Newsflash: Sometimes People are Hiding Secrets
21st of Passion, 6th Year of Factol Jamis’s Reign
Relatively fresh off their defeat at the hands of Vartus Timlin, Cyan has told the group to shake it off by taking on an easy assignment: delivering a package for the tiefling Ghieena. It won’t pay much jink (the current offer for the job is only about 142g), but sometimes little victories can help build into larger ones.
Crown Guard, who doesn’t let a lawful good alignment get in the way of extorting money from a desperate lady.
Soliloquy, who is putting on her best “game face”.
Santher, who gets more aerodynamic as he drinks.
Captain Lu, who will meet his nemesis: stairs.
Arriving at the disreputable tavern in Sigil’s Market Ward, the Yawning Rat, The PCs meet a blubbering Ghieena (who wears a wizard’s attire), who has all be given up on getting someone to deliver her message. She tries to put on her bravest face as the PCs enter. She tells the PCs that she seeks to deliver a package to a human known as Oriam Trascalia. Oriam is a member of the Planewalker’s Guild, an organized group of adventurers who base themselves on the Infinite Staircase. After being pressed a bit, she tells the PCs that the message is a formula for a potion, used to treat sores in unmentionable places. An hour passes as the PCs tell “Preperation H” jokes.
Still, Crown Guard is suspicious about her motives; if this is such an easy task, why doesn’t she deliver it herself? The Quori spirit in Crown Guard’s head doesn’t trust Ghieena; especially after coming off such a crushing defeat a few days ago, Crown Guard doesn’t want any “unknown” variables getting in the way. He demands that she tells them why she doesn’t just deliver it herself; she refuses. He starts to play hardball and walk away, Ghienna offers more jink (200g), and Crown Guard counteroffers 240g. A median price (220g) is settled upon. The stalwart warforged offers to “cut his share” out if she reveals her secret, but Ghienna still adamantly refuses.
Captain Lu doubles down on Crown Guard’s paranoia, and announces that perhaps they should call a press conference with all the major Sigilian newspapers. “BREAKING NEWS: PEOPLE IN THE PLANES HAVE OWN AGENDA AND SOMETIMES LIE BECAUSE OF IT – Clueless Robot who is not the Fridge.” His sarcasm is noted in session recap.
She hands them a sealed brass scroll tube with the formula inside, and gives directions to the Gates of the Moon, an entrance to the Selune’s palace on the first layer of Ysgard. She tells the PCs to “look for the Planewalker’s Guild; Oriam Trascalia will be there”. The portal lies in Sigil’s Guildhall Ward, within a garden’s archway. The portal key is an ounce of silver, and will bring the PCs to Ysgard. She tells them to speak to the locals there to find a portal to the Infinite Staircase, she is otherwise unhelpful with directions.
Before leaving, the PCs decide to crack open the tube and find out what nefarious instructions this obviously evil (she’s a Tiefling, ain’t she?) person wants. It turns out… it’s instructions on how to make a potion to treat sores in uncomfortable places. The main ingredient seems to be rare mushrooms. There is also a note inside from Ghieena’s teacher, Fyn Longfingers to this Oriam chap.
CSI worthy tests are done on the documents (Ink Tests, Magical Scans, Cryptography) but nothing turns up. This evil tiefling is good. She even waited around until another female tiefling would come along (Soliloquy!), the obvious signal to strike. The PCs debate replacing the formula in a tube with some “fake” orders, but decide that since they have the element of surprise they’ll just be extra wary when they meet Oriam.
A Place to Die For
Suspiciously, the portal that Ghieena asks the party to take brings them exactly where she said it would: The Gates of the Moon in Ysgard. The PCs hear the sound of crashing waves, as they are on a rocky island lit by the bright glow of a nearby full moon. Nearby, the silver palace of Selune rises. All around are humanoids resembling human women composed of moonlight and flame. They have unpredictable temperaments, confusing Crown Guard. They alternate between being sweet and crazy, but point the PCs to the palace of Selune herself, _Argentil.)
A Silver Golem stands guard over the entrance. It questions the PCs motives, but allows them through after they state their names and business inside. One of the moonlight and flame creatures bring the PCs to the doors baring entrance to Infinite Staircase. The intimidating doors are (like most of the palace) cast in silver, and on the door a gold symbol of infinity is carved. When the PCs approach, the symbol materializes, the infinity sign turning into a golden mask for a lillend, guardians of the staircase. She asks the PCs intentions on the Infinite Staircase. They repeat generally what they told the Silver Golem. The Lillend makes a comment about Soliloquy “not having the taint of taint of a baatezu", but otherwise does not question them or their motives.
