Rise of the Planar Trade Consortium

Rise of the PTC, Run 16 - Synopsis: Housecleaning Pt. I -- "Headhunting"

Rise of the PTC, Run 16 – Synopsis: Housecleaning Pt. I—“Headhunting”

The session begins as Estevan leads Sioned, Sim, and Rook out of Pizarro’s house and bundles them onto a flat-boat tied up at Tradegate’s docks. He explains he’s getting them out of town until the whole House Llyrian thing calms down, he doesn’t want a trade-war, it would hurt his profits. Sioned is to go to Silverton and attempt to recruit Silla for the PTC, Estevan wants her in Tradegate starting up as a factor and gives Sioned a chest of 5,000 gp to back her startup. After that she is to proceed to the Rilmani city Sum of All and find a way through to the Library of Mirrors to a plane he calls “Mirror One”.

Mirror One is soon to be getting one Tforc Aral, a young factor-in-training from the PTC in Tradegate, who will arrive and attempt to set up a trading house there. Estevan says Pizarro’s agent has cleared the area, but he suspects trouble. He is sending Sioned in advance of Aral’s arrival with instructions to survey the area and help clear out any troubles she finds. She is to go covertly and early in the hopes of flushing out enemies.

Mirror One itself is the likeliest source of those enemies. It’s a mirror of “some damn Prime somewhere,” according to Estevan. He says the PTC contact there is a local holy man by the name of Szass Tam, he lives in the wilds of Mount Thay and leads a resistance group trying to aid the poor and hopeless in Mirror One. Estevan takes pains to warn Sioned that there is one Elminster, “a foul, debauched, sybarite of a wizard, sly, deceitful, and very dangerous,” who heads an organization called the Harpers, and that she needs to beware them. The Harpers are a very real danger as they are devoted to one thing and one thing only, “Power at any Price,” and are likely to view the PTC as dangerously abetting Szass Tam’s resistance. Sioned is warned that they are very much a secret cult willing to use any methods to achieve their goals, no matter how vicious or cruel those methods may be.

Handing Sioned a purse of 2,000 gp for expenses on the mission Estevan bundles them onto the flatboat, and departs after informing them he’s saved some gold by promising they’d help act as crew and introducing them to Captain Groot, a foul tempered ancient goblin. The trip itself goes smoothly for the first week. Groot is a mean, nasty, man, but once someone proves they are willing to work as hard as he does he eases up a little.

On the last few days approach to Jallal the boat is attacked. A giant spear/grappling-hook soars out of the woods along a bend in the river and pull the boat onto the shoals near the shore. Grating crashes from below bespeak crippling damage as the boat crashes against the river’s edge. A pair of elven archers backing a half-elf bandit captain and his pair of wolves then try to pick off the party, to claim their prize. The archers are brutal, and focussed fire on Rook nearly drops him despite all of Sioned’s efforts to keep him healed. In the end one of the elves and a wolf are slain and the bandits flee, leaving the boat stranded.

Two days hard effort then commence. There’s cargo to unload, damage to repair, wood to haul and cut into bracing. And that’s only the start. But after an exhausting pair of days the boat is ready to float again, and the journey re-commences.

Passing through Jallal with only a day’s rest the group approaches Silverton. The village has grown, both in population and in terms of permanence. In addition to the tents and gold-panners there are now wooden buildings and mines and forges going up. Silla seems to have taken charge of the town and runs a small trading business that supplies the needs of the miners and iron-mongers. She’s quite pleased to see Sioned again and while passing and receiving gossip and news reveals that Bulwark is now acting as a sheriff, or guard captain, for Silverton.

She’s a difficult sell, as Silla doesn’t trust Estevan, but with some convincing she agrees she could see herself moving to Tradegate and doing business there. However there are three things she needs dealt with first. She has commitments and promises to fulfill before she can leave, this she can take care of herself. She needs help dealing with some bandits on the road to Jallal, if Sioned can clear that up it would be helpful. Lastly she isn’t traveling to Tradegate with a chest of 5,000 gold pieces without guards she can trust, she’s nobody’s fool and knows she’s prey on the roads.

The bandits prove troublesome. Some searching reveals a few details of their most recent attack but doesn’t lead to their hideout, and no one manages to discover the source of their intelligence or their goals. In the end the trio decide to ride herd on a new supply convoy, Silla spreads word around she’s sending for one in order to flush out any moles. On the road the caravan of wagons is indeed attacked.

Two bandits, and a spitting drake, all following the instructions of a duerger theurge attack the caravan. They fight to the death. Tracking back to their hideout reveals that they were almost certainly part of a larger organization, but no details of that organization can be found. (the theurge was an excellent cutout for his superiors) Having solved the problem, for now, Silla agrees that she’s now free to go though she wishes she knew more about who the bandits were working with.

Sioned tells Silla she’s thought of a good route to Tradegate. They’ll escort her to the Heads of Amn, there they can open a portal to the Isle of Kss’Thraak. Once there she can take one of the trading ships from Port Liberty to Tradegate. Silla agrees, provided they’ll escort her to Port Liberty since traveling through a jungle, at night, in the midst of hostile lizard-men tribes doesn’t sound like the sort of thing she’s any good at.

The session ends as the quartet approach Port Liberty.

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Run 15, Rise of the PTC: "Matters of Infinite Discretion"

Brought a letter by runner from Pizarro’s house Sioned and Rook go to “Mateusz’s”, a restaurant down near the docks, and meet with Don Mateusz Marik. From the outside it appears to be nothing special, but on entering they discover it is actually a finely decorated club with a stage, and a full guest list. On stating they have business from Pizarro for Don Mateusz they are seated at an out of the way table near the kitchen and given the polite cold shoulder while the evening progresses. After a short show featuring a decent torch singer, though Sioned grumbles she can sing better, Sioned attempts to go up to an upstairs office to inquire about Don Mateusz. She is politely turned away, the Don is busy at the moment, but knows of her presence and will attend when it is convenient. Returning to the table Sioned and Rook wait patiently.

Passing the Don’s test, they finally meet him when the kitchen begins to close. Don Mateusz Marik is both the owner/chef of Mateusz’s but also turns out to be the fat-man they lost some small change to in the Triple Sixes in Decktown. He also is apparently a high-up man in a “family business” involving illegal activities, this explains the thick-necked goons he has.

Don Mateusz says that Charmian has tracked them down, and is impressed with their initiative and skill. But that she does hold a grudge, and her reputation requires her to eliminate them lest her “business partners” should begin to think she was weak. The Don offers to buy that grudge from Charmian, clearing Sioned and her boys in Charmian’s ledger, if they’ll help him find out everything they can about a group called “The Planewalker’s Guild”. Seems one Skeeve, a shifty, ratty, shifter of no good account, has done the Don a wrong. Skeeve’s local associate, an importer/exporter of wine and liquor associated with House Llyrian gave up the group’s name before “an unfortunate excess of exuberance on my associate’s part” the Don says as he looks pointedly at a particular thick-necked goon, “Lorimar did not survive the experience to say more than that Skeeve was a member.”

Accepting the mission Sioned and Rook go to Lorimar’s house first. They sneak into the basement, but are heard by guards as they creep up into the first floor office from below. A guard knocks Rook to his knees with a powerful blow from his halberd and falls back into the wharehouse calling for reinforcements. The guard wears House Llyrian colors.

Sim finally finds Master Trader Duncam and hands over the research he’d been working on for him, something on the diet of certain celestial beings. Duncam tells him to go to Mateusz’s and seek Sioned there, something is afoot. Briefed by Mateusz he follows Sioned and Rook to Lorimar’s house and sneaks in the back through the broken basement door they opened. Sneaking up he hears combat above.

Once Sim joins the fight it’s not in any real doubt. The four human guards fall, though the last one tries to run and makes it out of the house screaming bloody murder. Escaping the house with a parcel of magically concealed letters and some business ledgers the trio split up to escape the Tradegate guards who are now swarming over the whole scene. They unite in a safehouse, an upper room in a local inn, and break the enchantment there. The letters and ledger reveal that Lorimar and Skeeve had some sort of ongoing affair going, involving monthly payments, and that Skeeve is associated with something called the Infinite Staircase.

The next day’s research sees the trio splitting up duties. Rook investigates the Infinite Staircase, and learns a good deal about it including where it begins. Sim learns the history of the Planewalker’s Guild, and that they are now located on the Infinite Staircase.

