At rough guess, the PCs have been in the Well for 4 months. After the battle with the “Stormgators” they help repair the damage done to the village (mostly to the inn’s gate and fencing, and then prepare to move on. Marcus, with Vilgerthr’s help, takes the Sky Raft off to the Enrichment Center Testing Chamber. There, they disassemble it and leave the parts scattered about. Donovan arrives a few days later to find the happy couple working on a power generator, made from a portion of Sky Raft engine.
Gathering the PCs, Donovan speaks to them about what they might expect in the city of Virava. He’s recently spoken to Captain Jiranee and finally managed to get her to say what’s on her mind. The Captain doesn’t look forward to returning to her city, as things are not well there. The King, named Pallathu, ignores her advice, listens to sycophants, and bases his decisions on fear of invasion from the distant Plains, and not what is best for the city (and kingdom.) He uses this fear of invasion to enact harsh taxes and punishments. He desires money, power, troops, and war gear, and Captain Jiranee fears where this might lead to. He often sends the Captain off on quests and missions which she suspects are meant to get her killed, so she can be removed, but in a way the King can capitalize on. So... she’s started to entertain thoughts of regicide, apparently hoping to remove the current king in favor of his brother (Prince Pannu), who is apparently far more level-headed (note: this information comes out across the course of the session, I’ve simply collected it here.)
The PCs are divided as a course of action. Some, such as Edward, are all about over-throwing a ‘evil tyrant,’ while others prefer to wait and see how bad things really are.
Finally, the PCs set out. The party consists of Billy-Jo, his pet lizard Rover, Calvin, Cyan, Donovan, Edward, Jonathan, Marcus, and Vilgerthr. They also have a horse (well, something horse-like) and cart to carry all of their gear and Marcus’s stuff. Cyan becomes the teamster sort of by accident. Billy-Jo and Edward prefer to walk, Donovan can fly, Calvin sketches, Jonathan’s distracted, while Marcus and Vilgerthr are preoccupied with each other and their newest inventions. Captain Jiranee has her two horses and 24 refugees/prisoners.
The PCs pass through eight villages between Jamanaya and Virava (they are, in order: Srichure, Ampairat, Hanna-rong, Theerakul, Samabur, Singhai, Ponlowan, Kawrang.) The trip takes roughly two weeks, with most of the villages roughly 20-25 miles apart (i.e. a full day’s travel.) At each village, Captain Jiranee drops off 2-4 prisoners, stating they are to be indentured servants for a hand of seasons, or until she calls for them. The PCs note the significance of this phrasing.
Each village is surrounded by fields of crops and/or livestock. The road they’re on is fairly well-maintained and is apparently a caravan route for traders and merchants traveling up from the Plains. Threerakul and Kawrang both sit at a crossroads, with Kawrang being the largest place they’ve seen so far (roughly 1,000 residents.) The crossroads at Kawrang has one road that apparently follows the curve of the Escarpments to the Jungles (which Donovan can see when he flies), while the other runs from Virava all the way up to Fyrkat (if you follow it long enough.) The road to Virava is heavily built up, and is actually elevated above the fields around Virava. Virava itself is surrounded by extensive farms and livestock fields and has an estimated 10,000 residents.
Coming up to Virava, the party (now sans 24 refugees) sees the “ribs” of the city for the first time. It’s obvious to everyone the ribs are part of some large buried structure. They form the back of the city, which lies along the Escarpments down to the Jungle. The trade road runs through the city and apparently down the Escarpment itself. Marcus estimates the ribs run for a kilometer or so, while Calvin starts to sketch, and goes into a fugue state, unnoticed by the others.
At the gates to the city, the PCs see the CIty Watch, men in brigandine armor, gorgets, helmets, and partial leg and arm harness. They carry guisarmes (hooked axe blades with long spikes), sturdy clubs, and have a broad sash marked with the King’s badge. The commander of the guard is noticeably less than thrilled to see Captain Jiranne and demands a tax or toll from the PCs. Jiranee tells him they are her guests are are free to pass. The commander grudgingly relents.
Once within the walls, the PCs discover Virava to be a long city, but relatively narrow. It lies mostly between the ribs and the Escarpment and is built of stone and wood. Few buildings are more than 3 stories (if any) and most are stone first floors with wooden upper floors. Seeing as Virava is ~10,000 people in one place, it smells, and is almost filthy from a 21st Century viewpoint. Most of the streets are paves, but side streets and alleys aren’t. Most buildings are row-homes, with crofts in the back, where crops and livestock is kept. Curiously, this makes the city more open than the PCs might have expected.
