Rise of the Planar Trade Consortium

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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Run 39 Rise of the PTC: The Hero's Journey Pt. III, "Bright Calembel"

Having consulted ancient oracles and having been refreshed the heroes return to known worlds.

Okay, a bit more detail.

Constrained by Pieter’s Knights of Unyielding Valor the kraken mauls Aeran and Alruna a bit more. Aeran escapes it’s grasp, but Alruna is caught and flung into her allies a few times. Finally the kraken, badly wounded, retreats from it’s hunt and withdraws into the depths of the black lake.

The group wades out to the gate they believe holds the portal. The water is foul, and chest-high near the gate. Sioned tells everyone to try to think thoughts of death and despair, the key to open the portal, and helps folks along with some ancient tales of woe and horror. The portal opens. A vast current pulls everything within ten or fifteen feet of the gate through it as water rushes through the portal. After only a second or so the portal snaps shut behind a dazed and disoriented party and the mass of choking fish and lake-creatures that were pulled through the gate along with the lake’s waters.

It is soon apparent to experienced planar travelers that the world they have come to is neither the Shadowfell nor the Outlands. A blue sky, with wispy clouds, above and a pleasant, but hot, temperature color impressions of “courtyard as garden” with citrus trees and pleasant-smelling herbs. Before anyone assesses more than that a well-dressed servant standing near a door addresses them.

Paulo inquires first if they are friends of the Duke Stormcrow Abruzzi, then if they are his enemies, then lastly if he may offer them the Duke’s hospitality. It becomes clear that the Duke pays some attention to what comes out of his gate and that accepting his hospitality, at least until they meet him themselves, is not an optional thing. Sioned accepts his offer of hospitality and the group is shown to rooms where they may prepare themselves before meeting the Duke. Baths are taken, gear is cleaned, and in a bit under an hour Paulo returns to tell them that the Duke has cleared his schedule and would be happy to see them at their earliest convenience. Everyone interprets that correctly and immediately follow Paulo to a library.

The Duke (“The Duke, the Duke will die before these eyes and he’ll know, he’ll know, that it is I, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who encompasses his doom!”, sorry, love that quote) is a tall, and somewhat guant, man. He has grey hair and the signs of age, but appears to still remain vital and full of energy. He is a tiefling. When the party enters the library a number of courtiers will depart to let Duke Stormcrow speak with his “guests”.

The conversation goes well, for Sioned and her companions mean no ill to the duchy and are candid and truthful. The Duke does get Sioned to examine a long fore-arm bone that proves to be the “gift” Ogg gave her that was wrapped in silk. The bone is powerfully magical, it’s easily detected by anyone with good arcane senses at the range of an entire city, however the silk seems to be shielding it’s power and keeping it secret. What little can be told of the bone is that it is very old, it’s powerful magic seems to be trying to reconnect it to the other pieces of whatever it once was, and that it’s not a piece of anything anyone has ever heard of.

Further questioning reveals that the Duke visited the Oracles long ago. At their request he moved the gate from the Shadowfell to his lands and waited, they told him that in the future travellers would come forth from it, and that he must guide them to the Grove of the Eldest. For twenty years nothing had come through the gate, then Sioned et al arrived. Stormcrow connects the bone to his prophecy and believes that Sioned is surely being used as an agent by the oracles, and that she should probably be aided as best he can since he thinks well of them.

At the Duke’s invitation the party spends the night, taking rest in the castle. His hospitality is impeccable, the company educated, the city nearby (Calembel) easily accessible and welcoming, his wine and brandy cellar is possibly the best Rook has encountered, and when morning comes everyone is refreshed.

Riding out from Calembel on phantom steeds, and aided by a traveler’s chant, the party makes excellent time as they race north along the coast. Asking at villages they guide themselves towards the Grove of the Eldest, which the villagers are happy to direct them to though they won’t speak of what goes on there. Cresting a ridge running down from the mountain Ioa they see a forested valley that matches the description of the grove, in a clearing near a stream they can see smoke rising up though the distance is too far to see more.