Sioned follows up on Lorimar’s leads and confirms that he did begin to have access to cross-planar goods about when Skeeve’s payments to him began. She also goes to the lady Aleara, who leads the second largest independant trading house in Tradegate after House Llyrian. She’s willing to help Sioned, though not with anything too secret. She says that she’s employed a member of the Planewalker’s Guild in the past, and that she knows there’s a doorway somewhere in Tradegate. She reveals that only a planewalker can easily see a doorway to the Infinite Staircase.

With this in hand they go to Don Mateusz again. This time he thanks them for their help, and for the information they’ve provided. He agrees to smooth over their affairs with Charmian by buying the grudge in thanks. He then offers them a proposition, take his nephew Timeo Marik to the Infinite Staircase and then bring him back to Tradegate through the door everyone is certain exists there so that he can become a planewalker. In return he offers a fine set of magical armor for Rook. A new deal cut, the four begin to search for a path to the Realm of the Moon, where the staircase comes from.

With several fine pieces of art for offerings to Selune, who rules the Realm of the Moon, the local temple has a gate opened for Sioned and Timeo. Passing through they find themselves in a moonlit realm consisting of a beautiful pastoral island in the midst of a wine-red sea. After offering their gifts at Selune’s silver palace they approach the bottom of the Infinite Staircase, but are stopped before climbing it by a Lillendi who tells them more of it’s lore, and warns them of some of it’s dangers.

After a few hours grueling climb they approach The First Platform, a massive disc-shaped platform with many staircases rising from and to it. Moving on they climb further and eventually find the Planewalker’s Guild. They fail to convince Hav’run Thain, a large minotaur, to sell out Skeeve, but he recommends them to Orien an aged planewalker who can show them Tradegate’s door if they can bribe him sufficiently.

Orien turns out to be a cranky old man with old, tired, bones. He won’t help them for money or friendship, but Rook’s suggestion that they’ll help him loot wine and spirit’s from Tradegate and bring them back to the guild’s home is sufficient. A day’s travel takes them to the blue mushroom area, and within they find a doorway leading to . . . Lorimar’s basement. Loading themselves, and Oriens Bag of Holding, with bottles and casks of House Llyrien spirits and wines they fulfill their part of the bargain.

Returning to Tradegate Don Mateusz gives them the magic robes for Rook, and a purse of 500 gp in additional thanks. He then makes them an offer, come over to his family and work for him and he’ll offer them more magic than Estevan or Pizarro have ever offered. (and gold, and power as well) The three consider it, but Sioned politely declines while leaving open the possibility of free-lancing for him in the future. He then hands her a sealed letter he pulls from his waistcoat and asks her to deliver it to Pizarro for him.

Much debate ensues during the trip to Pizarro’s house about whether or not to break the seal and read the letter, using Rook’s skills to try to reseal it. In the end Sioned decides not to have Rook attempt it lest he fail.

Pizarro’s house is uncommonly busy. It seems he sits in council with other heads of the PTC, including the now-returned Estevan, in his true form no less. Summoned before him Sioned informs him that their business w. Don Mateusz is finished, and hands him the letter. He asks what she thinks it says, Sioned thinks it says she turned down Mateusz’s offer. Pizarro hands her the letter it simply says, “No.” Pizarro congratulates Sioned on her perceptiveness and says she’s passed his test, another test of loyalty.

Estevan then declares that he wishes Sioned to become his agent in truth. He declares that she’s been lost on the planes, he hipped her himself, and found her way back not just from the Shadowfell, not just from a Realm of Dread, but from the Realm of the Black Tower itself.

Melina speaks as to how she has brought a new trade route to her house.

Duncam admits that Sioned has brought goods to market in Tradegate for profit, and that she has brought customer’s to a factor’s house (his) as well. But he asserts that he thinks Estevan is “pushing this too fast, and I fear you may break her yet.” But he says he supports Estevan’s right to make an agent, and she’s met the requirements he mentions.

Pizarro speaks last and merely says, “I have tested her and she is not yet found wanting.”

Estevan then asks the last person who can raise an objection, Sioned, “You’ve passed the tests, and it is very fast and dangerous from here on in. If you will swear loyalty to me I would be honored to take you as my agent, but if you can not or wish not to now is the time to object.” Sioned agrees to accept his ring, and is told she should now use it freely, though at times still secretly, for what influence and aid it can offer. The sitting Council warns that it’s not magic, by any means. But says that PTC factor’s will support her actions as best their house’s will allow, and that it carries the Consortium’s reputation on it as well and sometimes that can useful. They also warn that it carries responsibilities, loyalty and discretion mostly, but also a commitment to help any factor’s house in any way possible, much like the factor’s obligations to help agents.

Estevan then apologizes to the sitting PTC Council, and nearly literally grabbing Sioned by the arm, rushes everyone out of the room. “I’m afraid we’ve urgent business,” he fast-talks the Council as Far-tooth gets up from the corner to follow him out, “and Time and Tide wait for no Oni, much less for agents of the PTC.” He dodges questions as the lot of you escape into the night.

Thus endeth the session.

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Rise of the PTC, Run 14 - Synopsis: Winterludes Pt. II, "In The Styx"

Again in Pizarro’s office Sioned is informed that he has another job for them. He apologizes that it took a few days for him to get it ready, but that he was waiting for the right ship-captain to pull into Tradegate’s port. He says an independent agent, the nephew of the PTC factor in the City of Brass has gone missing, one Karik Thorshammer. Karik was carrying a very sensitive letter that he’d rather not have fall into the wrong hands. He needs Sioned to go to Decktown, the last place Karik was seen. There she’ll need to find him, if he’s still alive, or at least find out what happened to him, and AT ALL COSTS retrieve that letter. It is critical that it not fall into the wrong hands, whose hands those would be he does not specify.

Sioned gets a description of Karik, a foppish fire-genasi. She also is given a map of the Riverweb, the place where Decktown is, and is told that captain Jin Kravikian will take her out of Tradegate. Pizarro says that Jin will deliver Sioned and a small sailing skiff to a mouth of the River Styx where she will meet a Ferryman who will take her and her men the rest of the way to the Riverweb. Jin pulls out as soon as the party is ready and sets sail, coasting around the northern coastline of The Land. After two days he heads to sea and catches a current of the Celestial Sea.

The current leads them to a gray and wasted land. Jin calls the land Oinos. The land is gray, the sky is leaden-gray, even the plants lining the nearby river-mouth are gray. In the distance can be heard the cries of battle, and over all lies the stench of rotting, diseased, flesh. Jin and some men tow the skiff to shore and await the Ferryman near the river. Jin warns everyone that they must not touch the River Styx, for it will steal their memories, and gods-forbid they should fall in or ingest some of it’s water for then they would be lost beyond any recovering.

As a thick fog rolls down the river, obscuring everything in sight, a low barge appears coming near shore from the mists. Aboard is a gaunt figure in black, it’s hands are skeletal, and beneath it’s hood can be seen a skull with red flames burning in it’s eye-sockets. The Ferryman Charyx has arrived.

Negotiating with Charyx Jin settles on a price for passage, four coins for each passenger. He counts out one copper, one silver, one gold, and one platinum coin for each of the three passengers; “The Girl”, “The Dead Man”, and “The Changeling,” as Charyx refers to them in a dead and dusty voice.

Holding a painter attached to the skiff the three board the barge, and Charyx poles it out into the river. For some hours they pole up the sluggish river. They pass by the Field of Nettles, a great battlefield covered in mounds of dead and rotting bodies, the bodies of demons and Baatezu that is. And once, between the mists, they glimpse a massive tower in the distance, a tower in the shape of a spinal column reaching into the sky. They see Charyx bow towards it, but no one hears him whisper “Honor to the Oinoloth, Master of Khin Oin.”

Finally the mists clear and they see they have come into a new world. A world of floating earthburgs, rivers of fire, smashing boulders of water, and a restless soup of mixed elements. In short, they behold The Plane Below, the elemental plane of chaos. The Styx flows through mid-air here, and merges with another river that flows onwards into a tangled web of rivers and streams. Here Charyx debarks them, Rook and Sioned have no problem crossing into their skiff from the barge. Sim nearly falls in as he overbalances and the Styx splashes up around the boat, a drop lands on his arm. He quickly brushes it off with a mage-hand, and nearly misses it as the droplet tries to dodge towards his hand, almost as if it was hungry to touch him.

