Ptolus: City by the Spire

The Boy Who Could Sing

Returning the small rowboat to Sard’s, just before dawn, the party decided to return to their rent house and get some rest. After spending the entire night forging a signet ring and then trying to sneak into the Prison, they were pretty tired.

Awaking later that afternoon, Ian decided to pay a visit to Vagger to see if he had been able to fence the cache of gems they had left with him earlier. The rest of the party headed for the Ghostly Minstrel intent upon a late breakfast/lunch and to, hopefully, bump into Sheva Callister for some much needed information.

At Vagger’s hideout, Ian learned that Vagger had only been able to sale a portion of the gems. He offered to pay him what he had managed to gain so far (6,000 gp), with the remaining 625 gp available in a couple more days, but Ian insisted on just waiting a few more days to collect the entire sum. Vagger promised to have a draft note from Hammersong Vaults available for him next time. Ian then made way to join up with the rest of the party at the Ghostly Minstrel.

Arriving at the Minstrel, the party was in luck. As they entered the taproom, they caught notice of a woman matching the description of Sheva. Several of them remembered seeing her there before, but had been unaware of who she was. She was seated at a corner table, alone, eating a meal of fried haddock. A ornate great sword lay across the table.

As the party approached, Sheva eyed them cautiously, but Gideon quickly introduced himself and the rest of the group as “friends of Kaira Swanwing”.
Not dropping her guard entirely, Sheva at least invited them to join her table and speak with her as she finished her lunch.

After some brief introductions, Sheva seemed comfortable to speak with them and offer any guidance or information that she may. She not only trusted Swainwing’s choice in friends, but also took notice of Gideon’s Delver’s Guild badge, which she approved of. The party had many questions for her, not only on how to find a mage to assist them in tracking down Markessa, but also hoping that in her experiences as a delver, she could help connect some dots for them on the various intrigues and plots they had uncovered: the Ennin, Chaos Cults, the Galchutt, the Night of Dissolution, Wuntad, etc.

She said that she would contact an old friend of hers, an influential wizardress in the city, and member of the Inverted Pyramid, Jevicca Nor. She would be able to help them find anyone in the city, unless they took great precautions not to be found.

Regarding the Ennin, she knew very little, other than they were said to have a base somewhere in the Docks and that this Edralve that they had heard of was a dark elf, who was heavily involved with the organization.

Upon being shown the sigil found on the dark elves in the dungeons beneath the Bottleworks, she immediately recognized it as a house sigil of one of the most powerful and disparate dark elven houses, House Vrama. The word translates from the Elder Elven tongue to mean “true children of the spider queen”. She explained that dark elves were a rarity in the city, but that they were so corrupting that a law had been passed several years ago authorizing anyone to kill them on sight, within the city walls. She explained that it was rumored that in the deepest pits and chasms below the city there is thought to be a dark elven city. House Vrama was one of several vying for control of that city. It came as little surprise to her that they had been found so close to the surface, in that she had long suspected the dark elves would be actively searching for the ruins of Dwarvenhearth, in hopes to use the vast wealth and artifacts hidden there to give them an edge against their enemies. With the influx of delvers now plumbing the dungeons below Ptolus, no doubt the dark elves are aggressively seeking to find it first.

She was unsure exactly where Dwarvenhearth could be, however.

Asked about this dark elf, Shilukar, who was wanted by House Abanar, she explained that Abanar had taken it upon themselves to offer some incentive to delver’s, and other such forces, to help keep order from threats that seem too much for the City Watch to handle. As a matter of fact, Abanar offers so many bounties that some delvers have become full time bounty hunters, out right. Shilukar, was a con artist who had managed to manipulate and harm almost everyone he has come into contact with and had so far evaded capture. He actually hadn’t been seen or heard of in a month or more, but he was no doubt still around, waiting and watching for his next target.

She explains that going to the varied authorities will likely not result in a lot of help. Over the past few years, with news spreading of the opportunity of great treasure to be found beneath the City, delvers have flocked to Ptolus, seeking to make names for themselves. The City Watch has not been able to keep up with the changes that have come to the city as a result of this. They are now not only outnumbered, but outmatched as well. Sure, they are capable of handling petty criminals, breaking up bar brawls and stopping the occasional mean-spirited criminal or murdered, but are no match against powerful mages, seasoned warriors wielding powerful magical items, chaositech, beholders, undead and other creatures that occasionally creep up from the vaults below (now disturbed by the delvers).