Working their way through the forest the party breaks into the clearing near the stream. There they see an older woman tending some fish she’s roasting over a low fire. She seems well enough, and readies herself to flee until assured the group means her no harm. She then offers to split the fish with them for lunch if they will share their food with her, everyone agrees and people sit down to a simple meal. Elegeia is not terribly forthcoming as a conversationalist, but it’s apparent she’s a very good listener as she gets much more information out of the party than they give her. In particular she won’t tell them who “The Eldest” is, though after lunch is finished she tells everyone that she will introduce them to “The Eldest” if that’s their desire.

Following Elegeia into the forest the group travels for a bit. Elegeia is quiet by nature and doesn’t speak much on the trip. Pieter looks around the forest for anything out of place but it seems natural enough to him. Suddenly Elegeia stops and turns and asks the party what they see. Looking around more closely the group slowly realizes that the tree behind her is a branch of Yggdrasil, the World’s Tree. Commending them on their observation, and having finished her introduction of the group to the tree, Elegeia departs as quietly as she led them to “The Eldest.”

It takes some time before the group manages to climb up into the branches of the tree, having determined nothing unusual was to be found at ground level. Swinging around the bole of the tree (maybe 10’ in diameter) Aeran finds a hole leading into Yggdrasil, arcane energy seems to indicate that the tunnel inside the hole is a planar passageway. Some people slam against branches as they swing over to the hole, but no one falls the forty or so feet to the ground below. The tunnel itself proves a tougher job, it’s been chewed out of the tree by something (or things) and is winding and steep, and not very big, it’s seriously claustrophobic. It’s also slick enough that Alruna fails to hold her grip and falls down the tunnel into Rook, who falls into Pieter, the three are only back-stopped at the last moment as Sioned braces herself and stops the disaster about to unfold. With more caution the group finishes the climb.

They emerge onto a large branch of Yggdrasil, perhaps 20’ wide at it’s narrows. Below they can see a fork and they head towards it, seeking the trunk.

Before they get to the fork they are assaulted by a pair of neogi slavers, each caring for a swarm of neogi spawn that are pursuing (and consuming) a writhing mass of rot grubs. The neogi slavers spread out to sides, climbing along the sides of the great branch with their spider-legs gripping the tree easily. The rot-grubs, pursued by the neogi spawn, slam into the party’s front-line. Rook petrifies a mass of the swarms, and Sioned uses a Wail of Anguish to punish them as well. However the group is held back by the slavers, for each neogi repeatedly blasts and fries their minds with psychic attacks, shackling their minds with commands they must resist. (and dazing them) The fight is nasty, and closely fought, for a very long time. But once the swarms start to fall it’s but second before the entire enemy forces are in collapse. One of the slavers escapes by climbing to the underside of the branch and moving away, there are no other survivors.

The group takes a short rest and proceeds along the branch of Yggdrasil.

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Run 38 Rise of the PTC: The Hero's Journey Pt. II, "Oracles are Always more than they appear"

Our heroes appear outside a gatehouse of Astrazalian, traveling via a linked portal. Alas it appears to be winter, and the Fomori-led hordes are actually assaulting the city-walls when the heroes arrive.

Atop a wall a great Fomori leader, the King of Baradh Durr, battles under a banner sporting a Black Cauldron. At the gatehouse a unit of hobgoblins attempt to storm the gatehouse with ladders. Atop the gatehouse Shandria, the eladrin leader of the city, hews down a cyclopean opponent and casting his head down to the hobgoblins bellows, “Let loose the cavalry!” The gates begin to open as hobgoblins begins scrambling back, their leader tries to hold them to their assault, but fails. As the broken unit streams away from the gate, and towards our heroes, Shandria looks down and calls out, “If you would serve Astrazalian this day, HOLD THOSE GOBLINS FOR THE CHARGE!” in a tremendously commanding voice.

Sioned advances into the teeth of the hobgoblin unit, Pieter raises a wall along one flank, while Alruna holds in the center. Rook has already raised the fiery forces of Ugar in the center. As hobgoblins begin to engage the hobgoblin Hand of Bane is banished by Pieter’s prayers. Without his leadership the gobbo horde swarms around, and while they damage several people they do not escape when the eladrin cavalry comes charging out from the gates of Astrazalian. Aeran probably has the worst time of anyone as he discovers that an open battlefield is not the most friendly environment for an assassin.

