Rise of the Planar Trade Consortium

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Session 1: Rise of the PTC

The game began with Greth, a githzerai monk, fleeing his monastery as it fell to a githyanki invasion force. As he escaped out the back-door there was a flash of light as a portal activated and he vanished from the realms of elemental chaos.

Bulwark, a recent model war-forged from the Cannith forges in Sharn, fell on the field of battle in Cyre due to overwhelming damage. When he woke it was to a confusing scene with several mechanical beings looking him over and talking about him while he lay stunned and barely conscious, their consensus was that his equipment was non-standard and that control protocols would be impossible to implement. They condemned him to be cast into “The Cage” along with the other rogue modrons for exile/destruction, they then followed through with that threat casting him into a portal along with his gear.

Our last hero, a young bard by the name of Sioned, grew up on the fine world of Mudh. She was looking forward to a grand time adventuring with a group of companions she had met the previous evening in a local bar-room. After slipping the bartender 5 gold pieces they heard about a nearby “dungeon” and headed out the next morning filled with optimism and dreams of adventure and treasure. It didn’t work out the way she hoped when she fell down a pit and was shunted out through a portal into the unkown.

The three are united when Greth exits his portal through a doorway into a ruined courtyard and sees Sioned come tumbling out of a window, nearly landing on Bulwark who stumbles out of a second door. The air is smoky, and sharp with the tang of metals, and rich with the smell of rot, call it a cacophony of foul stenches. The sounds of a massive battle come from nearby, and many of the nearby buildings seem to be on fire. The three make some brief introductions but are interrupted as the fire in one of the nearby buildings drives a swarm of rats onto them. After fighting the rats off they hear a cry of distress from the interior of the building and go in to try to rescue whoever it is.

Greth and Bulwark rush into the house and clamber up a stairway to try to reach the back of the building, pushing a wall down they open a passage to the back, and Sioned joins them. They discover an exit to an alley, and find an odd-looking blue-skinned humanoid collapsed unconscious on the floor. Bulwark holds up the ceiling as they grab the victim and escape the building as it collapses due to structural damage from the fire and Greth and Bulwark’s earlier demolition work.

Both exits from the alley prove too dangerous to venture, battle on one side and baatezu force advancing on the other side, so they clamber into a window to the second floor of one of the buildings abutting the alley. Within they manage to wake the creature with some first aid, and a Majestic Word from Sioned. Outside a battle rages between legion devils and a mob of tanar’ri, they can also see another blue-creature hiding in a nearby alley. As they question the creature some a trio of dretches are thrown through the wall and fall into the room. Greth charges one of them as they rise, and then combat ensues. It is a very hard fight, during which Bulwark is knocked unconscious briefly. But after it is over they grab the injured humanoid and book for the alley. They are noticed by a force of legion devils and barely escape down the alleyway into a basement just in time to evade the devils chasing them.

They meet more of the humanoids who answer some questions and reveal that they are “Dabus”. They say that they are all doomed for their Lady (and yes you can hear the caps) fell in battle with the god of this place and has not yet wakened even though she was victorious. Until she does they say that all the doors to “The Cage” will only open inwards, and that currently the entire cage is filled mostly with Baatezu and Tanar’ri who come here solely to kill each other, and everything else in their path. They say that only through the sacrifice of life could a portal out be made, unless Her Serenity their Lady is woken. Some of them seem to think the three non-dabus arriving now (the players) are foretold in prophecies as coming at the time that their Lady will wake. This is possibly supported after an hour or so as some of the younger dabus seem to be recovering some of their magic powers.

Just as the group is finally settling into an extended rest several terrified dabus come crowding in from the entrance saying that the devils have found them and are advancing down the tunnel to the warren. Sioned coordinates the dabus in bringing the roof down on the entrance to stop the enemy advance, which is successful although it costs two dabus their lives as the roof falls in on them. Everyone then flees down an escape tunnel . . . only to be rat-trapped in it by another force coming down that route.