She explains that it is delvers who share some of the blame for this situation, and it is delvers who will have to take responsibility of dealing with it. Why else, she asked, do you think the Delver’s Guild has become so powerful in the past three years, since it’s founding?

Regarding the Delver’s Guild, she explains that it is goverened by a council of 18 Grand Master’s, the longest serving members and the ones who initially founded the guild. Among their number they select a Grandmaster Delver to represent them on the City Council.

Regarding the City Leadership, she explains that the Commissar and the Twelve Commanders are far more involved with “bigger picture” issues, presently. With the future of the Empire uncertain, they are more concerned with matters in Tarsis, maintaining authority, and generally just trying to keep the populace quelled with some semblance of normally. The Republicans, an openly seditious group seeking to lead a revolt against Imperial authority in the city, grows more bold with each passing day. The Commissar, and others like him, expect Delvers to handle evil priests, dark wizards and necromancers, and whatever else threatens the city from below.

“The city does, indeed, need heroes”, she said, “people like us…like you.” Referring to the party.

She describes Ptolus as a city of much goodness, caring people concerned about their families and doing right by others, but there is also much evil, with demons and fell creatures prowling it’s streets. Hidden somewhere in the vast caverns deep beneath the city, deeper even than Ghul’s Labyrinth, are the tombs of the Galchutt. Primordial creatures of unfathomable power and evil, but they are not dead, they only sleep. And it is a restless sleep. Perhaps it is because of their presence, or perhaps it is by their design and intention, evil is drawn to Ptolus, in all it’s forms – from the subtle member of the Watch who just can’t resist taking a bribe or committing some selfish act, to the less subtle forms of vile Chaos Cultists and their leaders bent upon awakening the Galchutt and releasing them upon the world.

As the conversation was drawing to a close, she offered to buy them a meal, just as Ian arrived to rejoin the party. As each were now enjoying a hearty meal of their own, she prepared to make an exit, inviting them to speak with her any time they wish, and that she could usually be found her, at the Ghostly Minstrel, most evenings.

It was then that Gideon mentioned rune children. She paused and took her seat, continuing. She told them that there were many who believed the rune children spell doom for Ptolus and the world. That their appearance is part of some ancient prophesy, long forgotten, that foretold when the rune children return, the end of the world would soon follow. In her own studies, however she had learned that in the ancient past, the warriors that had defeated Eslathagos Malkuth, (“The Dread One” who had created the Spire and the tower atop it), were known as the Heroes of the Rune, and that each of them had bore these peculiar birthmarks upon their cheeks.

Perhaps, she guessed, these rune children are not the ones who are foretold to bring about the doom of the world, but instead are destined to save it. Perhaps it is the Galchutt and the Cults of Chaos who are seeking to corrupt the minds of men to fear these children, to seek them out and destroy them, so that there will be no heroes powerful enough to stop them, should the Galchutt ever rise again.

Her words trailed off, as if in deep thought. She then thanked each of them for the company and promptly made her leave.
Having a few more hours before they needed to be at the Cloud Theater, Ian opted to go there early to scout out the location. Gideon made a trip to Hammersong Vaults to deposit some coin they had found on their last adventure, and Maur and Feruch teamed up to pay a visit to the Black Swan for a few drinks before the evenings work began.

Arriving at the theater, Ian found the large building consisted of an auditorium with two tiers of balconies…perfect spots for snipers, archers, or who knows what. A hard spot to fully cover with their group. The back of the building opened onto an alley, where several wagons of supplies (props, constumes, etc.) were being carried into the building. He climbed atop a nearby building, giving him a nice vantage point to see anything suspicious. Thankfully, he saw nothing out of the ordinary. Whatever attack may be planned on Malkeen’s nephew, the Killraven’s weren’t broadcasting it.

Meanwhile, Feruch and Maur took a seat at the Black Swam, being a little early for the evening crowd, there were only a pair of dwarves seated at one of the tables, the rest of the tavern was empty. Having a few drinks together (on the house, for having helpped the barkeeps friend, Toman, recover his daughter form the Ennin), they were eventually approached by one of the dwarves. He introduced himself as Holmag Hornforge, and was obviously one of the Stonelost from his clan rings woven into his beard. He asked Maur if he knew how to get to Kaled Del. Of course, Maur had no idea, but Holmag explained that Kaled Del was a tower occupied by the Stonelost not far from Dwarvenhearth (he spoke with name with reverence) and that none of the other Stonelost villages in the nearby hills had heard from Kaled Del in some time. He had been sent to investigate, but the cave leading to the tower had collapsed and there were said to be ancient paths from within the city walls that could take you there. Maur was unable to offer any assistance, but did promise to let him know if he heard anything (the two dwarves are staying at the Old Goose).