The population is mostly Farming People, of all colors, although the PCs note a number of grayish-skinned people. They also see Hunting and Leaping People, and when they reach the central Trading Square (where the caravans meet before heading off) they see Beast People, Running People, and two new races. One is the ‘Fox People,’ who resemble the Hunting People but have larger ears and thick bushy tails. The other are the Horned People, who look virtually normal (as they even have ‘normal’ human skin colors), but have short, sharply pointed horns projecting back from their skulls. Some of them also have suspicious hair colors.
The PCs note the City Watch is in force in the Trading Square, examining goods and wagons. Taxes are being paid, and in some cases, the Watch helps themselves to goods from the wagons and carts. They PCs also see a series of wagons with large cages. In the cages are a number of miserable looking people. Captain Jianee explains they are debtors, criminals, and vagrants (as well as sons and daughters sold off to pay for debts or for spare cash) who are to be sent down to the Plains to be sold as slaves. The King needs money and has been purging Virava (and his kingdom) of ‘undesirables’ using this method. This would have been the fate of the refugees the PCs captured in Jamanaya if the suggestions of indentured servitude hadn’t been made.
During the trip to Captain Jiranee’s estate, the PCs note the town isn’t very cheery. Ashkam was full of life and seemed both busy and exciting. Here, people are subdued and tend to duck out of the way of the PCs. However, Captain Jiranee is rather distinctive, and she’s greeted with some cheers and the like.
Captain Jiranee finally brings the PCs to her estate. It is among the ribs and is located among the homes of the lower nobility. The king’s palace is visible further upslope, among the central ribs from her home. The estate looks like a C if seen from the air. It consists of a main great hall that runs the length of the building, with guest bedrooms and the Captain’s personal quarters above it. The right wing (facing the estate) has stables, a small smithy, a carpenter’s shop, and the like, with living quarters above. The left wing has store rooms, the armory, and quarters for the men-at-arms, with living quarters above. The main courtyard has a well/fountain and a lot of open space. At each corner of the C there is a three story tower. The one to the right is partially Jirnee’s quarters. The one to the left is open to all.
The PCs meet some of the Captain’s household when they arrive. The first is Sampath, who is apparently the estate’s general handyman. This is followed by Amal, Jiranee’s major domo and the one entitled to speak on her behalf if she is away. The third is Suhasini, who treats Jiranee as a surrogate daughter (to the PC’s amusement) and immediately gets her dubbed ‘Mama Sue.’
Once inside the great hall, the PCs and Jiranee are fed by Satish the Beast Person cook, who covers the table with dishes. Afterwards, the idea of a hot bath is brought up, and Jiranee asks Mama Sue to make it so. Much to the PCs chagrin (and/or delight) said bath consists of large wooden tubs in front of the fire place. The bath becomes a social event, with the PCs, Vilgerthr, Jonathan, and Jiranee spending time soaking. While several of the PCs leave quickly, Calvin, Donovan, and Jonathan remain for some time, making small talk with the Captain. When Calvin finally leaves, it’s in the company of Parvin and Taban, a pair of housemaids.
The next day Jiranee tells the PCs she needs to A) get ready to see the King eventually, and B) speak with Amal about the status of her estate (it seems she own land and property here and there, and collects rents, taxes, and tolls. She gives the PCs favors, making them as guests of her house. When asked, she’d prefer if the PCs not mention her ‘squiring’ ceremony, which was more to make an oath bond between them then to make them true squires. She also hands out pouches of silver coins, so they may go out into the city and experience Virava first hand.
Billy-Jo and Edward go out together. Billy-Jo examines the wooden buildings and the carpenter’s shops. Edward looks for a leatherworkers and find getting a leather longcoat of plates is not going to happen. Edward also finds people are open when they see the favor, but far more surly and closed-mouthed when he hides it.
Calvin goes off on his own. He uses his coins to buy some goods and finds people are quite willing to sell. However, when he tries to sell goods, he gets nowhere. No one has any cash it seems. When he switches to barter, things pick up, and using his ability to replay conversations to his benefit, he makes a number of deals and ends up with quite an assortment of goods. However, this almost comes to naught when the City Watch chases after him for some imagined slight (a failure to pay a tax?) Once again, using his ability to replay events, he escapes and eventually returns home. Later, he tells the other PCs of the populace’s opinions of the King and his brother and states he’s ready to incite civil unrest if needed.