Most of the dabus move to try to hold off the devils for a brief time. Others begin digging in the dirt wall with their hands while the chief dabus negotiates with Sioned. It says it will help them escape, but they must promise to try to return and help wake their Lady if they can, the group agrees. Three dabus come forward to the chief who borrows Bulwark’s sword and slays the three, after which it cuts out their thigh, shin, and arm bones. The dabus places them into the soft earth around the alcove they dug to form an archway, and then casts a ritual to enchant the archway of bones turning it into a portal, and sacrifices it’s own life to fuel the ritual. The party flees through the portal.

They arrive in a lightly forested wilderness near a road. Exhausted, they make camp there and sleep for the night.

Come morning they meet a human merchant named Estevan who is escorting a troupe of young halfling girls to a mining camp where they are hoping to find husbands. He is traveling with an unnaturally intelligent lion he calls Fartooth, and hires the group as guards once it becomes apparent that they’re not bandits. Aided by Sioned’s travel songs the caravan soon arrives at the town of Silverton. (I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Estevan is a spitting image of Harry Mudd from TOS, and is just as highly moral a person as he is as well)

Silverton seems panicked by wild rumors of undead activities and the whole mining camp is preparing to pack up and move out. Estevan tries to hold his deals together, and asks his three guards to investigate while he negotiates. The group asks around, finding ever-wilder rumors, until they finally meet up with the leader of the camp, an ancient gnome by the name of Kesto Brighteyes. Kesto is terribly near-sighted, and seems to spend most of time going over the camp’s records while surrounded by a massively disorganized pile of books, enough books to fill a library and more, and on many topics. Sioned’s eyes light up at the sight of so much knowledge she could acquire if she could just read all the books.

Kesto tells the group that there’s been reports of graves being dug up in an ancient graveyard not far from the camp, and that just recently one of the miners came in spouting tales of skeletons and zombies, he mostly dismisses it as “the folly and foolishness of youth, misinterpreting everything.” He does note that there is a “real problem” as well, a dragon. Sioned gets him to agree to let her look over his books if the players can deal with his troubles.

Meeting up again w. Estevan the three are informed that he needs to jump a gate nearby to investigate the trade potential on the other side of it, and that if they can take care of his problems in Silverton he’ll cut them in for a “fair” portion of his profits. Sioned is mightily suspicious as her insight check reveals that Estevan may have a radically different definition of “fair” as compared to everyone else, but the group agrees nonetheless. As Estevan departs with Fartooth they prepare to climb out of the gorge the camp is in and go examine the nearby graveyard.

Thus endeth the session.

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Rise of the PTC Run 3 - Synopsis: Anchoring Silverton Pt. II

Having climbed through the foothills the party is finally ascending the White Mountain. As they approach the tree-line they are ambushed at the top of a ridge-line by a hunting party of kobolds. A slinger and a pair of skirmishers tangle with the party while a hoard of kobolds nearly over-run Rook. Despite some heavy damage to Rook and Greth, who both got ahead of the battle line, the fight finishes out quickly with the party victorious.

Continuing up past the tree line Sioned leads her group further up and into a vast snowy bowl below the top of the mountain. As they cross the floor of the bowl the white dragon Verminithrax lands some distance away and drops a hoard of kobolds led by their wyrm-priest and a dragonshield to deal with the party. He flies down and roars as they advance before banking off towards a looming cornice of snow and ice hanging over the bowl, nature-canny characters get a “very bad feeling about that cornice”. Despite a number of the party being stunned, and the wyrmpriest buffing the minion kobolds, the fight goes fairly quickly. Again Greth and Rook take a fair beating, though Rel certainly takes a bunch of it as well. The party then flees the bowl, barely escaping an avalanche triggered by Verminithrax dropping the ice cornice down on them.

Some searching reveals that the only way to proceed further is to pass through a tunnel into the caldera of the White Mountain. Coming out of the tunnel is warm, moist, air scented with growing green things, not what is expected this far above the treeline and into the snow and ice. Also in the tunnel are a pair of kobold skirmishers leading a small force of kobolds, accompanying them are a pair of fire-beetles they use as guard-dogs of a sort. The fight is straightforward and fairly quick. This time the brunt of it mostly falls on Rel, as it should.