Gideon made an uneventful deposit at Hammersong Vaults, then as he was making his way to the Black Swan to pick up Maur and Feruch, he contacted Kaira Swanwing via thoughtstone. He revelaed to her the[ Malkeen Balakazar]‘s nephew was a rune child and was unsure if he should try to kidnap the child tonight and bring him to to Knights of the Golden Cross. Kaira was hesitant, explaining that this would surely result in open warfare between her order and the Balacazar’s, a situation she was not prepared to handle. Or, if the involvement of her order was kept secret, there would surely be a massive bounty on the heads of the entire party, with every bounty hunter (and a lot of delver’s as well) in the city looking for them. “No,” she advised, “unless they willing give the boy over, it is best for him to stay where he is.” With Gideon unsure if the boy was actually in danger, meaning he wasn’t certain the Killraven’s knew he was a rune child, or not, it would be difficult to force the issue.

At that, he arrived at the Black Swan, where he gathered Maur and Feruch, then they met up with Ian outside the Cloud Theater a couple hours before showtime.

The party entered the Cloud Theater, only to be informed by a man at the ticketbooth that it was still too early to buy tickets, that they would not be available for another hour. When the man realized the party was “with the Balacazars” he was immediately apologetic, but it did not sit well with the party to be identified as working for the most notorious crime family in the city. But that is exactly what they were doing, in a manner of speaking.

They were escorted into the auditorium, where they saw a man, obviously the playwright and director, Marlow Atrabonc in a heated argument with a woman who they would soon learn was Maystra Balacazar. Also on the stage were a couple actors in costumes dressed as a king and queen. They were clearly upset with how the argument was going. As the party approached, they heard that Maystra had taken it upon herself to rewrite the entire second act of the play, “so as to showcase her sons, gifted talents.” It now consisted of an entire act where her son, Dullin Balacazar would be center stage, engaging in a monologue, followed by a solo singing performance, while the rest of the actors were being pelted with pies in the background. At the end, before the curtain drops, the kings pants would fall to his knees, inexplicably.

Despite Marlow’s best efforts (who felt that Act II was some of his best work), Maystra proved to be a person accustomed to having her way, even threatening to pull funding from the playhouse as a last resort. Defeated, Marlow agreed to her revisions, hastily passing out the new scripts to the other actors.

The party approached Maystra and introduced themselves. She simply handed her long fur evening coat to them and told them to “make themselves useful”.

Not accustomed to being handled so dismissively, the party did their best to avoid Maystra’s abusive tone, instead focusing on the matter at hand. Dullin was backstage, getting into costume and practicing his lines.

The party thoroughly toured and inspected the playhouse, formulating a plan. They knew the play had three acts with an intermission between Acts II and III. With Dullin now being center stage for the entire second act, it seemed obvious this would be when the attack would occur. Maur, armed with his dragon rifle disguised by his longcoat would take a position on the top balcony at stage left. Ian would be seated beside Maystra on the ground floor stage right. Gideon would be located on the ground floor, center stage, back row. While Feruch would be positioned back stage, keeping an eye on both the backdoor and making sure no one managed to sneak up form the basement below (the basement was filled with props and supplies, and confirmed empty beforehand, but anything is possible in Ptolus).

The play opened and Act I progressed without any interruption. The house was nearly packed and the show was actually quite entertaining.

Soon after the second act starts and the cream pies begin flying, Gideon, spots some badly dressed people ambling towards the stage, and signals Maur. Suddenly they rush forward, yelling out, “FOR THE REPUBLIC! DOWN WITH THE EMPIRE!” In the center aisle, Gideon whacks one of the attackers with his staff, while another jumps up on the stage only to be shot (headshot) by Maur from above. Feruch, backstage, hears the gunshot, prompting him to rush onto the stage, where he is immediately hit with a creampie. Drawing his sword, scoffing at MArlow who readies another pie, Feruch rushes towards two more attackers charging the stage. Maur (the gunslinger) dives form the second level balcony, crashing down to the floor below, landing atop one of the attackers (a hulking brute, obviously the brick of the operation). Cream pies fly as the minor cast members pull away from the fight, but the show continues.

