Porthica Vale

Porthica Vale


When she’d met him earlier that morning, the six-foot-tall Genasi looked weathered and dusty like a raider straight from a tomb. Now, shielding his eyes from the sunlight as one too long in the darkness, he stood on the hill like a chiselled monolith soaking in its warmth, The early afternoon sun shimmered in oily blues in the dew-kissed streaks that polished his onyx skin. The light cast subtle ripples across him, and as she approached him from behind, she was able to make out the scars that caused them. They covered nearly every inch of his body, from his calves up to the back of his neck.  

Phaye sidled up next to him, hooking her arm into his like a courting lover. She felt the muscles in his arm stiffen at her touch, not like the flex of a fellow courtier so much as the defensive reflex of one expecting a punishment. She held him gently, her fingertips tracing the hollows between the scars on his bicep.  "You okay, Hero?" The faun asked softly, leading him into the shadow of a large tree. Tom nodded struggling to open his eyes even in the shade. “Let me help.” She pulled the sheer green sash from about her waist, folded it once or twice and tied it over Tom’s eyes like a blindfold, “Okay,  try that.” 

Tom blinked his eyes open, even looking through several layers of knitted fabric, he still needed to shield his eyes with his forearm. Before him, lay a green field, lush with fruit trees in bloom. The air was fragrant in a way that Tom had never experienced, and cicada and birdsong filled the spaces between flower petals of red, pink, and white that flitted on the warm breeze. "What is ..?!" Tom’s jaw dropped open in awe of the landscape before him. 

"No, Hero, " Phaye giggled, "This is Porthica Vale."  She slipped easily into tour guide mode, her cheery voice ringing out as they continued down into the wooded valley. "Also called the Valley of the Blackstone, it's a lush, naturally occurring garden that spans the north side of the Blackstone Mountains, behind us, from the Orchards here in Porthica Vale to the edge of the Golden Wood on the western end of Dealla Downs." Tom stopped in the shade of a mango tree looking down at her with worrisome eyes.

"It's so warm; … beautiful." He turned back toward the brightly lit orchard squinting under his still-raised arm. “Is this the fey realm?” She squeezed his arm gently in hers, asking why he thought that. " … feels … different …" The words came slowly and without conviction as if they were placeholders for words yet to come. When they didn't he turned back toward the orchard. "But you are fey?" He asked, standing in the long grass.

"I'm a faun of the Fey Wilds, yes." She replied softly, sensing his trepidation. 

"A-are you going to try and kill me, Fey?" He said it simply, without fear or pretense, like he was asking about the weather. He didn’t back away or withdraw his arm from her instead, he looked deep into her eyes, still shrouding his own from the daylight. Looking up into those deep facets of sapphire, she found no fear, no malice, no anger or hope. They did not dance between hers but bore deep into her soul, pushing aside her posturing and playfulness, searching for her truths. In turn, she saw his, standing just as open and stoic and the man himself and her heart hitched.

Natural 20 - Insight Check

"No, Tom, I'm not going to try to kill you." She said mustering all the reassurance she had. She held his gaze, despite the charley horse in her chest, and reminded him, "You hired me to show you a good time," Over her shoulder, she wagged her tail slowly, but his eyes remained firmly focused on hers. "...and return you safely to the Port." His eyes remained unconvinced, again dismissing her flirtatious pretenses for the truth behind them. "Besides, " She tucked two fingers between her her breasts and fished out the gold coin he'd tossed her when they'd met earlier that morning. "You already paid my retainer."  She smiled, wagging her tail a little faster. His eyes did not soften, though they began to shift between hers and the shuddering bustle at her backside. After a long moment, he sighed in a manner that suggested he was satisfied, if not fully convinced.

He turned and continued down the incline toward the orchard with Phaye remaining on his arm. A gentle breeze caressed their faces, and the air was filled with bees and birdsong. Her fingertips around his arm found the crest of another scar, "Has someone tried to kill you before?" She asked with cautious curiosity, caressing the answer beneath her fingertips.

"Everyone." He said plainly.



Once they were beneath the shade of the orchard canopy Tom was able to lower his arm and his demeanour softened just enough to allow a little of that wonderment to return. He approached a tree and observed its pink blossoms. “These are flowers?” He asked without looking away from it. “Poisonous?” Phaye giggled a little, telling him that they were apple blossoms. She explained that each colour of blossom was a different type of apple and that a single tree could grow up to six different types of apples and recommended that he should smell them.

“But not that one,” She gripped his bicep tightly to hold him back, “It’s already got a suitor.” the two watched as a chubby little bee crawled out from the center of a flower before Tom’s face. He cocked his head to one side with curiosity and leaned in as if to smell them both. The little furry insect buzzed off to another blossom as he watched with curiosity, and for a moment Phaye thought she saw a smile on his lips. She loosened her grasp on the towering man and allowed him to slip away to another tree. 

“This is a leaf?” He moved from one to the next, identifying something with a questioning statement, and then asking if it was poisonous before touching it. “Tree … skin?” 