Through the tunnel the party finds a vast jungle, several square miles at a minimum, fills the caldera. The whole area is kept hot and moist by bubbling mud-pits and pools of water. A lake fills the center of the crater. As the party tracks fleeing kobolds they begin to hear drums in the jungle. They sneak up to a village consisting of a ring of huts in cleared area, around a central fire dance a number of kobolds. Drumming a beat for the war-dance is Jall, a dragonborn warrior, Jall bears a mighty weapon, a maul from the mists of the dawn times. The party charges in during the surprise round and combat ensues . . . .

We call it a night and wrap up the battle-mat, taking notes of positions and current statuses, as time runs out. Most (though not quite all) of the kobolds have been slain, but Jall and a kobold slyblade also remain up and in the fight. Next Tuesday we will resume in the middle of the fight!

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Rise of the PTC Run 4 - Synopsis: Anchoring Silverton Pt. III

The session begins with the fight we left off. The party is facing Jall, a kobold slyblade, and some kobolds. The fight goes fairly well, and quickly, though Jall is able to land a mighty blow that fells Reliant leaving him unconscious on the ground. In the end the slyblade is too beloved of the gods (and your incredibly sucky dice-rollint) to be captured and escapes into the jungle.

During a short rest the party investigates Jall’s hammer, discovering that it is in fact a magic hammer, though more information remains to be learned. The investigation ends when Verminithrax comes soaring over the jungle tree-tops and into the savage village.

The battle with Verminithrax starts off ominously. He flies into the center of the group and catches Rel, Sioned, and Sim with a blast of icy wind and pure cold that leaves them all bloodied and frozen in place. Sim makes for the jungle, and never really comes out of it until the fight is over. Rel and Greth are forced to climb the walls of one of the huts to reach Verminithrax who is flying out of reach, this starts out going well until their weight causes the hut’s walls to destabilize throwing them both to the ground as it collapses. In the end the white dragon is slain, and the party spends the night in the savage village.

During the night Rel sits down to rest for a while and has the most remarkable experience, he has a dream (or vision if you prefer) of a great army. The army is of dragonborn and dragons and follows three great dragons towards a distant battlefield that lies before a range of volcanoes. When he relates the dream Sim identifies Bahamut, Tiamat, and Io from his vision. Sim then recalls a tale of Ur, a young dragonborn warrior from the dawn times who fought with the dragon army against the primordials. He says that the Tale of Ur speaks of his sacrifice and how his soul was placed into his weapon, a mighty hammer, and that the hammer has passed on down through the ages from warrior to warrior, and now seems to be in Rel’s hands.

After a fairly easy return journey to Silverton they are feted at a huge party the halflings hold for the heroes who have slain the white dragon. The next day the party and Kesto, badly hung-over, get together with Estevan and Silla to talk over how to anchor Silverton. Estevan reveals to the party the power of belief in the Outlands, and how it can be used to anchor Silverton into place. They come up with a three-fold plan: Create a town-hall and government, convince Jalall that Silverton is propserous enough to bring settlers from there to live in Silverton (and to make them believe that Silverton is a permanent town), and arrange for miners and a forge to be set up in Silverton.

The work in Silverton goes smoothly. In Jalall the party doesn’t do so well. They have initial success in convincing the town that Silverton is more than the temporary mining camp it is. They are also initially successful in convincing miners of the value of ore in Silverton, but only after faking some ore samples and passing them off as real. However both the forge and the settlers prove much more expensive than predicted, and they are forced to spend all of Estevan’s purse and promise even more glitter and concessions for the settlers and miners on arrival than Estevan will be happy with.

Nonetheless the caravan does set out from Jalall, and Silverton is indeed anchored in place next to the Sargasso Graveyard. (where it had drifted to before the PCs arrived) Estevan is unhappy with the extra expenses, and chides Sioned for not bargaining hard enough. He is pleased with how they dealt with the dragon though, and very pleased with their negotations with Qaida. So in addition to the promised magic sword and orb he also gives Sioned a magic amulet, which she gives to Greth. (since it was on his wishlist)

The session ends with Estevan telling Sioned that if she’s interested he has another mission for her. He has word of a gate near Jalall that will be usable soon, and he wants Sioned to go through it and explore what profits can be found there. He warns her that he can’t support any more heavy expenses at the moment, so she better bargain better than she did at Jalall. He also warns her that the gate can only be opened for one day, so she and her men had best be back through the gate before it closes.

