“You are merely a false hero, fighting false rebels, on behalf of a false queen who murdered her rightful king!" the figure declares, drawing her swords. "Let’s fix that!”
“By the gods, Blackjack has returned!” an onlooker gasps.
“And is a woman!” another remarks.
“And who might this pretender be?" Triffaccia snorts. "You wear the garb of Blackjack, but you do not match the tales.”
“There is only one Blackjack, and I am he!” replies Ashla.
“Very well," says Trifaccia, "if you are throwing your lot in with these rabble-rousers, you can be their champion and share their fate!”
While this is happening, Nox conks the captured ruffian over the head and together with Arlynn drag him out to a nearby alley. Nox slaps the man awake to interrogate him within the paladin’s zone of truth.
Inside the tent, Blackjack and Trifaccia duel, her twin swords against his flaming scimitar. The two are closely matched and the fight quickly begins to turn on their technical skill with the blade rather than raw power.
Drawing upon her lessons with Vencarlo, Ashla is able to twist the burning sword out of Trifaccia’s hands. The false hero dodges past her to retrieve the weapon and the fight continues.
Do the Right Thing
Back in the alleyway, Nox puts the squeeze to the ruffian, demanding to know who paid him and who he works for. Arlynn urges him to cooperate so that they can get to the bottom of the situation.
After some prodding, the thug admits that Togomor, the new seneschal, paid his gang a lot of coin to create messes and discredit the rebels, only to scatter whenever Trifaccia arrived on the scene. They were told to crash today’s event and wish bad things on the Crimson Blades and then run away when Trifaccia arrived, per usual.
The ruffian doesn’t know who Trifaccia is and where he came from, but thinks he isn’t human and might be some kind of devil. Nox demands that he admit this to the crowd and threatens to break his fingers if he refuses, but the man is more scared of the false hero than he is of the fighter.
Arlynn, however, tells the thug that deep down he knows that exposing this monster is the right thing to do for Korvosa and for himself. The ruffian shakily agrees to spill the beans.
Inside the tent, Ashla has also caught on that her opponent is more than human. His reflexes are too good, his motions to fluid, for him to be anything other than a fiend of some sort—but which breed, she cannot say. So she tries to bait him.
“I know that you are no true citizen of Korvosa!” she accuses, deflecting a blow. “You’re an evil outsider!”
“Is he an evil person from out of town, or an evil person from another plane of reality?” someone calls from the crowd.
“The second one,” Ashla hollers back.
Trifaccia deftly twists the ranger’s shortsword from her hand, then retreats up onto a table. Ashla responds by kicking over the table, but the false hero keeps his footing. He returns the favor by kicking a chair at her.
Outside, Nox hauls the ruffian over to the blue tent, where Arlynn cuts a hole in the cloth and the three of them step inside.
“Stop this duel at once!” Arlynn proclaims, “this has all been a staged!”
Turning to the ruffian, she says, “Go on now, tell them what you told us.”
“This is all a sham,” the ruffian speaks up. “Togomor pays us to make a ruckus so that Trifaccia can come in to save the day and make the rebels look bad.’
“This is preposterous!” Trifaccia says. “You rebel scum think people will take the word of a rapscallion you’ve got by the scruff of his neck?”
“He’s evil and not human,” the thug insists, “and I think he has super powers.”
“So would you say he’s a ‘super villain’?” someone from the crowd calls out.
“Yeah, that seems accurate,” the tough nods.
Time For Some Thrilling Heroics
Outside in the alleyway, Zandu has been quietly listening to the exchange. He takes “super villain” as his cue to disrupt the proceedings and, after enlarging himself, barrels through the crowd as a giant gnoll. Kyra secretly rides on his back thanks to her ring of invisibility.
“That’s enough of this!” he bellows. “The Cerulean Society will no longer tolerate this little charade!”
The sorcerer blasts the false hero with a ray of negative energy. Meanwhile, Egan—watching the fight in pigeon form—quietly casts shape wood to warp the overturned table around Trifaccia as a kind of cage.