The Lillend tells them the basics of the Infinite Staircase: The PCs will pass and crossover many different kinds of stairs; metal, wooden, crystal, marble, and more. Travel always seems like it’s going up, but the PCs will rarely see other individuals walking on stairs that appear sideways or upside down to their perspective. Zora warns them to not fall off the stairs; many invisible folds line the area, and crossing into one will almost certainly toss them into a random plane. She also warns them that the Lillendi do not tolerate people harming the Infinite Staircase itself. She tells them the landing where the Planewalker Guild reside is about six hours from the base, and gives them directions on how to reach it.
Captain Lu looks at the towering stairs that rise beyond perception, looks down at his hearty stomach, looks back at the towering stairs that rise beyond perception, and sighs.
What Climbs the Stair?
While traveling (taking frequent stops on the landings for Lu to catch his breath), the PCs come into contact with a priest of Chan (and Air Gensai) named Winthrys. He gives the party some brief information about the Planewalker Guild, tells them who is currently leading it (a Minotaur named Hav’run Thain, and lets them know that Oriam was involved in a messy relationship recently. He’s in a hurry so can’t say much more, but it gives the PCs a bit of a lead going in.
The landing where the Planewalkers Guild hangs out is a surprising change from the Infinite Staircase before it. What seems like hundreds of people have been creating a makeshift town of sorts, importing goods and services from around the planes. The PCs set to work looking for some leads on where to find Oriam Trascalia. They check in with the leader, Hav’run, who is telling some stories of his adventures on Krynn (Dragonlance). After Soliloquy impresses him with her best (magically aided) stink-eye, he tells the that he hasn’t seen the aging planewalker in sometime, but directs them to a tiefling with three horns named Caert. Caert had done some work for Oriam in the past he tells them, so he might know where he’s gone.
Upon request, he also tells Crown Guard where to find a Guvner named Schmitty Hesling who has been dutifully recording where doors on the Infinite Staircase lead. Crown Guard seeks some unique portals for his own personal goals.
After gambling it up on some “Summoned Monster” fights (Captain Lu: “Why did I ever bet against the demonic turtle?!”), and after Santher burns a hole in his side thanks to a really powerful drink (ruining all of Lu’s rations that he has “stored” in him; well, not so much ruined as having the seals broken. Lu sadly eats ten days worth of rations at once), they find Caert. After they slide enough jink in her hands to get her talking, she tells them that the “blood” Oriam was spending a lot of his time in this area of the infinite staircase known for its mushrooms. He was also in the midst of breaking it off with a barmy sorceress named Shavanistra (who, SPOILER ALERT, is dead because she doesn’t have her own NPC page). They get some directions from a local bariur guard, and head off to meet this Wizard.
Spiders, Demons, and Expanding Blocks, oh My!
Captain Lu rejoices! The trip to the “mushroom area” of the Infinite Staircase is downhill!
As they get closer, the PCs recognize that the staircases they encounter are all in rough shape; some have burn marks, others have been ripped apart by what appears to be brute strength.
Eventually, the PCs get into the “mushroom” area; the blue shrooms are identified as being the ones on the “fake potion” scroll. That tiefling went to a lot of work to entrap the PCs! They find their way forward blocked by a giant spider, who has bridges a broken staircase with its webs.
The PCs attack, but are surprised by a second spider who lurks underneath the staircase! A fierce fight ensues, with the lethal spiders managing to take giant poisonous bites out of several of the party members, before Captain Lu rides one of them in a deadly fashion. While the rest struggle, he knocks one off the platform, jumps on it’s back, and severs it’s head. While the party continues to struggle, he then jumps back on the platform and cleaves the other one in two. That’s just the kind of chaond Lu is.
Searching the spider’s webs, they find the bodies of two people; one of whom is a female in robes. On her person is an expended “scroll of demon summoning”. It’s expended runes are complicated even for Soliloquy, potentially resulting in a terrible mishap if not handled properly. Of course, this is the corpse of Shavanistra (who, SPOILER ALERT, is dead because she doesn’t have her own NPC page), so it’s very likely something went wrong.
Moving on, they find eight minor demons (Manes) being ineffectually ordered around by a male Dwarf. Crown Guard vaguely recognizes these Manes; wasn’t there something important about them? The party goes with plan A: send the slow-witted Warforged in first. Waiting behind some bushes (actually a staircase), they watch as Santher makes contact with the dwarf. What was that thing that Crown Guard was forgetting? As Santher makes his way up some stairs towards the dwarf, the dwarf (naturally) orders his cackling minions to attack the Warforged.
Santher takes a giant swing, and cleaves through six of the suckers!
Crown Guard remembers what these things deal is: they explode when killed.
(Unfortunately for the sake of irony, the DM rolls middling and Santher escapes hurt, but not dead.)