“Bark.” She responded, he looked at her quizzically for a moment until she confirmed it with a nod, “Tree bark.” He laughed a deep, bold laugh. She began shaking her head before he could ask if it was poisonous, “Is everything where you live poisonous?” Tom nodded, holding his hand tentatively over a tree branch, as if waiting for permission. “Well, as long as you don’t anger the bees you should be fine.” She assured him and he wrapped his broad hand around a branch, gripping it tightly, then withdrawing it just as quickly.  He looked into his palm checking it for scratches. “Yeah, it’s rough.” She smiled at his childlike curiosity. 

“Ruff … bark” Tom said quietly laughing to himself. Phaye took up her lute and began to play sweetly to his joy. Most of the adventurers she guided, especially the men, tried to impress her with bravado or heroic feats in the hopes of bedding her in the evening. Tom, on the other hand, seemed like a caged animal released into the wild, practically bounding through the tall grass. He chased the birds and watched the bees with wonder and amazement, he snatched blossom petals off the breeze and smelled every flower in reach. At one point rushing to her with childlike glee, holding out cupped hands full of citrus blossoms of varying colours that he'd collected from the ground. "Have you smelled these?!?" His crystal eyes glinted in the noon-day light that poked through the trees and his face bore a childish smile. 

"I have!" She laughed and took a long deep sniff of the fragrant flowers. "Have you never stopped to smell the flowers before?" She asked with a playful giggle.

"I never even seen them before!" He shouted enthusiastically, throwing the blossoms into the air and watching them gently fall into the long grass about him. As he played in the dancing shade and sunlight she caught a glimpse of the scars on his bare chest and when he turned and skipped away from her she saw that his arms and back were covered in them. Her voice hitched at the sight and thought of someone causing such pain to such a gentle creature.


"Hey! Don't get too far ahead, there’s still dangerous shit out here." She shouted after him, as he disappeared behind a cluster of pear trees. She picked up her pace, just slightly, and as she rounded the trees she heard the heavy whoosh of something swinging through the air. She found Tom standing at the edge of a clearing, the thick chain-worn wound about his waist and chest was now slung between his hands. He pumped his right arm, swinging the spiked ball in a circle as he prepared to hurl it. Beyond him in the center of the clearing a set of carved onyx standing stones were arranged with the tallest in the center, then descending out in a crescent of increasingly smaller stones with a large crown. Punctuating the crown like an emerald, a single green head floated above the center stone.The face held a single eye and atop its head, two of its four eye stalks were trained on Tom. The other two shifted their attention to Phaye as she stepped into view. 

"Hey! There’s still dangerous shit out here." The green giant said, bird feathers blowing from its mouth as it mocked Phaye's concern. 

"Just back away, " Phaye said quietly as her companion lowered his stance to pounce. Approaching from the left, she reached out to grab his arm as the head floated down from its place above the onyx stones and moved toward the two adventurers.

"Just back away!" The floating green head mocked again. Phaye watched the pupil of an eye stalk dilate and she moved to pull from the path of the energy beam that shot forth. Tom, however, was already in motion, rolling forward under the blast.  A second later she was struck in the chest by a force that pushed her backward out of the clearing and knocked her on her ass. "Just back away!" The aberration mocked her again.

Natural 1 - Gazer perception check to flee from battle

"Oh Imma make you choke on those eyeballs," She said with a groan as she picked herself up out of the grass, “Flying nut sack!”

Natural 20 - Tom attacks

"Hold still while I kill you!" Tom growled as Phaye broke into the clearing. She watched as chains of stone, like the one he swung violently through the air, burst from the ground and bound the Gazer in place. Tom released the swirling spiked ball and the chain snapped taught. The ball tore violently through the air and slammed into the centre of the creature’s face, effectively replacing the eye as its main feature. It crashed against the stone chains that held it before dropping to the grass with a sloppy plop, the stone bindings crumbling back to dirt. 

When she caught up to him, Tom had hold of one of the Gazer's eye-stalks and was prying the creature from his blood and mucus-covered weapon. "Hey!" she whispered, "We should go ... " she urged, looking about with caution as she once again reached for his arm but he assured her that the aberration would not bother them again.

"We should go!" She said again, this time with a hint of sarcasm. Tom turned back to her to see that she was looking up to the top of the eight-foot-tall standing stones with a look of dread.  Tom followed her gaze up to another aberrant green head as it crested the top of the stone structure. "Hey!" It said mockingly, looking down on them.

Phaye began to cackle like a hag, cupping her hands about her mouth to make the laughter as loud as possible. The Gazer responded in kind, mocking her hideous laughter but seemingly unaffected by the magic behind it. When that failed, she belted out a quick line about a hero saving the day, grabbing Tom by the arm and pulling at him along the curved structure of the stone crown.

Emboldened with confidence, Tom pulled free of her grasp again. On losing him, Phaye turned back in time to escape the incoming ray from one of its eyestalks.