“Treachery!” the masked fighter shouts.
“Be silent!” Zandu roars back. “The Cerulean Society has had enough of your antics, pretty boy!”
“These foul magics sully this duel,” Trifaccia calls out to Arlynn and Nox. “I demand that you remove this interloper at once, or forfeit the contest.”
Nox hands the goon over to Arlynn and then moves to shove the enlarged gnoll back out the tent door, forcing the crowd to back away.
“Stand aside citizens,” Nox barks at the onlookers.
“This bloke thinks he’s royalty!” sneers an onlooker. "Who put you in charge?!
“I did!” threatens Nox.
“Sorry, m’lord,” the onlooker replies weakly.
As the giant gnoll and the armored fighter stumbles out into the street, the crowd stays as close as they can, attention divided between the fights in and out of the tent.
“This is the strangest street brawl I’ve ever seen…” a woman remarks.
Nox and Zandu trade insults, rapidly sliding from play-acted insults to genuine hostility. Zandu calls Nox out for being a lapdog to the crown, casting fear on him. Nox stand his ground but is shaken.
The Magic Bird
Inside, Trifaccia hacks his way free of the wooden snare, but Ashla presses the attack, divesting him of his flaming scimitar for a second time. The false hero quickly recovers the blade and the fight continues. Both warriors are starting to grow weary from the fight, nicked and scratched with surface cuts (and second-degree burns).
Pigeon-Egan flutters across the tent, unsuccessfully attempting to crap on Trifaccia and casting bull’s strength on Ashla.
“See! That pigeon cast a SPELL on you!” Trifaccia exclaims. “Treachery!”
“He’s a madman,” Arlynn laughs from the sidelines, appealing to the crowd. “Proclaiming a bird can cast spells!”
A chuckle runs through the gathered onlookers.
“He’s mad as a hatter!” one man guffaws.
“Hey, I’m a hatter!” someone else whines.
“And you’re mad as he is!” the first one replies.
Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords
Back outside, Nox—though shaken—stares down Zandu and growls "Only mongrels like yourself scare children, they do not frighten men like me!”
The fighter charges Zandu, knocking him and invisible Kyra prone on the cobblestone, though still pulling his punches.
Back within the tent, Arlynn lets the ruffian go. The man is noticeably frightened given the recent events and starts to make himself scarce. Arlynn tosses him 20gp to help him skip town and start fresh somewhere else. He thanks her as he slips out of the hole in the tent wall.
Ashla and Trifaccia continue to trade blows, but despite the half-elf’s increased strength the two remain closely matched, slowly wearing each other down as their swords clash. Pidgeon-Egan quietly casts heat metal on Trifaccia’s bronze mask.
Outside, Zandu and Nox continue to trade blows, although its becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of what is being intended. After Zandu’s next fear spell is successful, forcing Nox to withdraw by magically induced terror. Once he has escaped the scene, Nox grows furious at being compelled to retreat.
It Ends in Fire
In the tent, Trifaccia overextends himself on one swing and Ashla is able to knock the sword from his hand for the third time.
Arlynn offers words of encouragement. “I believe in you Blackjack, you can defeat this fiend!”
Doing so, the paladin moves close enough to give Ashla her aura of justice.
“Enough of this!” Ashla shouts, unleashing giving a righteous flurry of blows from her longsword. Her wrathful strikes cut Trifaccia almost in half. The fiend’s body ignites into a plume of flame that streams out of the holes in his three-faced mask and burns a hole in the ceiling. His smoking gear tumbles to to the ground in an empty heap.
After the deed is done, Ashla addresses the cheering crowd as Blackjack, “Let it be known that Blackjack protects the people of Korvosa, and not individual rulers who gain the throne with treachery and murder.”