Setting sail while Sioned paddles to keep place in the Styx, a nerve-wracking affair as the paddles raise far more splashing than they should and each splash seems eager (or hungry) to fly through the air towards the boat, the trio finally pull out of the Styx and onto a safer river. Using the strong winds in the area they swiftly pass over various rivers. But in the end fail to navigate the map correctly and find themselves across a 500 foot gap from The River’s Fangs, the place where Decktown is built.

Recalling tales of previous visitors to Chaos who spoke of shaping it Sim sets out to build a bridge of water between the river they are on and the River’s Fangs. It is slow going, and the chaos in the area is strong, requiring Sioned and Rook to work hard on stabilizing the water-bridge. To make things worse, halfway across a trio of Gnaw Demons fly up to attack the skiff. Though they knock Sioned unconscious briefly, leaving her bleeding body on the floor of the skiff, in the end they are driven off and the group makes it across the water-bridge to the River’s Fangs.

Approaching Decktown they look it over to see what they’re getting into. Decktown is build in and about a number of rocks jutting up from the river, some small, some massively huge. Between many of them are the wrecks of ships that failed to navigate the River’s Fangs successfully. Build atop those wrecks, on the rocks, and on floating platforms, are the buildings of Decktown.

Asking around for Karik they eventually find themselves in the Wrecked Wheel, a local tavern, questioning Silura. Silura is middle-aged gnomish woman who runs Decktown and knows a lot about who comes and goes. After some minor bribes are passed over she says that she recalls seeing Karik doing some business with Black Roj a week or so ago, and that no one has seen him since. The party then goes seeking Black Roj, an elven captain who pulls into Decktown regularly. They hear he frequents the Triple Sixes, a local gambling den.

Showing enough gold to get by the bouncer, the party spends an hour or so playing cards at the Triple Sixes, losing a trivial amount of gold. When they see Roj come in, accompanied by a dwarf, a halfing, and a half-orc, Sioned goes to join his table. Negotiations proceed over poker hands, which neither Roj nor Sioned do very well at, both losing money to a grotesquely obese human with a trio of thick-necks behind him and a pair of molls draped off him.

The negotations themselves go better. After playing for a bit, and hearing Black Roj talking about “ducks” in a manner which indicates he really means ships that he attacks and takes by force they figure him for a pirate, later inquiries will reveal he’s a member of the River Spiders. Initially tentative, the party soon turns the conversation to Karik. Roj allows as he knows something, but he wants payment for it, and he doesn’t accept gold. He says he’s most interested in “ducks”, and claims to be a afficianado of water-fowl. Sim recalls hearing of a planar dromond leaving Tradegate sometime ago that was bound for the City of Brass via Decktown, a dromond owned by a competing trader house, House Lyrian. Sim promptly sells out House Lyrian, telling Roj about a “duck that was flying south for the winter, and should be somewhere between here and the City of Brass soon.” In return Roj says that they want Charmian, “I last heard he was going to meet her for unspecified business.” Asked for a location he says they can find Charmian at her house, and he tells them where that is.

Approaching the edge of Decktown they find themselves turned away from the front door of the house they were told of. Diving into the water Rook swims around the rock the house is on to discover that there is a small floating dock with a rope-bridge leading up to a back door. Listening at it he hears voices arguing within, apparently someone thinks they should have just killed the people at the front door and should at least send a runner to inform Charmian about it. The party then sails their skiff around Decktown and up to the floating dock, Rook picks the lock, and opening the door quietly they gain surprise on their unsuspecting foes!

The fight is brutal. A gnoll pledged to die in Yeenoghu’s name, a half-orc skirmisher, and a knot of goblins defend Charmian’s safe-house. The gnoll does brutal damage to Rook, and then held up by Yeenoghu’s demonic powers refuses to die until he smites Rook again! Meanwhile the half-orc, after brutalizing Sioned with a vicious hit from his battle-axe charges Sim and with a massive pair of blows leaves him bleeding to death on the dock outside. Rook and Sioned just barely manage to kill the half-orc and get to Sim before he dies from blood-loss. (two failed death saves!!! Yay ME!!!!!)

Quickly searching the house while Rook watches the back and Sim watches the front Sioned finds Karik. He’s unconscious, and is dying of a fever from gangrene setting into his hand after Charmian chopped off a few fingers to send to his father in the City of Brass along with a ransom demand. She also finds the letter, opened, and a small stock of gold (200 pieces) and a magic suit of chainmail, Healer’s Armor +1. Before she can continue searching, but after pocketing a number of Charmian’s papers, the party is forced to flee as a force of gnolls and goblins charge towards the front door. Hiding in the bottom of their skiff only Sim reveals himself at the tiller as they pull away from the dock. He is not in his own shape, having taken the form of the half-orc who was in the safe-house after pushing it’s body into the river and seeing it vanish downstream.

Now desperate for a route out of Decktown and back to Tradegate Sioned sends Sim out to find one while she and Rook hide, with the unconscious and dying Karik. Sim takes the form of a generic half-elf and returns to the Broken Wheel to speak with Silura. Silura informs him, for the price of some drinks (and a good Diplomacy roll) that she knows of two easy ways there at the moment. She says there’s a planar dromond out of Tradegate that is docked at Decktown at the moment, and that after it travels to the City of Brass it should be returning to it’s home-port. Thinking of “ducks” Sim declines that route, and says he needs something quicker. “Then you’ll need to go bargain with Charmian,” Silura says. “She knows many gates, and though she charges a pretty platinum or six for those gates she’s likely to know one you could use to get to The Outlands.”

Keeping his half-elven face on Sim goes to Charmian’s house. He gets by the half-orc gate guards by saying he’s willing to pay Charmian’s price if she’ll do business with him, though the guard warns him that if he cheats her she’ll take her payment in a pound of flesh.

In the house he meets with Charmian, a hard-bitten female half-orc surrounded by followers as she does business. She agrees to deal with him, and he successfully keeps his poker-face on thus not raising her suspicions. For the price of 4 platinum she offers him a gate not far up the Riverweb that leads to a ruins just a few days up the Elbruin river from Tradegate. She warns him the gate-key is not cheap, a 50 gp blue agate, and also warns him that this portal while not a deep secret is one she doesn’t want spread around. She warns Sim that if he reveals it she’ll have him and all his friends hunted down and killed, and that she has diviner’s more than capable of finding him across the planes. (On later hearing this Sioned and Rook wish her luck in taking on Akalabeth, and smirk at the predicted results.)

Finally returning to Tradegate Pizarro thanks them and hands Karik off to the priest of Dianchect, Jerek, for healing. He inquires as to the gate Charmian sold them, but when told of her threats agrees to not press the issue, he has no desire to endanger a valuable resource like Sim or his companions. He does express his gratitude for their help by offering Sim a pair of magic boots, and promises that in a few days he hopes to have another mission for them all. Thus dismissed the three return to the House of Duncam, where they’ve been lodging, and spend a few days resting and recuperating from their journey.

Thus endeth the story.

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Rise of the PTC, Run 13 - Synopsis: Winterludes Pt. I, "Yggdrasil"

Returning to Tradegate the party meets up with Fartooth, Estevan’s lion, who is accompanying a caravan of goods coming into the town. The caravan master, Timlik Vartus, gives Sioned a letter and a package from Estevan. The package contains a gift for Sim, magic. The letter explains how things have gone unexpectedly and Estevan can’t make their rendezvous. Estevan suggests that Sioned ingratiate herself further with Duncam and Melina and that he’ll have something more for them when he returns.

The next six months are a whirlwind of activity. Duncam and Melina both have a plethora of things that they need help with if Tradegate is to be rebuilt after the fires that cleaned it of the plague. Building projects needing supervision, caravans of materials to bring into Tradegate, craftsmen to recruit, and the multitude of day to day trade-work that maintains the PTC’s position of power in Tradegate; all of these fall to Sioned and her companions.

The exception is Pieter. A month or so after returning to Tradegate he departs again, bound for Port Liberty. It seems Cassius wasn’t as good as he thought, and no one made their insight checks to catch him on it. Grisalvo writes Pieter telling him that Cassius was killed in a skirmish with the remnants of the poisonscale tribe, several other militia died that day as well. Determined to not let Port Liberty perish Pieter takes ship with a trader out of the Crimson Port. Over the next many months he works hard to train the militia as best he can, while looking for a replacement for Cassius. As The Land spins, the seasons advance. Come winter Tradegate is mostly rebuilt, albeit roughly. Many folk are in dormitories rather than their own homes. The party takes residence in the House of Duncam for this time. Then one snowy day they receive a message from Estevan, he has returned and wishes to meet with them. He waits on them in a tavern, and he is still in the human disguise he uses. He tells them they’ve done well, and thinks that if they can just prove themselves to the only remaining Master Trader of the PTC here in Tradegate they should be able publicly claim the agent’s ring he gave to Sioned. He says he has some fairly quick business he needs to attend, and gives them a sealed letter to bring to Master Pizarro.