Cyan and Donovan go shopping for clothing. They have the same experiences as Edward, finding that people are happy to see them if they show cash and the Captain’s favor, less so if they don’t. They also witness the City Watch harassing merchants and passers buy, reminding them very much of a police state. In addition, Cyan flirts with Donovan (who side-steps her advances with skill born of long practice) and also apologizes for holding a knife to his throat back in Fyrkat. While returning to the estate, they meet up with a woman named Nayantha, who is on the run from the City Watch and claims her father has been captured and hauled away to the king’s dungeons. When pressed, she states her mother was taken some time ago and is thought dead, the Watch ransacked her father’s home, and is after her as well, all because her father hasn’t been able to translate the language of the oracle found in the Caves of Steel. Cyan and Donovan quickly make their escape and return to the estate with Nayantha safe in hand.
Marcus goes out with Vilgerthr, taking his new kit-bashed generator with him. He ends up among the makes of clockwork and the like, where he’s told to hide the generator, lest the Watch take it (and him) to the King, for the King wants any and all artifacts from the Caves of Steel (and elsewhere.) He then spends time talking to them and is assumed to be a journeyman craftsman. He and Vilgerthr attract a crowd, and spend a great deal of time discussing clockwork, lenses, and the making of various devices and machines.
Jonathan goes off on his own. His fate is currently unknown.
When the PCs finally all meet up again, Cyan and Donavon bring Lady Nayantha out to meet Jiranee. She gives her story—her father is Master Narayanro, and he’s a scholar studying he Caves of Steel. Recently, he discovered an oracle, that speaks, but no one can understand what it says. He and the other scholars (as well as Nayantha herself) have tried to translate, but to no avail. The King seems to think Master Narayanro is hiding something and imprisoned Lady Mala, her mother and Narayanro’s wife. When that didn’t work, he had his Watch come after Narayanro himself, accusing him of treason. The PCs vow to protect her and Jiranee commits ‘treason’ herself, by giving Narayanro Billy’Jo’s favor.
The PCs ask about the Caves of Steel, and are told they are buried passages, obviously made by men (but who, no one knows) that stretch under parts of the city. Calvin, flipping through his sketch book to find a clean sheet on which to capture Nayantha’s portrait, finds a drawing he can’t recall making (but must have.) It shows what is obviously (to the PCs anyway) a starship, and at best guess was drawn while Calvin was riding the cart approaching Virava. Marcus now has to visit the Caves of Steel. The sooner, the better.
Dressing in an assortment of borrowed clothes, the PCs become Lord Cobol (Donovan) and Lady Fortran (Cyan), with Billy-Jo and Edward as guards, and Calvin and Marcus as pages. Narayanro and Vilgerthr remain back at the estate. (It’s about now that someone realizes Jonathan is nowhere about.) Hamming it up (with Jiranee’s help) the PCs enter the Caves of Steel.
It quickly becomes apparent that Calvin’s sketch is correct. The ribs and caves are all part of a kilometer long starship, buried for who knows how long. As the vehicle is on a tilt, wooden planking has been put in place to allow people to move about. Marcus cringes as the soot stains and other damage to the ship, and is amazed to discover he can read (to an extent) the text on the walls. It’s an evolved form of advanced Latin. Also, the discovery of a “you are here’ sign, shows that the King’s colors are indeed a mission patch (with two moons? over the planet) and the name of the ship is the Altus Astrum Rimor.
Eventually, the PCs find the oracle. It’s in what looks to be a central computer room and appears as a hologram of a normal human dressed in a simple uniform-like outfit. It speaks... Latin. Marcus can understand, but no one else can. However, it switches to a form of English upon hearing the PCs speak, and answers numerous questions. In short....
The Altus Astrum Rimor was an deep space exploration ship, outbound from Mars in roughly 2500 AD, that vanished when it entered hyperspace and then apparently appeared here. That was 1,000 years ago (give or take.) Most systems are off-line and self-repair is very limited. There is some power, but there’s no way the ship is ever lifting off again. Oh, and it’s been looted of anything useful (probably right after it crashed.) With this knowledge in hand, the PCs decide to return to Jiranee’s estate (after explaining to her what was said.)
Virava has a very 14th-15th Century look and feel to it.
Virava is very densely-packed, but then, the roads only need to be wide enough for caravans and foot traffic.
There is something about the Altus Astrum Rimor that’s bugging Marcus, but he can’t quite put his finger on it.
You’ve met the following people:
Captain Jiranee Jenvirava, “the flower of Virava”—female “elf.” She stands 6’6” with a build that is both well-toned and very well-endowed. She’s the king of Virava’s “freelance” and at best estimate is over 225 years old (might be as old as 250.)
Members of Captain Jiranee Jenvirava's Estate
Rama the Oracle. This is the holographic representation of Altus Astrum Rimor’s library computer node (which is linked into various ship’s systems.) As a learning system, it could, eventually, communicate with the people of Virava in their native language. Marcus has asked it to only answer to the PCs (and Captain Jiranee.)
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