The party is given into the command of an Astrazalian captain, Gil Gallorian by name, who debriefs them. On hearing their quest he turns them over to Shandria for a decision. Shandria says that she can’t afford to spend the resources needed to send them to The World from Astrazalian, but that if they’ll help her she can still help them escape the Feywild. She offers that if they take a letter to a spy of hers outside the city and return word via a sending ritual of whether or not the spy’s news is believable she’ll have the spy give them the location of a fey portal, she knows the portal goes to either the Sargasso Graveyard or to the echo of the original graveyard in the Shadowfell. Shandria hopes the spy can bring some enemies of the Black Cauldron to drive away the besieging army, buying Astrazalian some time to prepare for the next assault. When the party accepts she commends them on their courage and has wizards prepare for their journey with ritual aids.

The five heroes ride out on phantom steeds, passing over the bay in an attempt to outflank the camp of the Black Cauldron. They are fiercely pursued by the fomori warriors, but escape them as they pass into the Iron Hills. Some tough navigation is needed to pass through the Iron Hills, and it is only by Aeran’s skill that they manage to evade a hunting party of hill giants. But soon they come to a thick fen, within which they believe lies the Island of the Oracles. (where they are to meet the spy, the youngest of three sisters) The fen turns into a deep swamp, and navigation is difficult even for those atop steeds that can ride over water, which is incredibly useful here. But in the end they find the lake with the island in it’s center, but cannot approach due to a magical circle that repels them. With effort, and help, Rook and Sioned temporarily drop the circle just long enough to ride past it.

The Isle of the Oracles proves to be a low, bramble-choked, patch of semi-dry land. As they approach the center of the Isle it rises slightly, and eventually they discover a low hut in a clearing, smoke rises from a rough chimney. As they approach a hideous ancient crone comes out and demands to know who they are, she is visibly blind, having only black and empty sockets in their place. When hearing Sioned’s name she cackles and calls out to her sisters to bring “the eye”. A second hag comes out of the hut, she give the first an eye she plucks out of her own skull and returns inside. Placing the eye in head Ogg, ogles the group.

Over time the party meets Ogg, and her sisters Gogg, and Magogg. The three ancient crones claim to be oracles, and share a single “all seeing eye” between themselves, trading it off for incomprehensible reasons. The spy turns out to be Gogg, the middle sister, and Magogg, the youngest is clearly friendly towards the eladrin. Ogg, the eldest, is more clearly a friend of the fomori. The three argue fiercely over what to do, what to tell the group in particular since they know word will get back to Shandria. In the end Magogg decides it by telling Sioned she believes that the King of Mag Tureadh is not insane, but is instead the “Wise King from Below” spoken of in prophecy. Gogg agrees to pass on Shandria’s letter, and takes Shandria’s payment for her service. Ogg is tremendously unhappy and as the party leaves declares, “So be it then, if Shandria will gain in this let her lose in another realm. Take this gift girlie, and don’t open it until you’ve left the Isle. Shandria shan’t be allowed to win in all things,” and she hands Sioned a long, thin, object wrapped in red silk. The other sisters violently object and the party departs as they begin fighting amongst themselves.

At the edge of the lake, as they are leaving the Isle of the Oracles, they find the graves wherein their portal lies. The three grey ladies had given them the portal key, thoughts only of death and despair. As they approach they can see that the muddy waters of the lake have risen to cover many of the gravestones, and the portal itself is now at least thirty feet off-shore. People prepare to wade out to it, but notice a huge bulge of water approaching the island, as if of a massive submerged creature moving at high speed. As they watch in horror a mass of huge tentacles bursts forth from the water’s surface, and is soon followed by the hideous bulk of a kraken’s body. The kraken eyes the group, and moves to attack. Aeran engages it more closely as the majority of the group tries to stay away from the beast’s tentacles. However it spits poison and blinds a few people with that attack. As the battle rages Pieter summons four celestial warriors to help pin the monster in place.

But as the session ends the battle remains very much in question.

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Run 37 Rise of the PTC: The Hero's Journey Pt. I, "Surprise, the Return of The PTC!"