Pizarro greets them in his office, it is seriously luxurious. Pizarro is a huge man with white hair, he is in fact a goliath. Initially he speaks to them with his back turned, as he stands on a balcony overlooking the harbor, when he turns around it becomes apparent he’s blind from cataracts. He checks the seal on the letter Sioned hands him, then asks her to read it to him. It recommends her to him, and says ”.. . and I’ll claim my winnings on our bet, since I’m certain she wouldn’t break the seal and read the letter first.” Having passed one of Pizarro’s tests he informs Sioned that if she wants to gain his trust she’ll need to prove her loyalty to the PTC. He offers her a quick courier job to test her skills, if she succeeds he allows that he’ll have more (and more sensitive) work for her in the future.

Pizarro says he needs a letter brought to one of his ship captains, Eduardo Vasquez, who should be pulling into the port of Hjelmsfjord in the next few days. Vasquez is to return immediately to Tradegate. If Sioned can handle the courier job it will free the men he was planning on sending for other duties. On the party’s agreeing he brings in Captain Tomas Marik, the flight leader of the last remaining Griffon-Riders of Tradegate, who will brief Sioned and get her on her way. Before leaving he gives Sioned a sealed letter for Vasquez, and a gift for an old friend Rikitisk who lives on The World’s Tree.

Marik flirts a bit with Sioned as he leads the group to his units baracks. He tells her he and his men will fly her to the “Lair of Sylvith” in the nearby forest. He gives her a small metal box, and the key to open it, and says it’s a bribe for the hag Sylvith, to allow them passage to Yggdrasil. Then after a few hours flight he drops the group in a forest clearing and tells them Sylvith lives a few miles to the east.

After searching for a while the party approaches a tiny hut in the forest, snug up against a huge bole of a tree. Outside there is an ancient crone sweeping clear the dirt around a small fire with a broom of sticks and branches. Despite threatening them the party just barely convinces Sylvith that it’s not worth her effort to slay them when she could get their bribe by just letting them pass by safely. Greth and Sioned both manage to catch sight of the bribe as she pulls it from the box and pops it down her throat with great gusto, it seems to be a tiny worm-like creature with a human face that cries out in a tiny voice as she devours it. (Some knowledge checks reveal that is likely a larvae, the soul of someone condemned by their life to one of the planes of the Abyss.)

After fighting some fell taints that were inhabiting the bole of the tree behind Sylvith’s hut, and succeeding in a fairly difficult climb up the inside of the tree, the party comes out of a small crawlspace onto a massive branch jutting forth from an incomprehensibly huge tree-trunk, the branch itself is nearly 60 feet wide. Traveling up the branch they encounter a trio of hunters, the hunters are an odd race, they appear to be giant squirrels. Some negotiations later it is revealed that they are Ratatosk and that they do know Rikitisk.

Led by the hunters the group enters a small village of tents made from giant leaves. In one of them sits an aged Ratatosk, his muzzle is grayed and his fur is patchy. He huddles, swaddled in blankets, near the fire trying to warm his bones. Sioned greets him in Pizarro’s name and offers him the gift. He seems glad to hear Pizarro is still alive and asks many questions about his old friend as he shares the tea Pizarro has given him with the party. He also tells them of his people, and their duty to defend the World’s Tree. Lastly he offers that in the morning he’ll detail some hunters to guide them to the branch they must leap off of in order to get to Ysgard, the plane where Hjelmsfjord is, he says there are easier exits from Yggdrasil to Ysgard, but if they want to get to the earthburg where Hjelmsfjord is they’ll have to take a leap of faith off the branch.

As they speak a young runner rushes into the tent. He stammers out that the hunters have discovered the dark is rising, a great wave of insects and oozes is coming up the trunk devouring the World’s Tree as they go. Rikitisk immediately sends him out to gather the children and elders for an emergency move of the tribe, and to bring all the warriors to him. He then apologizes to Sioned and says that she is welcome to depart before the battle, he’ll draw her a map to the right branch to leap from, but that he would be most grateful if they stayed and helped, Sioned agrees to stay. Outside his hut he organizes his troops for battle. Paired groups of Ratatosk warriors will advance on the enemy advance and attempt to delay them. Individual runners will make for other tribes with the call to battle. He will remain with the warriors defending the exodus of the young and old until the full force of the tribes nearby can be mustered for battle. It is at this point that the group heads out with the skirmishing forces to engage the enemy.

After splitting off onto their own branch, still scouting for the enemy forces, the party encounters a raiding force of giant ants. Sioned successfully pulls one soldier ant off the branch they are on, it survives the fall but scuttles off out of sight. Warrior ants come up around the branch to flank the party as workers and winged drones advance. The winged drones prove particularly vicious and are hard targets to boot as they dart in to attack and then fly out of range again.

Their branch cleared the party re-unites with the other scouting elements and heads to the tribal rendezvous point. The main force of Ratatosk have gone to advance on the enemy. They return having slain or driven off most of the enemy. A celebration ensues amongst the gathered tribes that lasts until near morning. Before dawn the party departs, led by Ratatosk scouts, and as dawn breaks they leap off the branches of the World’s Tree Yggdrasil.

As they fall they pass through several worlds, before landing on the earthburg where Hjelmsfjord resides. Some time passes as they make their way down a snow-covered and forested hillside to a small settlement of vikings. The settlement is Hjelmsfjord, and they find Captain Vasquez already present, and nearly ready to depart. Giving him the letter they then board the ship and pull out.

As the ship passes out of the fjord it sails towards what seems to be the end of the world, a great cataract of water falling off into nothingness. Mists rise upwards on gales of wind at the edge of the earthburg. As the ship passes over the edge Vasquez has his men set sails from the side of the ship, like a pair of great wings, and the ship sails into the air. Rather than falling it begins to tack into the gales, making slow headway away from the earthburg. After a day or two flying it approaches another earthburg, which Vasquez tells them has a current from the Celestial Sea in it’s domain.

Sailing the current Vasquez steers his ship into the Celestial Sea, and in just a few more days of mundane sailing everyone pulls into Tradegate again. Pizarro is pleased with the party’s performance and gives them the purse of 1,000 gp he promised them. He also says that he has another job for them in a day or two, he’s not sure exactly when.

Greth apologizes, but says he can not help Pizarro any further. He tells Sioned that he feels he must return to the Plane Below to undertake more monastic training. There is some regret at his departure and much gratitude for his help so far, so in the end everyone parts company as friends.

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Rise of the PTC, Run 12 - Synopsis: Plague Times, Pt. V "The Republic of Rigus"

The night’s story begins in the Shadowfell, in the lands of Al Jah’ra, where Akalabeth (a powerful spell-slinger) holds open a portal to Rigus. Sioned, Rook, and Greth quickly move through while the villagers follow. Pieter and Sim work heroically to ensure each villager makes it out, combined with Akalabeth’s self-sacrifice in holding the portal open even longer they succeed in getting almost everyone out. At the last second they fling themselves through the portal, though seven villagers are lost, caught in the Shadowfell as the portal crashes.

Meanwhile in Rigus Sioned and crew are confronted by a togate half-orc, Tribune Gaius Magnus of the Julii. They try to convince him they mean no disruption, but noting the continuing influx of refugees and the effect on the market he calls out the guard. A unit of legionaries blocks both main roads in and out of the square, and after containing the villagers arrest Sioned, Rook, Greth, Pieter, and Sim and drag them before the praetor. Di’Ahna will beg off, and exploit a familial relationship of friendship with the Julii to get the Tribune to take her into his house and arrange transport for her back home to Tradegate.

Praetor Marcus Servilius judges them before The Pantheon in Rigus. Many arguments are made before his court. In the end he is convinced that no harm was intended, and that the people involved will be leaving Rigus soon. So rather than clap the villagers in chains and sell them as slaves, a fate he threatens everyone except Sioned with as well, he instead agrees to let them proceed with his blessing . . .. for a price. Some 200 gp worth of sacrificial animals later, Praetor Servilius and the group finish a grand offering to Erathis in his name. Thus discharged of their duty Sioned leads the party out of Rigus and down the road to the port of Ostia.