We will begin the next story, “Pirates of the Spice Isles”, in a large circle of huge stone heads (all facing outwards) with a massive bonfire in the center of the circle…..

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Rise of the PTC Run 5 - Synopsis: Pirates of the Spice Isles Pt. I

Before departing Silverton folks pool their gold and Rook buys a +1 Amulet from a local and Kesto Brighteyes reveals he is a spell-caster by transferring a basic +1 enchantment to Reliant’s suit of hide armor. The party then bids farewell to Silla, who is staying to run the town-hall, and accompanies Estevan down the road towards Jalall.

Along the way you are met by a number of wagons containing load upon load of firewood. Working a long night with Estevan and the teamsters you build a massive pyre inside a circle of huge stone heads, the Heads of Amn. Estevan says that there’s a portal inside the circle that opens only when you leap through a fire in the circle on the right day of a month, a month measured somewhere else. He asks Sioned to investigate trade potential on the other side and says he’ll meet you all when you return that night at the Inn of the Welcome Wench in Jalall, a shady enterprise he owns a share in.

After kindling the pyre and watching it grow larger, and hotter, most of the party decline to use their potions of Resist: Fire, and when Sim says he can see a portal take a leap of faith!

You all arrive near a large bonfire in a jungle clearing. Surrounding you are a tribe of lizardmen, dancing and chanting to drums. Their ceremony comes to a screeching halt as they notice you. Some quick negotiations begin, but the party’s right to speak in the circle is challenged by some of the warriors when Rel boasts of who he is (and fails an Intimidate check).

A nasty fight ensues between five champions of the lizardmen and the five party members. All meet in a circle of honor defined by the surrounding tribe. Initially the lizardmen do very well, downing Sim with a volley of poisoned javelins. But in the end Rel backs one of them down after bloodying him, and the party then just plain outlasts the rest although it is a close fight.

Negotiations continue, now that the party can speak to The People. They spend some time speaking with Kss’Thrak, the lizardman elder who understands the common tongue. He tells them that The People (as he calls the poisonscale lizardmen) live here. They don’t need much, living a primitive life, they have gathered tonight to sacrifice one of their tribe to the fire god that lives in the volcano. He warns the party that although they are safe tonight, Truce Night, while the tribe sacrifices come the following morning they will be hunted for trespassing on sacred tribal lands. (which is to say ALL the tribal lands)

Sioned spends some time asking after “The People.” Kss’Thrak is fairly open, and seems honest. He says The People need very little, and produce little as well. Trade with the people is largely personal, such as bride-gifts, or is between the Great Chiefs (or Kings) who trade resources and labor for projects devoted to the gods like raising statues or constructing temples. The local tribe prove exceptionally xenophobic and Sioned concludes, quite rightly, that remaining on the island after sunrise is a death sentence.

The group then leaves The People to their ritual and begins a survey of the surrounding lands. They discover a plethora of natural resources available for harvest. The list includes tropical hard-woods, reagents, spices, spectacular feathers, and there’s cause to believe that there are good pearls in the oceans as well. They do run into a spot of trouble when a quartet of stirges fly out of the jungle thickets to attack most of the group while Rel tangles with a crocodile down near some herb samples he was gathering.

Returning to the circle well after midnight they find the tribe has gone and the fire is burned down. The party gatherS firewood to build a new bonfire they can return to The Outlands through. They then pass through the portal and go to meet Estevan in Jalall.

We shall resume at breakfast the following morning at the Inn of the Welcome Wench. You arrived late at night and your night’s stay will have been refreshing, although when you came in it would have been quite boisterous downstairs. Breakfast is hearty, but simple, and is shared in the common room with Estevan and the working girls who live in the inn.

