a fall. Alruna befriends the old healer, and gets her to reveal that while she knows the tree itself well she rarely leaves it’s domain and so has little to offer a planeswalker, the grey-haired ratatosk says she expects most of the tribe will be the same for the ratatosk are a people more “of” the tree than just living on it.

Rook sits himself down, trying to stay out of trouble, but finds that the young ratatosk kits find him irresistible prey for pranks and generally childish antics. He responds, to everyone else’s sighs of relief, with stories of the things he has fought and defeated. Rook embellishes the stories, much to the kit’s delight, but their elders are not so impressed with Rook’s (to their eyes) false bragging.

Sioned and Aeran are ushered into a “hut” in which three aged ratatosk sit, they are passing a pipe around while discussing tribal business. The two outsiders speak to the elders, relaying their needs and asking if the tribe can help them get to Hestavar. The elders agree that the group’s help, especially in light of Pieter’s efforts, merit some reward. But they regret that the C’churakk tribe rarely leaves the World’s Tree and so can not point them towards Hestavar.

They do offer that there is a member of the tribe, recently returned for a short time, who might be able to help. They say he’s a plane’s-walker like themselves, but warn Sioned that he’s crazy. Aeran says that dealing with crazy people is pretty normal for them, thinking of Crazy Horse. He and Sioned gather the rest of the group and leave the main camp for an outlying temporary camp where the “crazy” ratatosk is staying.

The “crazy” ratatosk proves to be a canny rogue by the name of Tiki. Tiki wears silks and velvets, his hose and beplumed hat are impeccable, and the cut of his half-cape is exactly above where the jeweled handle of his rapier hangs at his waist, only the lack of shoes says anything other than “rich, influential, Renaissance Man”. Tiki is a hard bargainer, nearly as hard a bargainer as he is a sharp dresser. He’s also a bit hard to understand initially for his speech is filled to the brim with the plane-walking slang that dominates conversation in The Cage. (the city of Sigil) But he agrees to lead the party back to Sigil for the price of 5,000 gold and a reference to the PTC for future business opportunities. He also demands, and gets, the promise that he won’t have to raise a finger in his own defence. (Tiki has a hot date planned in The Cage and doesn’t want to rumple his silk cape or dirty his clothes)

After agreeing to terms Tiki puts on a seriously fierce pair of boots and leads the party off. They pass from the World’s Tree to the Abyssal plane of Twelve Trees. While there they rescue Lysistrata (a princess from “Dirt”) from gnolls who were planning to sacrifice her. Another branch of Yggdrasil then leads them into the Shadowfell.

In the Shadowfell they approach a ruined city. Dodging hordes of zombies they reach the city’s center where they find a decrepit, but still standing, archway. Tiki offers dead-flesh (some dried meat) to the Raven Queen, which is the key to activate the portal. Passing through the arch the group emerges into a blazingly hot world.

Beneath a dim, huge, red sun, (let’s agree to call it a “Dark Sun”, shall we) the party bakes. Around them are ruins of an ancient civilization. In the distance they can see a dirty-brown “ocean” of silt. Around it lies a hostile badlands with little beyond sand, rocks, and the occasional patch of tumble-weed. Tiki says, “Well, drink up and then we’d best move out quickly, this isn’t a very friendly place.”

Passing as fast as they can, but still suffering from exposure to the brutal heat, after a few hours travel the party of planar travelers finally approach the pyramidal obelisk Tiki calls the “Pyramid of the Lost Sea”, and which he claims is the portal out of here. As they draw near they see insectile forms around the pyramid. Soon combat ensues as the hunting party of Thri Kreen are not about to let several day’s meat escape them if they can help it.

The game pauses as a Mantis Warrior harrasses Pieter and Sioned while Alruna and Rook get swarmed by hunters and Aeran skirmishes around everyone dodging hunters, the Warrior, and a pair of marauders.

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