Returning to the villagers they find that Grisalvo has organize them and bought some amount of food for them with the small coinage they have available. But the food won’t last out more than two days. They also briefly ask around Rigus to see what trade looks like, Rigus imports raw materials of all sorts, and grain and food like there’s no tomorrow, it exports most finished goods and mercenary troops. That said, most of Rigus’s trade is already spoken for, and nothing is for sale at the cheap costs Sioned wants to get her buy price at.

They ask around Ostia for ships they could charter to Tradegate. They have no trouble finding four captains who will do so, but they’re asking 500 gp a ship for the fee. Discouraged, since they don’t have that cash on hand in platinum, though they do if you include gold, they explore other avenues. In particular they learn of a smartly turned out small three-master, a sloop called the Black Witch II. Remembering hearing of the original Black Witch as belonging to Res’Tar Blackrock they take a chance and, hiring a fishing boat, go out to meet the ship.

Lt. Carsbury, an eladrin of the Maelgrimm Empire, welcomes them aboard. After some time the captain of the ship returns as well, it turns out to be their old acquaintance Commander Darkleaf, now promoted to Captain Darkleaf of His Majesty’s Sloop of War Black Witch II.

Captain Darkleaf listens to their problem. Then makes them an offer. He claims, truthfully, to be scouting the seas for his king. He doesn’t mention he’s scouting for a division of cruisers holding offshore beyond the horizon of Rigus. Darkleaf does offer that he’s in a bit of a bind. He needs to send a “message” to one local, a Gnaeus Crassus, but can’t be known as having his men take care of it. He allows that if Sioned could go ashore and murder a few local thugs who work for Crassus, without causing too much of a stir besides that, he could find his way to help them out.

Sioned readily agrees, she’s killed alongside Darkleaf before. The thugs turn out to be a quintet of street scum, three Rigans and pair of human guards they employ. Bursting in through the wharehouse door they engage the Rigans. The combat initially opens well, but rapidly goes south as the two human guards drop Greth with a pair of halberd blows. The Rigans bloody Sioned and Rook. But with time and effort Sioned’s men win out. Turns out the lead Rigan was wearing a pair of Couters of the Second Chances, which Pieter takes.

Returning to the Black Witch the group discovers the squadron waiting offshore. Though it takes a few days, using local launches and the Witch to ferry the villagers out, eventually the population of Kurdu is loaded aboard the squadron of rebel Maelgrimm warships. Sioned is forced to put out another 200 gp in supplies and food, and not very high-quality food at that. Additional funds are put out for tools, like a sawmill blade, that couldn’t be taken from Kurdu and that will be needed on the Island of Kss’Thraak.

Additionally a new person is hired on. The villagers will need a militia to defend themselves now that the Lady Y’larra is no longer responsible for their safety. So, despite failing their Insight checks during the skill challenge, a local Rigan named Cassius is hired on to fill the slot. He consents, provided he can remain captain of the militia once they’re trained.

On arrival at the Isle of Kss’Thraak much activity commences. Several more villagers are lost over the following weeks as they build up a new village and harvest various goods from the forest. Many are saved. Merek approaches Pieter and says that although the villagers are inclined to name their new home Port Liberty they want to offer the honor first to him and his friends, but if they have no better suggestion Port Liberty it will be. In the end Sioned and crew depart several weeks later. They arrive in Tradegate just about a month after Estevan abandoned them in Kurdu diseased and helpless. They arrive with a ship-load of reagents, spices, rare feathers, some pearls, and raw timber logs to sell.

After buying some supplies for the ship to bring back to Port Liberty, more sawmill equipment plus building equipment like nails and such, they manage to make enough gold to refill the purse of 14 platinum that Estevan put in Sioned’s pack back at the start of the story.

Tradegate itself is busy, but devastated. Much of the city has been burned in the mass quarantines the disease warranted. Many important people are dead. Vast amounts of building materials are being bought and sold as the factors of the Great Houses spend gold like it’s water to bring in building supplies. Melina, of the House of Rhea, is particularly pleased with the raw lumber Sioned has brought it, and is even more pleased when she hears that Port Liberty should be exporting planks and boards when the sawmill comes on line, in fact she promises to devote a ship to making regular runs there for the goods. This friendship is furthered when Di’Ahna reappears and tells her mother of how Sim and Sioned kept her safe in Kurdu and then found her a route out of the Shadowfell so she could come home.

Some days later, while walking the markets of Tradegate, a large lion riding on a caravan wagon notices them. Chuffing loudly in greeting it hops down and approaches. Pieter looks a little nervous as it butts Sioned on the hip with a cheek as a greeting, not quite pushing her back a few feet. Not far behind is Estevan, who is in disguise and continues to hide from the factors of the PTC. He congratulates them on their success and offers Sim a magic item he’s picked up “in my travels” as a reward for doing everything he’s asked of them and ensuring Di’Ahna’s safe return to the House of Rhea.

We will begin next session with your conversation with Estevan, in a private room somewhere.

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Rise of the PTC, Run 11 - Synopsis: Plague Times, Pt. IV "Favors Owed"

The session opens with Sim waking, as the inn-keeper’s daughter is bathing his unconscious body. She manages to escape before he asks too many questions. Moments later Di’Ahna comes into the room and briefs him on the situation. They agree that staying in the village longer seems unwise and together they leave town in a cart Di’Ahna purchases from her privy purse.

In the camp the Vistani are finally settling down to sleep. Sioned is shaking her head in disgust as she sees Pieter approaching with “that look in his eye.” Indeed she’s right in her concerns, he’s out to save the world, or at least the village of Kurdu. As he starts to lay out his case Sim and Di’Ahna drag into the gypsy camp and Sim joins the conversation while Di’Ahna collapses exhausted from the journey. Together at last everyone concocts a plan, they’ll hire the gypsies to kidnap Julilla, then murder the Lady Y’larra’s messengers to the town. This will force the townsfolk to flee or suffer her wrath, along with some fast talking they hope to convince Grisalvo and Merek to lead their people away from Kurdu in a great exile. With luck they can convince Akalabeth to help them, and if not they’ll bring the people out through the pool to “Dirt”.

Baba Tasha has excellent ears, even if her stealth check isn’t what it used to be (as Greth notices her listening in). She sits down to rest her bones and offers to improve their plan. She notes that they’d never make it to The Black Tower and back to Kurdu in time to get the messengers. She offers that if Sioned agrees to owe her tribe a favor she could arrange for magical transport that would resolve the issue. Sioned agrees, Pieter agrees to ask her the favor of kidnapping Julilla, and as Nicola leads a small raiding party of gypsies towards Kurdu the party rides off on phantom steeds.

They race to Akalabeth’s, mostly without incident, although the steeds need magical replenishment at several points in the journey as they brush against various magical wards the party never noticed before. On arrival they are let in by the kobold door-ward and wait for a bit until Akalabeth appears. Her demeanor is quite different this time, she gives off strong vibes of “Hungry,” “Predator,” and “Mmmm, you look like prey.” Though they fail to convince her to help out of the kindness of her heart, a trait the group is growing increasingly convinced she no longer possesses, she agrees that she will hold open a portal at the Monastery of Iskillith that leads to the city of Rigus, for a price. She demands future, unspecified, favors from both Sioned and Greth. It may be worth noting that she seems visibly less hungry when it is revealed that the party wants to save Kurdu for profit-related motives.

Riding like the wind the party returns to Kurdu, in time to witness a black carriage from the Lady Y’larra’s castle clattering into the town square. As they ride in they see the towns-folk, gathered for market, cringing from the wrath of the Lady’s messenger. He is swearing vengeance in his lady’s name for the missing girl, and the other sacrifices, also missing.

The party rides them down.

(In fact the messenger proves to be a vicious opponent and everyone is very greatful that despite weakened by the disease Sim is present as he drops a -7 to it’s attack rolls on the blood-rager. Without that it’s almost certain Greth or Rook would have fallen. Good fight.)

Convincing Grisalvo and Merek isn’t easy. The townsfolk have many foolish fears, and a number of very valid ones. But in the end a combination of good skill checks, including a timely “Shut UP!” from Rook, manage to assuage everyone’s concerns and convince them they need to leave. A few hours later there is a heart-wrenching procession of refugees escaping the town. They mostly leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and some carts filled with tools to rebuild with, where they have space as the elderly and young take most of the caravan’s available space.