With those words, Blackjack flings her cape and stealths back into the shadows. The crowd cheers her departure, shouting Blackjack’s triumphant return. Arlynn turns to the crowd to assess any of the wounded or shaken, taking care to talk up the return of Blackjack as a positive thing. Zandu teleports back to the embassy. An invisible Kyra also whispers praise of Nox’s role, trying to do damage control with the crowd and help prevent a disastrous confrontation later this evening.
The sound of tramping feet heralds the arrival of the Gray Maidens, so the adventurers and the onlookers quickly make themselves scarce.
On the return back to the embassy, the adventurers discuss the creature they fought. Recalling an encounter she witnessed during her youth in Kaer Maga, Ashla believes “Trifaccia” was an Efreet.
Arriving at the embassy, they stumble across a tense confrontation between Zandu and Nox
The Man Who Would Be King
“Don’t ever cross me again!” Nox shouts into Gnoll Zandu’s face, pinning him to the wall, “You will not make a fool of me in public again!”
“And what about making a fool of me?” Zandu glares back, his yellow eyes narrowing. “You knocking me around and tripping me, keeping me from getting at that impostor!”
“That was a distraction so you can wing some spells at him without intending to interfere!” Nox exclaims, the frustration clearing showing on his face. “I thought that was clear to you!”
“The fight was the distraction!” Zandu barks back, “Apparently you have been hiding something from us. Isn’t that right, everyone?”
Nox briefly looks back to see the party surrounding the two of them and he lets Zandu go. Kyra comes around from behind him to stand beside Zandu.
“Something you’d like to tell us?” Arlynn asks.
“Look, once we take down the Queen, there’s going to be chaos, a power vacuum,” Nox explains. “Someone needs to step into that vacuum, keep things from spiraling out of control.”
“Someone like you,” Arlynn says.
""Exactly," he nods. “That’s why I can’t be seen getting pushed around by a crazy gnoll—people need to trust that I can protect them.”
“So you want us to help you in your play for the throne,” Arlynn says. “Why should we? When you’re king, what would you do for the city?”
“I’d restore order,” he says. “We need to come together and rebuild, so that people can get along with their lives.”
“And where will the rest of us be during this rebuilding?” Zandu asks. “That’s what I need to know before I help you out.”
“There will be a place for you, don’t worry,” Nox assures him.
“All this politicking is new to me,” Irabeth confesses. “In Lastwall, our Watcher-Lord is appointed based on merit, without all this scheming. But if I understand Nox correctly, he wants to keep his distance from us in public until the time is right to launch a general uprising against the Queen. Is that correct?”
“Basically,” Nox nods. “I have to be seen standing up for the people, but I can’t openly oppose the Queen until we’re ready to make our move because we’d lose the embassy as cover. We just need to hold steady for a couple more days, until the Hellknights arrive—I’ve sent them message that I’m pretty sure they can’t refuse.”
Arlynn folds her arms. “Well, if you truly have the interests of the people at heart, I will support your claim.”
One by one, the rest of the adventurers agree to help put Aquilos Nox on the Crimson Throne.
Bad News Comes in Threes
They are interrupted by the arrival of Arlynn’s follower Chammady, who reports that her mission to capture the corrupt official Grask was a success—though it took two tries to get ahold of him. Without Grask’s connections, the Queen will have a harder time hiring mercenaries.
Irabeth says that her mission to find the spy among their allies in the gentry was also a success. Using zone of truth, she has cleared all but one of the nobles of treason. By process of elimination, the spy appears to be Arlynn’s brother Jerem Farima.
As the paladin processes this news, the party learns that Remmy’s mission to get a message to Sabina also fell through—worse, the one-eyed maiden has gone missing after a scuffle with her former sisters in arms.
“I’m going after her,” Nox declares.
“And I need to speak with Jerem,” Arlynn grimaces.
They are interrupted by a pounding on the door. Egan, disguising himself with one of his thousand faces, answers it, where a strange man urgently requests an audience with Lord Nox. After some back and forth, the man is allowed inside and reveals himself to be a disguised Grau Soldado.