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Rise of the PTC Run 6 - Synopsis: Pirates of the Spice Isles Pt. II

The session opens as people come downstairs from their rooms at the Inn of the Welcome Wench in Jalall. Rook is the last to wake, and when he comes down he finds Estevan and most of the group in conversation about a new job he has for you. Also present are an assortment of women of all sizes, shapes, and species who are sharing breakfast with you and a number of children, notably missing is Rel. (whom Estevan has sent off on a job, or so he says)

Estevan finishes briefing Sioned on what he wants and hands her a letter of recommendation for the PTC’s factor in Tradegate, a man named Duncan. Estevan has arranged riverboat transport to Tradegate where he wants Sioned to contact a Captain Res’Tar Blackrock to transport them to the Crimson Port. Once there they are to use a magic ritual to find the Isle of Kss’Thraak and attempt to activate the gate back to the Outlands at sunrise. Estevan has arranged for a fire to be kindled each day at the Heads of Amn at the same time. Additionally Estevan would like for Sioned to convince the pirates of the Crimson Port to raid and pillage the lizardmen for goods that they can then sell at Tradegate for a good profit, which also will help the PTC’s house in Tradegate as well. He offers the party magic items up-front, a purse for expenses, and promises a bonus if they can convince the pirates to sell to the House of Duncan. They are to meet him in Tradegate in a month to reconvene.

After a memorable, but uneventful, trip of a week down the river the party reaches it’s confluence with the river Elbruin. As they travel Outwards they see a low range of hills to spinward, and the walled city of Tradegate on the anti-spinward bank of the Elbruin. They dock and leave the riverboat to seek out Duncan.

A long chase scene ensues as they try to track Duncan around Tradegate. At Spingate they hire Timon, a local shifter boy as a guide, with some intimidating from Rook to help lower his price. But after pursuing Duncan fruitlessly they decide mid-afternoon to just return to the House of Duncan to await his return. They succeed in convincing his butler, Breme, to let them wait for him in the library. Late in the evening, long after dark, Duncan finally returns and meets with them.

Sioned gives him Estevan’s letter and explains their mission. Duncan inquires after Estevan asking if he’s found what he was seeking yet, to which Sioned has no answer. He agrees to get them the ritual scroll and resources Estevan requests, but informs them that Capt. Blackrock was ship-wrecked in Pandemonium after a bad voyage down the River Styx. He returned a broken man, and without any crew, and is now nothing more than a bubber on the docks of Tradegate. When Sioned inquires as to healing him Duncan allows that he can hire one Jerek, a priest of Dioncecht, if the group can get Capt. Blackrock to him.

After an evening searching for Blackrock they find him near the Drunken Apple Tavern. When they find him he is being menaced by some local toughs. A fight ensues during which Sioned and her bashers pretty much take names and kick ass. One halfling thief escapes the encounter, several local toughs are knocked unconscious and Rook outright kills two of the human bandits. They flee the scene of the murder with a passed-out Blackrock whom they carry to Jerek’s house near Eastgate. Jerek says that they can return in the morning when he’ll examine Blackrock.

The next day, day 9 of their journey, Jerek tells them that he can probably heal Blackrock, and that they should check back at the end of the day to see how his healing rituals have done. He also thanks them for Duncan’s “Most generous contribution to my mission to heal the poor and needy here in Tradegate.” During the day they check out Blackrock’s past and his allies, and discover that to sail the current of the Celestial Sea to the Crimson Port they need Blackrock himself. When they return Jerek tells them the healing was successful and they can speak to the Captain, but not if they exhaust or disturb him.

Blackrock is a broken man, once an Eladrin in his prime he has been aged and broken by the planes. He listens quietly as Sioned tells him of their mission, or some of it, and he agrees to help but warns that although he’s fairly sure he can remember the way to the current to the Crimson Ports he’s forgotten a lot due to touching the River Styx. He also laments the loss of his ship’s log books, the Black Witch, in Pandemonium. (bet that the “Log-books of the Black Witch” will recur again in the campaign)

That evening Sioned and her minders go seeking a captain who will agree to let Blackrock pilot their ship on the Celestial Sea back towards the Crimson Port. To a man the captains tell her that they once admired Blackrock greatly, as a pirate and trading captain, but that he’s a broken man now. They claim only a madman would let Blackrock pilot his ship on the Celestial Sea. In the end they find themselves entering a cantina filled with smoke and wild music. A bugbear first-mate directs them towards his captain who is sitting in a booth against the wall, one Capt. Jack Kormarr.