One old granny offers the party a “lucky charm” her grandfather gave her when she was a little girl. She can’t promise it’s magic, but she’s always been told it was. Turns out to be a +2 Amulet of Physical Resolve that Rook snaps up readily.

Hours more pass, nervously, as the refugees trudge the road towards the Lady’s castle. The townfolk breathe a sigh of relief as they leave the road and travel up the difficult path to the ruins of the Iskillith Monastery. Coming around a bend they see the ruins, and with a flash of lightning, and a stench of brimstone, Akalabeth is there. She stops the exhausted exodus towards the ruins with a wry, “So you intend to send the townfolk in to soften up the enemy within? Very wise.” Sioned calls everyone to stop, and Greth sneaks up, within is indeed a group of zombies and a blazing skeleton.

Too exhausted from shepherding villagers over a stressful journey to think up a clever plan Sioned leads her men forward into the teeth of the undead. They march on the ruined cathedral and eat a blazing ball of flame for their troubles, zombies charge, and a Zombie Hulk lumbers into the front line. The fight goes well though the Zombie Hulk does some damage before it falls.

Finally the way is clear to the great teleportation circle in the ruins. As the townsfolk gather round Akalabeth begins a ritual, with the party’s aid. She rolls a stunning Arcana check, with the +8 the party is giving her, and then reveals that she has something else going on as well as the gate remains open much longer than 5 rounds. This is fortunate as not even five rounds is near enough time to cram the near three hundred exhausted, terrified, and thoroughly lost (emotionally, spiritually, and physically) refugees from Kurdu through the gate.

As the party vanishes from the Lands of Al Jah’ra Akalabeth wishes them well and tells them to remember her to “dear Julius, if he’s still Consul”.

Thus endeth the session.

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Rise of the PTC Run 10 - Synopsis: Plague Times Pt. III

In the inn’s common room Greth and Rook are surprised as Di’Ahna, the daughter of a PTC Factor in Tradegate, comes downstairs clearly just recovering from the disease. They explain things to her. In the room above Sioned wakes from her relapse, she isn’t nearly as debilitated as previous attacks have left her, but has no memories of the past month or so. Reading the various notes, she starts dressing to go downstairs.

Pieter is lost in dark and dangerous dreams, brought on by the disease. Just as he is about to be trapped by the dream he’s fleeing he is arrested in his flight by a flaming angel appearing before him. “Be Not Afraid Pieter,” booms it’s angelic voice (speaking Celestial), “I bring thee healing from our Lady Erathis for your affliction. Wake from thy infirmity and go forth. Lead those lost to Our Lady from the darkness in which they dwell to the light of Civilization and the knowledge of Our Lady.” Charged, and healed, the angel vanishes from Pieter’s sight. Pieter sits bolt upright in bed, and wakes, to the sight of a half-dressed strange woman in his room. (and a creature in bed with him as well)

After some humor, and explanations, Di’Ahna returns upstairs to the room while Sioned and Pieter meet Greth and Rook downstairs. They debate their situation for a bit before Julia, a local woman, interrupts them. She slinks into the common room and throws herself at Sioned’s feet, sobbing and grasping Sioned’s knees she begs a boon, that Sioned take her daughter Julilla with the party when they leave. She says she’ll give them anything she can if they will just save her daughter from being taken to Y’larra’s castle for the great feast coming in two days.

Much debate ensues. Julia, banished to a corner of the common room, watches the party. Her eyes never leave Sioned’s form.

While they talk the town elder Grisalvo comes in and reproaches Julia. She admits what she has begged of Sioned, but is defiant, and unrepentant. Grisalvo then approaches Sioned and begs her not to take the child. He says that if she does the Lady Y’larra will surely punish the village of Kurdu by crucifying a number of them along the road to her castle. He begs Sioned not to take ”. . . just one or two, leaving the rest of us to the Lady’s punishments. If you can not take everyone, I beg you not to take anyone.” Sioned agrees for the time, and dismisses the distraught Julia.

Pieter, Sioned, Greth, and Rook, then depart Kurdu to search the wilds between it and Akalabeth’s tower for the rumored passage to The World. Up a hidden ravine they begin to sniff out magical traces indicating a portal is near, when they encounter a patrol of hobgoblins. Despite attempts to get a messenger away the patrol is slaughtered to a “man”. Entering into a cave system they search for nearly an hour before finding a pool of black water in a deep cave. Also in the cave are a zombie hulk, a flaming skeleton, and a few other skeletons. The zombie hulk puts the fear of the undead into people as it misses Rook with a colossal smash that crushes several nearby stalagmites, but with concentrated fire it soon goes down.

Swimming through the pool leads to a warm, sulfurous-smelling, cave system. Some quick exploration leads them to the surface where it is determined that they are on a prime, in a graveyard. Nearby is the town of Havelek. Havelek produces finished carpentry goods, furs, as well as finished copper goods from a mine not to far away. It is inhabited exclusively by shifters, the feline shifters appear to be in ascendancy over the lupine ones in a loose class system. Havelek lies in the Kingdom of Varsivaal, and (Gods help the dumb Primes) they call their world Dirt. (It’s always something “earthy” isn’t it . . . sigh) The current canon pantheon seems to rule Dirt.

Returning to the Land of Al Jah’ra they discover that Kurdu is rife with rumors about them, not all of them true by any means. Traveling onward they walk the road towards Y’larra’s castle. As they approach the stream the Vistani tribe is camped near they enter into a thick wall of fog. It cuts sight down drastically. Coming over the bridge they see the glow of the camp’s lights and can hear the Vistani, but until they’re right in camp can’t make out details.

Nicola welcomes them back. After introductions are made Sioned bargains with Nicola over the price for the portal they’ve found. He agrees that instead of taking them with the Vistani for a trip he will tell them of the ruins of the Iskilith Monastery, which has a teleport circle the Vistani used to come here. The deal done they exchange information, key-sequence for the circle for the location of the pool.

Meanwhile . . . . . Pieter approaches the elder of the camp, the ancient tiefling crone called Baba Tasha. He talks a bit with her as she bustles around the camp tasting a dish here, helping a young girl with pig-tails there, and so on. He tries, subtly, to ask after how she would feel if she were trapped here, and how the Vistani are as a people. His bluff check ain’t so good, doubly so when compared to her insight, and Baba Tasha asks him point-blank if what he really wants is to convince her to steal away the child Julilla and adopt her into the clan. He admits it.

Baba Tasha then grabs a seat on a log and pats the spot next to her for Pieter to sit down on. Greth and Rook smirk as they suppose, quite rightly, that he’s about to get a “talking to.” She then looks him in the eye and asks, “And were you also planning on telling me price the village would pay if I do this thing and have my family steal away with this child?” Pieter appears abashed, but says he was, and tells her. They discuss the implications, and the morals, a bit. Greth chimes in with his theory that the humans here are all dead and in hell, which Baba Tasha discounts saying they are living mortals and can go to The World if they can. She then challenges him to consider that perhaps everyone, including him, is dead and are now in the afterlife. Baba Tasha doesn’t go any further into Dustman philosophy, not being one herself, but leaves Greth to consider the topic as unfinished business.

The night ends as Baba Tasha gets up from the log. Looking down at Pieter she makes the following offer, “I like you young Priest of Erathis, and were I younger I’d think you quite cute as well.” (she winks) “So I will make you this offer. If you will grant my tribe a favor in the future I will let you ask one of me now. But if you ask me to steal away Julilla the blood it brings will stain your hands, not mine. I will not make the decision for you, it must be your choice. But if you ask this thing of me, I will save the girl.”

After more dancing, and drinking, and tale-telling (all lies this night), the camp settles to sleep. The party camps with them for the night. Darkness steals quietly over the land as the righteous sleep, and the undead wake . . .

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Rise of the PTC Run 9 - Synopsis: Plague Times Pt. II

(change of title from “Hippy Chick” to “Plague Times”, for obvious reasons)

Though Pieter’s nature skills are in fine form on the journey back to Kurdu, from the tower of Akalabeth, his health is not. As you approach the town it becomes apparent he is suffering from the plague, and that Sioned seems to be relapsing as well. Come morning both have collapsed into fever-dreams and can’t be woken.

Left alone, with a party of invalids, Rook and Greth ponder their circumstances. While doing so there is a cry from outside the inn. The Lady Y’larra has decreed a great celebration, and feast, for her husband has returned. The crying is from a young woman whose child is to be taken away in four days for the feast, along with a number of other villagers.