"Hold still while I kill you." She heard Tom say again, and again chains of stone link burst from the ground shackling the aberration in place. The Gazer was then struck heavily from behind by Tom's spiked bludgeon slamming into the back of its head. Seeing this, Phaye lunged forward, horns first, toward the floating head's central eye, blinding it before ducking past the creature to join Tom.

One of the eye stalks followed her freezing the ground behind her as she dodged its icy blast. When she caught up to Tom, his bludgeon lay impotently to the ground as his eyes filled with terror and he began slowly backing away from the bound, green head. She rushed to him, grabbing him by the forearm and pulling him toward the partial cover of the standing stones. “Don’t flake on me now, Hero!” she encouraged and the fear faded from his eyes, his posture changed and his chest swelled with confidence once again as he wound up his whirling bludgeon.

The Gazer tried again to stalk fear into Tom but the ray no longer had an effect on him. Furious the Gazer snapped at Phaye, scratching her arm with it’s teeth. Tom retaliated with a blow from his ball & chain which landed just as the stone chains that bound it returned to dust and it was free. The spiked steel ball struck it hard in the teeth. It flew backward under the momentum and the gazer was crushed against a six-foot tall pillar of Onyx.


The two of them waited, listening for any other predators but determined the area to be safe again. Phaye did, however, hear the gentile squeak of metal on metal and decided to investigate the crown of standing stones. Though heavily worn from the elements, the three-foot-wide Onyx stones were intricately carved with golden inlay. Tom seemed to recognize the script, and among the symbols he followed an apparent line of text that wove a story across the twelve stones.

"Here lies the Mother of Justice, Her Majesty Porthica, The Onyx Queen of Blackstone. She, who betrayed the Harrow and was betrayed by the Harrow. She, who sacrificed peace for love.” Moving around to the back side of the structure They found a combination of symbols arranged like tiles, “Balance the scales. Find the key. Destroy the Fortress. Stop the Betrayer."

"What the fuck does that mean?" Phaye asked, half sitting on one of the shortest of the stones on the east end of the stone crown. The stone shifted slightly under her weight and she heard that same squeak of metal on metal a few feet to her left. She immediately hopped off the stone, afraid that she had damaged the structure. She, and turned to Tom to warn him that the structure might be unstable. He was looking for any further script along the back of the stones, but when he got to the tallest, center stone he began pushing the top of the stone.

"Ahh, no-no! We don't topple the indigenous structures!" Phaye said, in a motherly tone, moving to stop him. The Tourism Board, for which she worked, didn’t take kindly the the destruction of it’s resources and was known for deporting adventurers who damaged them.

"No, we don't," He said pensively, stepping back from the structure. He looked toward her, then to the stone behind her, to the small stone on the opposite end of the structure; back to Phaye. "We balance them."

"Will you trust me?" He asked,  approaching her.

"Of course, Hero." She said with a trepidatious smile. He scooped her up in his arms and placed her back on her three-foot-tall seat at the end of the crown of stones. The stone sank slightly and a metallic squeak returned. Tom stepped away a few steps, but then returned to her, unwinding the chain from about his torso. He bundled it up as best he could, wrapping the chain about the ball, and offered it to her with an apology.

Taking the heavy chain into her arms Phaye felt the stone beneath her sink a little further. Tom walked to the far end of the onyx structure and sat, rather lightly, on the mirror to her perch. They watched the center stone swing out parallel to the ground, on some central pin. From her seat she was unable to touch the ground but she watched Tom adjust the weight he applied to his stone, and the, now horizontal, center stone moved with him. After a moment or two of practice, the stone levelled out and locked into place with a clunk.

Natural 1 - Phaye, Investigation check

Phaye hopped down from her seat, the chain in her lap cutting her hands as she dropped it heavily in the grass, and met Tom in the middle of the crown. She followed Tom's lead inspecting the central Onyx Pillar, now perfectly level to the ground. Tom, getting on his hands and knees, crawled under the pillar to the front side of the structure. Phaye banged her head trying to follow and decided to remain on the inside of the crown. She saw Tom crouch and peer along a gold inlaid groove carved into the length of the stone. He muttered something and a moment later there was a clunk. The stone swung towards its original standing position, slamming hard into Phaye and almost crushing her between its sister stone.

"Fuck Me!" She shouted, sitting on the ground, holding her knee and rubbing her head.

"Are you alright?!" Tom called out, hurrying around from the front side of the structure to check on her. 

"Yeah, I'm just going to need a minute." She said with a grunt. They decided to rest and have some lunch in the grass. While they ate, Tom showed Phaye the brass key he'd found embedded in the top of the pillar. He also explained that while the central pillar was laying horizontal and he stood at its head, The groove carved in it’s length pointed toward a tower that stood silhouetted against the horizon.

"That's our destination," Phaye said.

"Yes, it should be." Tom agreed.

"No, I mean, that was where I was taking you all along." She reiterated. "But this structure," She motioned to the giant onyx crown in the grass, "I never knew this was here."

Back to blog