The Dwarf tosses a small cube of granite on the stairs, which quickly starts expanding into a very large (10×10×10ft) cube of granite (warning! 16 tons). The party manages to climb aboard as it slides down, and reach the dwarf before anything majorly disaterful happens. He yells for help from a nearby wreck of stairs, but is answered with silence. Punching the dwarf into unconsciousness, they disarm him, and find that he carries three more of those cubes on him.
These cubes harken from a different era of D&D, one where “the rule of cool” triumphed over mechanical “balance”. Imagine what fun the party could have with such items! So versatile, so cool. This DM can only imagine the shenanigans!
As they approach what appears to be a tangled staircase of metal, they see a thin looking old man waving at them from the connecting landing above. He makes some hand motions that the party does not understand. A snore from inside the ruined structure breaks the silence, announcing that something foul resides within.
Summoning his courage, Crown Guard stupidly wakes up a Galbrezu (re: level 23 elite demon) inside, and demands he show himself. The demon groggily tells him to go away, but when the warforged refuses, the fifteen foot tall demon saunters out of his makeshift cave, and eyes the party, and asks them what they want. Crown Guard meekly tells the demon (who has an AC higher than Crown Guard’s hit points) that they seek the wizard trapped on the landing above. The Glabrezu offers them a trade; he’ll bring them the wizard, if they give him 300g.
As he climbs to grab the Wizard (who is weak from having not eaten in several days), the party all fail Dungeoneering checks, except Santher, who instead checks out while the Demon grabs (well, more like pincers gently) his prey. It’s on the way back down when Santher realizes that “Hey, the physics and engineering principles of this bridge are unsatisfactory. We could probably collapse this bridge with sufficient weight, such as from one of these cubes”. Unfortunately, this action would likely doom the old man. Crown Guard start burning a hole in Santher with his eyesight (oblivious to the fact that it was, in fact, himself who “woke the demon up” and therefore put the on a clock). Captain Lu muses about letting the old guy fall and tossing the damn scroll case after him. They weren’t being paid to save his arse.
But it’s okay, Santher has a plan.
When Demon lets one of its hands out to take the reward (the non-clawy ones), Santher slams one of the tiny granite cubes in his hands! As it expands in grows heavier, the demon tosses it off the side, where it dangerously falls into another plane of existence. He then turns to Santher and says “no really. 300g.”
The party meekly wonders if they’ll take their other two magic cubes as payment instead. The demon examines them a bit, and then says “sure.”
So much for shenanigans, sigh.
Where a Wizard is Rescued, and a Dangerous Deal is Made
A weakened Oriam Trascalia now in their hands, the party goes to leave, when Crown Guard asks the giant of a demon: would you know of a way to find a portal I seek? The Demon grins. He has connections. He decides to join the group temporarily as they walk back to the Planewalker Guild camp, striking a bargain with the clueless Warforged. The details of which are between himself and Crown Guard. The demon leaves them shortly after.
Oriam is thankful for the party’s timely rescue; he had been trapped on that upper landing without food and without his magic (having expended it all to escape). He offers his help in the future if the party desires it. He also gladly takes the scroll case, and upon reading the message inside, he is puzzled and asks if any of them are Ghieena. The party tell him that it was the tiefling herself who sent them to find him, and that she had refused to come. Oriam is puzzled, but thankful enough that the chain of events led to his rescue. He writes a brief letter to Ghieena and her master, Fyn Longfingers to send back. He is tired, and must rest here, but promises to be here in a month’s time should they seek his help again. He tells them to hurry back if they wish to return through the entrance to Infinite Staircase in Ysgard; it will close soon!
Captain Lu sighs. “Oh well, at least these stairs are downhill.”
(one returning to Sigil montage later…)
Back in Sigil, a furious elf (named Fyn Longfingers) greets the party when they return for their pay at the Yawning Rat. He tells them how ashamed he is that his student would send an entire party out to deliver a simple message. Ghieena is nearby, in tears once again. His mood changes slightly as he reads the letter from Oriam, letting him know about the danger he was in, and how fortunate it was that a skilled group of adventurers had come along to rescue him.
Gritting his teeth, he begins to admonish Ghieena (again) for her actions, but admits that temperance must be taken; her actions, however deplorable for one of his students, ultimately saved his friend’s life. He believes this to show that if her conjuration skills are lacking, perhaps she has some ability as a diviner. He thanks the party and bids them adieu.
Captain Lu coughs, and holds out his hand. He didn’t ride a spider for free.
Ghieena meekly tells them that she doesn’t have the reward promised, having only scrounged up 160g worth. Fyn turns red, and promises to make up the difference. As the party leaves, you hear a long string of obscenities being directed to a poor tiefling girl.
Well, perhaps this will teach her the danger of making promises that a cutter can’t keep?