Gideon whacks his opponent, again rendering him immediately unconscious, to great crowd reaction. Feruch manages to fell his opponent, who is hurled over one of the seats, garnering an applause from the audience who are amazed at the realism of the acting. Maur and the Brick engage in hand to hand combat, the whole time with Maur trying his best to make a compelling performance. “The shows over for you,” he yells, knocking the Brick unconscious with an uppercut.

Gideon makes his way to the stage, standing beside Dullin who has not missed a beat of his performance during the entire fight. Dodging a cream pie, Gideon scans the balconies for any other attackers, as Feruch and Maur hastily grab the bodies of their two opponents, dragging them backstage.

The “King” drags the body of the attacker Maur shot offstage, quickly returning where his pants soon fall for no appropriately explored reason, followed by curtain fall, to moderate and uncertain applause. (and the screams of a mother congratulating her son).

After Act II, the cast locks themselves up in Marlow’s office while the party interrogates the Brick (The Brick’s name is Waylon the Squint. He and the others were all Republicans sent here to make a show of force and to gain the support of the People by symbolically attacking the corrupt Balacazar Crime Family). The party unties and tells him to leave.

By this time, Marlow is yelling at the cast members as they walk away through the back door — the production just got, predictably, deserted by its actors. Marlow insists the party fill these rolls and salvage the play.

The party did not want to do this, but young Dullin was about to throw a fit, when his mother intervened, ordering the party to not make an embarrassment of her son. With Dullin wanting to continue the play, the party relents, but not until convincing Maystra to play the part of the “queen”.

Marlow quickly shows them the beat of the main songs while Feruch and Maystra dress up in the King and Queen costumes and learn their lines, but everyone will be holding the script. Gideon and Maur dress up as the palace guards, allowing each of them to keep their (real) weapons handy on the stage. Ian is a jester, written in at the last moment, with no lines, but instructions to just “be funny, but not too funny.” Curtain up, orchestra starts the intro and quickly jumps into the beat as Gideon starts up the song too soon, and is really off anyway. Marlow tries to give him the beat from off-stage, but, the budding actor is far too busy looking at his script.

Maystra and Feruch, as the king and queen nail their lines, and Dullin does an amazing perfomrance on his song meant to impress the king and bring joy back to the kingdom — the play, more or less, makes sense! Maybe, some of the audience think, Gideon was botching his lines to make the boy’s singing stand out.

As the play nears it’s somewhat cringing finale, more bad guys burst into the back door and aim for the kid. Two charge center stage, while one each come in from the left and right. One is on the boy before anyone has time to react, cuffing Dullin and knocking him to the floor. The “king” turns to face one, while the two guards (Maur and Gideon) draw their weapons and confront theirs. Even the “jester” gets involved, holding one of the attackers at bay. As each one is killed, their bodies transform into monstrous demonic looking creatures before melting and dissolving into a fine black ashen powder.

With Dullin unable to finish his lines, his mother improvs her way through the battle, declaring the creatures to be servants of darkness, sent to rob the land of it’s joy and happiness. She finally manages to help Dullin back to his feet, just as the last creature is killed, allowing Dullin to finish his lines. The audience is stunned in silence. Maur spots a strange metal cog among the ashes of one of the attackers, quickly depositing it into his pocket, as the audience and cast were distracted.

Marlow stops playing his mandolin, raising his hand and announcing “Victory over sadness and a return of happiness to the king and his lands!” Dullin and Maystra immediately take a bow, followed by Marolow who whispers for the party members to do the same. The audience rises to a standing ovation, whistling and cheering over the amazing show. Dullin rushes off stage as the curtain falls ( a red curtain with dozens of black birds stitched into it’s pattern).

The next day’s play is cancelled, as Marlow negotiates with his actors, but Maystra Balacazar quickly concludes that a complete play is “too much work” for her son (who never came to any rehearsal, and therefore didn’t know the assassins were not supposed to be there) and that he should act like a kid for a few more years.

A brief exchange between Maystra and Gideon in the alleyway gave few results. She did assure the party that she would tell her brother the party did their job well.

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CSDavis

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