Considering themselves as non-humans, and lacking confidence in their ability to transport a number of invalids through the gate in Aglubiyet and then through Acheron Greth and Rook come up with another plan. They will go to the castly of Lady Y’larra and seek to learn more there.

The road to the castle is straight and well-kept. Although it’s nearly the same distance as the trip to the tower of Akalabeth it takes only a few hours journey to cover the distance while on the road. The trip is not without event as a pair of hobgoblin scouts, in the uniform of Aglubiyet, attempt to ambush them. The battle is quick, Greth and Rook soon down the hobgoblin archer, and the soldier doesn’t last much longer.

As they approach the castle they are hailed by an orc guard atop the gatehouse. They declare that they are travelers and have come to congratulate the lady of the castle on her good fortune. The orc passes them through into the castle’s courtyard. Surrounding them are a host of orcs, ogres, and various oni rushing back and forth on various businesses. At the far end of the courtyard is a great manor house.

As they approach the manor house the butler Ahksalaam, an oni mage, stops them and inquires more as to their purpose here. Again they assert they’ve come to congratulate the Lady of the castle and enjoy her hospitality. He bows and let’s them inside.

Inside they find a great court. Along a side-wall are multiple tables with spicy foods for guests, ogres circulate offering drinks, and a host of “people” mill about the court. They see shadar-kai, a devil, multiple kinds of oni, someone who initially appears human but is flanked by a pair of wraiths guarding him. At the rear of the hall they see a pair of staircases rising up to a balcony, and between them a great throne. On the throne sits a fearsome lady, terribly thin, blue-skin, horns, tusks, and surrounded by a number of oni courtiers and a quartet of spirits that whirl around her.

Rook and Greth split up briefly to quarter the room. Rook’s efforts are fruitless, but don’t cause any trouble. Greth is not so lucky as he rounds a group of guests and finds himself face to face with a trio of Githyanki in formal armor. He flees into the crowd. The Githyanki split up to try and pursue him. A slow chase of duck-and-cover ensues, which ends with Greth just about to be forced out of the hall to not get caught. . . . . . when he bumps into Akalabeth.

The middle-aged woman wastes no time after seeing the inbound gith. She charges them in deep-speak (with a Githyanki accent), “Be wary of violating the Lady’s hospitality towards a guest, lest you open yourself up to greater predators . ... . ”, she doesn’t say anything more than that, but the look in her eye seems to say that she’d find the three gith a Very Tasty Little Morsel. The three of them turning a very pale shade of yellow and scurrying away seems to indicate that they caught her meaning, or at least didn’t have the stuff to deal with her intimidation.

Akalabeth questions Greth about why in the world he is here. Then grabs Rook and drags the pair off to a library to talk. There she learns of the disease’s progress and when Rook acts cagey about his relationship to Estevan declares that he has clearly forgotten what she showed him when she did the ritual enchanting Greth’s Ki Focus, “I have far more resources than you can imagine,” she says. She declares she’s washing her hands of Estevan and his plan. And she then takes the intrepid pair to meet him.

Estevan is in a guarded room, that Akalabeth seems to have easy access to. (In fact the evidence seems to show that Akalabeth is held in high regard and effection by both Estevan and Lady Y’larra.) She leaves, pretending to a mild case of temper for the guard’s sake.

Within Estevan awaits on a balcony. He is in his true form, an oni mage, and looks wistfully out over the lands surrounding the castle. He is distressed to hear of the disease recurring, but thinks it’s more likely that he and Pieter came to close to contamination in Tradegate. He says he doesn’t need rescuing by Rook or Greth, but that if Sioned has fallen to the disease his plan is indeed awry. He doens’t go further into what his plan is. He does inform them that the portal in Lady Y’larra’s castle won’t help them, it goes to the capital of the Kingdom of Al Jah’ra and is no place they should consider escape from. He also confirms that Aglubiyet is currently gearing for war and would execute any intruders as spies if they could catch them.

He does come up with a new plan for them. If they can present themselves to congratulate the Lady Y’larra on her good fortune and offer her the heads of the two spies she would be in their debt. They should then immediately repudiate that debt by begging a boon of her, the use of her library to research another way out.

Before meeting Y’larra they meet up again with Akalabeth. She seems to be over her fit of pique and agrees to stand with them in the receiving line to speak to Y’larra. After some time the three approach. Y’larra sits in splendour, her clother are magnificent, her hair is spectacular, her courtiers are attentive, and Rooks Arcana check reveals that she is a Level 14, oni, elite, artillery, Oni Spirit Summoner (I might have missed “undead” in the list, check Open Grave to be sure, she’s in there). After a quick (“gulp”) he and Greth greet her. She is polite, but uninterested until they speak of the spies from Aglubiyet. They offer to bring her the spies’ heads as a present, which seems to offend her until they beg that in return they be granted the smallest of boons, to use her library. To that she agrees, and then, after some sweet words for Akalabeth, she dismisses them.

The bodies alas, have risen. So after trekking back to get their heads Greth and Rook find they now face a pair of zombies! This fight is a little longer than the first, but again they dispatch their enemies before taking substantial damage. Y’larra gracefully accepts her present and offers them rooms for the night in her house, and the use of the library….

Some time late in the evening Rook and Greth believe they have another route out of Al Jah’ra figured out. There’s reference to an ancient battle between a plan-walker wizard and “The Lady of the Black Tower, Akalabeth”. The plane-walker was said to draw power from a portal between here and The World. Some comparing of references to memories of the journey to Akalabeth’s tower convince Greth that with a few hours searching he could find the cave wherein the portal (a pool) to The World lies. The next morning Rook and Greth depart the Lady’s castle for the village of Kurdu.

Grateful to finally escape the castle, where they realize they should really never have gone, at least not yet, Greth and Rook depart for Kurdu in the morning. By late morning they are nearing Kurdu when they come across a caravan of gypsies that seem to have camped near the road, where it crosses a stream about an hour’s walk from Kurdu. The camp is led by a rascally human named Nicola. Nicola invites them to share lunch with his family if they are friends, and everyone sits down to drink, dance, eat, tell tall tales, and lie to each other, in a friendly way. Greth and Rook do well socializing and while they can’t convince Nicola to give them something for the mere rumor of a gate they do impress Baba ‘Tasha, a wily old tiefling woman. ‘Tasha says that she thinks their hearts are in the right place, and while they can’t join the caravan she instructs Nicola to let them buy passage for one trip if they can return before the caravan moves on.

Greth and Rook then return to Kurdu. They have found two possible routes out, the pool in the forest, and the gypsies. Assuming they can return to the gypsy camp with the location of the pool, their invalid companions, AND payment BEFORE the gypsies meet the “Oarsman” (you can hear the capital on that word) whom they are here to exchange goods with.

This is where we leave things.

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Rise of the PTC Run 8 - Synopsis: "Hippy Chick"

We open with Pietr, an up and coming young priest of Erathis on the world of Oerth. He is summoned to Prelate August Mirovar who tells him of a vision he was granted by Erathis. Pietr is taken to meet Estevan, a trader and traveller, who offers him a place out in planes helping link cities together with trade and founding colonies. Estevan also promises to use his influence to get Pietr to the city of Hestavar, where Erathis resides, at some point in the future so he can find out more of what his goddess wants of him. As is typical with Estevan, he fails to offer details of when or how, but Pietr still has his fingers after shaking Estevan’s hand so it all seems okay.

Greth is the first to awake. He finds himself weakened and dazed by disease, he’s still exhausted and feverish. He manages to wake Sioned and Rook, but Sim can’t be woken from his fever, and a young woman who was in bed w. Sioned can’t be woken either. They look around a bit, and after looking out the window discover they’re in the upper floor of a building in a small village.

Pietr asks Prelate Mirovar’s permission to follow Estevan, and after being granted the Prelate’s blessing he gathers his goods and follows Estevan through the Wardrobe Gate. On seeing Sigil, he has a moment of panic, but manages to hold himself together. Together they go quickly through the Lady’s Ward and the crowds of the Market Ward to the Tradegate. Passing through Estevan leads Pietr through the burg of Tradegate, which is still burning quarantined buildings but still has some trade, to the House of Rhea. He passes it and enters a small alleyway that has an iron door set into the stone of a building’s wall at the end of it. After some effort picking it’s lock and cracking the warding spells Estevan manages to open the gate and leads Pietr through it to the village where he says his agent is recovering. He warns Pietr that once he enters this gate there’s no going back through it again and that if he comes he’ll have to find his way out with Sioned for Estevan will be leaving them for a bit. Pietr agrees.