The session opens with Sioned waiting, cooling her heels, outside the library in House Duncam. Within are Duncam, Pizarro, Melina, and Estevan. When brought in she sees Estevan is using his true form. Estevan tells her the time has come for him to retake his House in Sigil, he says the great war between the factions is nearly spent and when it finishes he can return. He will cast out the imposter who has taken his place and seize what is rightfully his, all to the profit of the Consortium of course since he’s a far better factor than the current occupant. Estevan seems to possess some inside information as he says that he will begin in three days, and that Sioned is to meet him at The Golden Apple in the Cage in three days. Before she does she needs to deliver some cargo for him, oh, and she needs to acquire some gold for Estevan prior to then as well. Estevan is vague on the details of who/why/where regarding the cargo, and especially vague on how Sioned is to get to the cargo, but he’s perfectly clear on the gold. Sioned is to bring him 100,000 gold pieces in three days.

Back at the ranch grandma is beating off the injuns . . ... okay, not so much. In fact there is a large gathering at the Simkins’ Ranch. Everyone rides out to gather the locals, at the end of the day there are near 100 men (and a few women as well) gathered in the farmyard to discuss the coming of Torgar. Consensus is that the 500 or so men the settlers can muster will not cut it in a fight against the minotaurs, help will be needed. It’s agreed to send messengers to Tablarax to ask aid of the city. But some dispute over whether to send Pieter and his “boys” to Erathis for help or whether to send Boss Simkins and Robb (who are both willing to pledge Erathis their souls if that’s the price of saving the people of the Berare river valley) arises.

As the congress of ranchers and farmers debates Alruna is distracted by a voice only she can hear, a voice from her past, Sioned’s voice. Sioned is in danger and calls to her saying “If you can get the feather of the Raven Queen come and help me.” Alruna can sense there’s danger from Sioned’s voice, and can feel there are drawn weapons involved. Alruna goes to ask Rook about the feather. As she does she again hears a cry for help, followed by a sharp pain as if of a cut to someone’s wrist in a sword-fight. Rook can not help her, though he’s fascinated to hear of the Raven Queen’s interest in her and her vision of Akasha (the exarch of the Raven Queen). Alruna then hears Sioned cry out for help again, and feels a sharp pain in her wrist as if from a viciously applied disarming move, she can sense a large figure attacking Sioned. In increasing distress Alruna presses Rook for any information about the feather that he knows, in a corner Aeran sees what is going on and sneaks nearer to Alruna and Rook to watch. Alruna falls to her knees and cries out for the Feather of the Raven Queen as she is overwhelmed by a sharp pain in the side of her chest and a clear vision of a large Oni standing over Sioned’s fallen form piercing the side of her chest with a great sword, worse yet, she recognizes the Oni as Davakara, the Oni hired by Colonel Vailor to try to assassinate them. Taking compassion on her plight, and obvious distress, Aeran pulls the feather out and hands it to Alruna.

Alruna collapses to the ground unconscious, and the feather vanishes.

The discussion of what to do breaks down as the congress of ranchers dissolves into chaotic talk about Alruna, and what her collapse means. (if anything) While things break down Tara rushes into the house to get medical supplies, but on her return finds there is nothing wrong with Alruna that she can determine. A few seconds later something momentous occurs. . . .

About a day’s walk out of Tradegate, in the forest nearby, Sioned and Estevan are setting things up. Along with them is one of Estevan’s cousins, an assassin by trade, an Oni named Davakara. Estevan explains that he’s not sure exactly how it works, but that it was prophesied by one of his clients (referred to as “I”) that if Sioned cried out for Alruna’s aid after three summons, when things seemed most bleak, Alruna would appear and that Sioned would depart The World with her. Estevan explains that this is how she is to get to her “cargo”, he’ll now answer that he believes the cargo is some people, but that he’s still not sure exactly who, nor where they are to go. Sioned and Davakara agree to stage a “duel”. Sioned calls, with no effect, for Alruna’s help and the two begin to fight. Davakara is (for now) the more skilled swordsman and as he slices Sioned’s fore-arm she again calls to Alruna. Pressing her backwards he pins her against a large rock and disarms her with a skilled trick, forcing her to cry out to Alruna for a third time. For the final call to Alruna he twists his sword so that his strike to Sioned’s chest is merely a flesh-wound instead of a mortal blow, but it is bloody and painful as Sioned cries out a final time for Alruna.