Grau warns that a group of Korvosan soldiers has trapped a resistance cell in the Citadel Heights district. The house is surrounded and the soldiers’ captain is threatening to kill innocent hostages in the cell leader—Jerem—doesn’t turn himself in. Cressida thinks it’s a trap meant to lure out the main force of the resistance, but she hopes the Crimson Blades might be able to intervene.
“If Jerem’s in trouble, we must go at once,” Arlynn says. “I can’t let him or any innocents suffer. Who is with me?”
Most of the adventurers choose to go with the paladin, while Nox splits off to go after Remmy, accompanied by Kyra.
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright
As night settles over the city, the Crimson Blades rush to rescue Jerem and the other rebels, spying a column of smoke rising from the area.
Not far from Castle Korvosa, a three-storey stone house is surrounded by a platoon of Korvosan Guard led by burly sergeants clad in black leather. A large bonfire has been lit about 50 yards from the house, near the middle of a cleared-out marketplace. A short distance from the bonfire is a 15-feet-tall, makeshift black cage of wood and wicker shaped like a misshapen giant boar. The acrid smell of tar, of which the ominous cage is smeared, hangs heavily in the air.
The cage is packed tight with sobbing prisoners, mostly women and children. As one of the platoon sergeants torments with a cattle prod some women and children shut inside the cage, other prisoners are forced to pile firewood under it. The officer in charge of the platoon, a tall young aristocrat, shouts the prisoners to speed up. Inside the mansion, a few desperate men observe the scene in dismay, their heads barely visible behind the barricaded windows.
In an ominous silence broken only by the cracking of flames, the officer raises a hand. A sergeant picks up lit a lit torch from the fire and advances toward the wicker boar. Inside the tar-drenched cage, the laments of the prisoners grow into shrieks of terror. A moment after, the main doors of the mansion burst open and Jerem steps out waving a white flag.
“Stop!” he cries. “You have won! But please spare the lives of the innocents who live in this house.”
While Owl-Egan and Ashla sneak around to attempt to free the prisoners, Arlynn, Irabeth, and Laori (disguised as Human-Zandu) approach the Guard Captain in the open.
“Stop this injustice in Iomedae’s name!” Arlynn commands, “What have these innocent people done to deserve being put to the death in such a grisly manner?”
The Captain looks at Arlynn and says, “Is this all that the rebels have sent?”
“Rebels or not, why would you threaten innocent women and children? Has the Queen’s guard sunk so low as to do such heinous acts?” Arlynn responds.
Surveying the scene, she notes that while the aristocrat and the sergeants seem to be positively relishing the plan, the lower guardsmen are unhappy about it.
There is a back and forth with the Captain about innocence and justice, where he insists that he is simply carrying out the law’s punishment of death by torture for traitors. Then suddenly, the Captain’s head whips around as he spies Ashla creeping up—a feat no human could accomplish in the darkness.
The captain his sergeants swiftly drop their charade, revealing themselves to be rakshasas. Zandu also reveals himself, flying overhead, and looses magic at the fiends, but both he and Owl-Egan have trouble overcoming their damage reduction.
One of the sergeants tosses a torch onto the cage’s kindling, but Owl-Egan is able to suppress the fire with create water while Ashla hacks open the stockade so the captives can flee.
Arlynn and Irabeth cut their way through the rakshasa brutes, while Laori tries to keep up the disguise of being Zandu.
“Fear my pillar of totally arcane magic fire!” she calls out. “I’m Zandu, sorcerer extraordinaire!”
The rakshasa captain tries to use his own magic against Arlynn, but to no avail. Ashla gets into a vicious fight with one of the rakshasa brutes, struggling to overcome its damage reduction but ultimately bringing it down.
The last surviving rakshasa charges into the group of Korvosan Guards to try to kill Jerem. The guards surround the monster, but are unable to harm it until Arlynn strides purposely over and grants them her aura of justice. Imbued with this holy strength, the guardsmen cut the last rakshasa into fist-sized chunks.