Capt. Kormarr takes some convincing (and is the spitting image of Han Solo). In the end he agrees to do the job, but at a ridiculous price (due to a failed skill challenge negotiating). The party complains that at his price they could buy a ship. To which he replies “Yeah, but who would pilot it. Sailing the Celestial Sea ain’t like crossing the river in a row-boat, farm-girl. One bad calculation and you could land up in the middle of Gehenna, and that’d end your trip real quick now wouldn’t it?” The party agrees to his price and will meet him with Blackrock the following morning to depart on the receding tide. Duncan is less than pleased at the price and warns them that if Sioned wants to keep his goodwill she’d best find a way to get the pirates to do their part that doesn’t involve him paying them as mercenary troops, though he’ll still pony up the gold if he must since Estevan has asked for his help.

Duncan also takes some pains to explain how the PTC has both “Factors” and “Agents”. He says he’s an example of a factor, a person who stays in one burg and becomes rich and powerful doing the PTC’s business. He tells them that agents are different and go around the worlds helping set up the factors and generally making the PTC successful. He says that if they want to become rich and powerful they should follow his example and become a factor, and that they shouldn’t let “that scoundrel Estevan” talk them into remaining agents forever. He also hints that if the group impresses him he might have a job or two for Sioned as well, if she’d prefer a more honest employer than Estevan. He finishes by saying that until they really sign on to the PTC instead of just being hirelings he probably shouldn’t say any more at the time.

Come morning the party, along with Blackrock, meet Capt. Kormarr and his bugbear mate ‘Mast’ (“Rrrronk“) at the docks. He shows them a beat up knorr, an ugly clinker built 40’ ship with a single mast. (for the historically curious a knorr is the merchant version of the viking longship, this is the ship that colonized America over the North Atlantic) He replies to criticisms of his ship The Phoenix by noting that “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts lady. I’ve made some special modifications myself, and she’s fast enough to avoid any imperial entanglements where you’re going.” (he mutters “I hope” under his breath) The Phoenix departs Tradegate and sails onto the Celestial Sea.

Mid-day, after Blackrock has been anxiously testing the water he declares that they’ve entered the current he needs. Jack puts the Phoenix about and she sails downwind for the day and the following night. Come morning it’s apparent to everyone that they’ve entered a new world. Blackrock says he can guide them to the Crimson Port from here, and they set out. As they pass a low, jungle-covered, island a pair of war-canoes filled with savage lizardmen set out for them. The swells of the ocean prevent contact until they are about 50’ apart.

The fight with the lizardmen is brutal. A poisonscale magus uses horrible magics that pull both Rook and Sioned off the Phoenix and into the ocean, which turns out to be freshwater. Multiple javelins nearly drop Sioned. Sim has a great day as his grasping shadows kills off lizardmen carried into it by the war-canoe’s inertia in the water. And Rook damn nears dies as the poison from the magus rages unstoppably through his body, long after the combat is over Capt. Kormarr finally manages to heal him, but not until after he’s taken a lot of healing and mucho damage.

Approaching the Crimson Port our intrepid adventurers can see three great ships at anchor, we’re talking three-masted frigates here, and a host of small-craft at work. They manage to convince the port patrol boat to not attack them but instead to allow them to dock. As they begin to tie up at one of the two rickety piers in Crimson Port there is a loud knocking sound from a large crate that Duncan has asked them to transport to the Crimson Port with them. They attempt to ignore it. The knocking turns into a smashing, and soon enough there is a crash as they see the head of massive war-hammer burst out of the crate. In moments Rel is revealed as he uses the Hammer of Ur to smash his way out of the shipping crate. Inside is one of the Wardrobe Gates.

Can our heroes convince the Pirates of the Spice Isles to help them? Where has Rel been all this time? And what did Estevan have him doing? Will Blackrock ever regain his power and influence in the Crimson Port? Or is everyone doomed?

These questions, and more, all will be answered at next week’s game!

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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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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 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 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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