In a blaze of radiant energy Alruna appears behind Davakara. Sioned sees a blaze of light eclipsed by the large Oni’s body, and then the tip of Alruna’s sword cuts through his side with a vengeful thrust. Davakara leaps backwards, and crying out “Damn, that hurts” he flies up and away and vanishes in mid-air. (Estevan puts his hands up before vanishing into the woods.) Sioned looks up at Alruna and tells her she’s okay now, but could use a ride. As Alruna stays she can feel Divine Power blazing through the feather and into her, the feather seems to get more “real” over time. (almost like it’s larger, heavier, denser, except that it’s not) Clasping hands with Sioned Alruna decides it is time to return. There is a thunderous flutter of black wings, and a feathery touch, and the forest is once again empty.

Back in the yard everyone is surprised as Sioned appears, standing over Alruna, armed, armored, sword in hand, and bloodied. For her part Alruna sits up, recovering consciousness now that her spirit has returned.

Simkins does not take to Sioned, whom he clearly considers flighty and prone to improvising things as she goes. He doesn’t like the sounds of her mysterious “employer” either, since she won’t give many details about them, not even naming Estevan nor the Consortium if I recall rightly. However, given what his friends have to say about her, he’ll grant that her desire to choose envoys and get moving is the right one. In the end it is decided: Sioned will lead the party out to seek Hestavar, Simkins will send Aeran with them to look after his interests, and Simkins will keep Wythe since he’ll want a wizard to help defend the valley. The settlers will contact the orc tribes to help scout the badlands, then they’ll take the materials for Erathis’s church and use them to build up a defensible position, while they do so the non-combatants will try to move south ahead of the horde, the hope is that they can hold out long enough for Erathis’s forces to relieve them.

Summoning Phantom Steeds and using the Traveler’s Chant Sioned immediately heads out, taking Wythe to open the shallowing to the Feywild.

On arrival in the Feywild the five heroes are attacked by fey guarding the passage from the World into the Feywild. Two dryads lead a pair of su monsters and a basilisk. The su monsters and basilisk fall, and the dryads end up negotiating peace with the party. Aliera and Mabh tell the party they are near to both the Labyrinth of Fathagn and the Sakbe of Kan Balaam. Sioned recognizes the Labyrinth, she knows it belongs to a fierce dryad queen and is rumored to have the First Tree at it’s heart, the Sakbe of Kan Balaam is not something she recognizes. (though Wythe told people he knew it was a great white road leading to a dark goblin city) Aliera warns Sioned not to trespass the Labyrinth lest she be slain by the guardians, but says that if they approach respectfully they may be able to treat with the druids there.

Heading towards the Labyrinth the party stops and pulls back at the first sign that the undergrowth is thickening and their path is appearing more clearly from the surrounding growth. Sioned knows that if she continues the undergrowth will turn into impenetrable walls stiffened by saplings, at which point everyone will be inevitably lost within the maze. The group spends almost an hour calling and waiting before an older human man will appear, he has a salt and pepper beard and calls himself Diarmuid. He asks their business and invites them to his hut to discuss it. He lives in a rough and simple wood cabin alongside a stream, he serves them simple food culled from the forest and fresh water. Diarmuid says that he knows of no portals in the area that they would wish to use, though he can get them into Mag Tureadh if they wish to try that dreadful place. (it is sure to have a portal to almost anywhere they want to go) The group says that’s not of interest to them and he sighs and asks them to wait while he finds a wiser head than his to ponder their needs.

Some hours later he returns to the cabin, walking alongside him is a magnificently beautiful woman. Or so she appears, as she draws near it becomes apparent she is a dryad of some sort. Diarmuid introduces the party to Surlief, handmaid to Queen Fathagn. Surlief says that she can’t offer the party any more ready route to The Land than through Mag Tureadh, but if they agree to send a merchant to her Queen with certain texts (that they will buy for a fair price) she can open a gate to either Astrazalian or Cendrianne for them.

Knowing that while Cendrianne almost certainly has plenty of portals to choose from it is also a dangerous city of ruins (from the Eladrin/Drow war) everyone agrees that Astrazalian is the better choice to start out from next. After all, if it’s the right season Astrazalian will actually be in The Land, which would make travel easy. And if Astrazalian is still in the Feywild, well, at least it’s a civilized place and will probably be easier to find a route out of than the deep wilds where they are now. Surlief casts a linked portal ritual, opening a gate to of of Astrazalian’s teleport circles. The party steps through the gate.

Five heroes emerge atop the ramparts of Astrazalian at the height of a Fomori-led assault on the walls of the city….

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