Back in the room Sioned discovers a letter from Estevan for her. It describes how she and her men have been stricken by a disease that has ravaged Tradegate. He says he bought cures for the four of them and Di’Ahna, the daughter of Melina. (Sioned recognizes the name, Melina is the head of the House of Rhea, a powerful PTC trading house in Tradegate. She’s very much a peer of Duncam’s.) He further says that they were all forced to flee down a one-way gate before a mob. He is off to find his way out. He leaves Sioned with instructions, find your way out, return to Tradegate with a caravan of goods for sale, and if possible also return with a permanent trade-route. He expects to see you in a month in Tradegate. He also leaves Sioned a small velvet purse with 14 platinum pieces in it inside her pack. He mentions he’s hired a healer and minder for Sioned.

A day has passed for Pietr when he returns to the upstairs room in the inn at Kurdu. He’s been off collecting leeches for his patients. He sits down briefly for a rest and some prayers to his Lady Erathis. Then the door opens and a badly diseased, but barely conscious, Greth is standing in the doorway. Behind him are Sioned and Rook, as ready for anything as they can be. After brief introductions they collapse into chairs to talk.

They learn a bit about the village of Kurdu, and it’s terrible mistress the cannibalistic Lady Y’larra. (if a non-human monster who eats humans can be called a cannibal that is)

The next day everyone is still feeling like hell, but not suffering from dazed or weakened any more. So they begin to investigate the village for a way out. They find few palatable possibilities, it’s said the Lady Y’larra has a portal in her castle. Pietr speaks with Merek, an elderly priest in the village who warns him away from the Lady, and begs his aid in destroying some undead that have recently risen in the local graveyard. He offers to help, and no one disagrees, so the party takes a break from their investigations and heads to the cemetary.

In a crypt they fight off a swarm of zombies, a wraith, and a corruption corpse. Though the fight takes a bit it’s never really in question. Much harder are the trio of ghouls that sneak up on them as they take a short rest, they drop both Greth and Sioned, repeatedly, before finally falling to the radiant power of Erathis. (aided handily by the rest of you as well, of course) In thanks for their help Merek gives them an ancient magic item, a pair of Iron Armbands of Power, which Greth takes. He also tells them that perhaps they should go speak to the wizard Akalabeth, who dwells a day’s travel to the northwest in a great Black Tower.

Sioned begins the day’s travel with a ritual to help them along. Combined with some good rolling on the party Endurance checks and a spectacular Nature check from Pietr the group travels the day and comes out into a forest clearing near sunset. Before them is a huge, like 20-30 stories tall, black tower. The door is warded with vicious and powerful magics. The party’s knocking is answered by a kobold who says he’ll let them in and will inform the “Lord” Akalabeth of their presence. Some minutes later Akalabeth, a gray-haired human woman comes down the stairs.

Akalabeth says she’s sorry but she doesn’t know of any portals out of here, but she will allow them to use her library to do some more research into the subject since Sioned was so charming. (a really exceptional diplomacy roll) The party begins searching and after some time find religious references indicating that the nearby city of Aglubiet has a temple to their god that contains a portal leading to Acheron where he dwells. Akalabeth offers to feed them and let them rest for the night in the Black Tower before returning to Kurdu to check on Sim and Di’Ahna, her fare is excellent and the conversation stimulating and provocative. Akalabeth has some interesting moral views, views a lot of people would regard as EVIL with all caps, tempered slightly by the fact that she is a highly refined and civilized character. She also agrees to help Greth by enchanting his Ki Focus to a +1, at the cost of the reagents, since she rarely gets visitors and relishes the chance to show off her arts to fellow practitioners. Her arcana check, from “take a 10”, is stellar, she is clearly an Epic tier character.

Returning to Kurdu the trip is even easier. And we will leave our heroes there, as they walk into the village of Kurdu late one day, just an hour before sunset…...

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Rise of the PTC Run 7 - Synopsis: Pirates of the Spice Isles Pt. III

(no Rel bursting out of the box took place after all, and thus the Wardrobe Gate was never there . . .)

Our heroes get off as the Phoenix pulls into the Crimson Port. After paying the docking fees of 200 gold for the Phoenix Sioned and her minders plan out their day. Blackrock departs, concealed, to set his own plans in motion . . . The party splits up to ask around town about how things are. Greth discovers little, Sim finds out a bit about the background of the Crimson Port and the legitimacy of Blackrock’s claim to the Throne of the Maelgrim Empire. Sioned finds out a good deal more about local politics and trade opportunities. Rook has a really crappy day dealing with annoying dwarves and arrogant eladrin and ends up finding a bar fight . . . . .

Sioned, Greth, and Sim walk into the bar to rendevous w. Rook and exchange information only to discover him involved in a bar fight with his new friends, the Bosun’s Mate Kar (half-orc) and Warrant Officer Lilya, both off of the Indefatigable. They, and some crew from the Inde, are badly outnumbered by the crew of the Redoubt. The party wades in and manages to take control of the room with non-lethal spells and blows by the time a shore-patrol, consisting of a Commander Darkleaf and men from the Renown, put a stop to all of it. They parole Rook on Sioned’s word to report to Captain Thorndike aboard the Renown and explain their actions since she explains that they have to meet with the Crimson Pact soon, this very evening.

The meeting is a non-event. Greth’s insight for the night is that the Pact itself, a council, is not truly holding power here. He believes that they will only make a decision on Sioned’s trade proposal after their principles, whoever they are, have time to decide behind the scenes.

The meeting with Capt. Thorndike goes rather better. Through some sweet, and some false, words they convince Thorndike to help them and Blackrock. He even agrees to help them assault the Isle of Kss’Thrak, provided they can prove themselves not to be spies for the foul “Black Prince Edward” (he spits) “the pretender to Res’Tar’s crown.” He offers them the chance to prove themselves by helping him and his fellow captains on a cutting out expedition against a Royal Squadron which has been sent to retake the Crimson Port from the rebels. Everyone agrees.

Paddling quietly up to the anchor chain of quiet ship the party passes over a shallow reef and comes at their target hidden by the darkened island behind them. They sneak up the anchor cable, a massive multi-strand hawser-rope, to the edge of the quarterdeck. Springing forth they gain surprise on an eladrin officer and a pair of armed dwarven watchstanders. The ensuing fight is brutal as several people are bloodied and Sim is shoved overboard into the ocean, the freshwater ocean. In the end the officer falls and though the dwarves do more damage they too succumb to coordinated attacks in the end.

The ship is captured and it’s flag is struck!

Returning to the Crimson Port with a prize crew the party spends the next few days waiting. During that time Captain Thorndike organizes his new ships into a squadron and returns one blustery day victorious after a battle with the Royal Navy’s Admiral Devreux. Admiral Devreux was soundly defeated as Thorndike sank one of his ships and sent the other two fleeing home to repair in dry-dock, leaving the Spice Islands to Blackrock and his men.

Thorndike then leads out three of the frigates and in a massive marine assault destroys the village where the elder Kss’Thrak lives. The lizardmen battle bravely, but futilely. Sim, assisted by Sioned and Rook, confirms that the fire you kindle at the Heads of Amn does in fact open a portal. Accompanied by Commander Darkleaf of the Renown they use the portal to go to the Outlands, there catching Mistress Zoot of Jalall’s Inn of the Welcome Wench in flagrante with a pair of burly, strapping, young men who were helping her maintain the fires on the Outland side of the portal. Darkleaf is astonished at the transition, but returns through the gate to his ship after taking some magical notes.

After a long day waiting for any vessel to pull into Jalall that is going downriver the party finally books passage, for 120 gold, to Tradegate. On day 28 of the journey the four explorers finally pull into Tradegate and take a brief and well-deserved rest. Master Trader Duncam, of Tradegate’s House of Duncam, repays the incurred expenses along with Estevan’s promised bonus for success. (He claims he’ll get the gold back from Estevan at a later date and that supporting the efforts of the PTC’s agents is just what a good Factor does.) He also offers the resources of his house for sale at cost in thanks for not costing him more gold in the hiring of Thorndike’s men and ships. The result is a total income of 1040 gold for the party, net.

Next week, Interlude 1: Tales From the Branches of Yggdrasil. (probably, unless I think of something cooler, of course)

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