A Night at the Opera
After parting ways with Slim, Zandu evades the pursuing Sable Company hippogryph rider by ducking into a crumbling hole in the roof of a building. While this gets him out of the chase, it also lands him in the clutches of choker lurking in the room, which soon has its tentacles wrapped around his throat. He responds by repeatedly smashing jars of alchemist’s fire onto the tendrils. Unfortunately, he drops the last flask, setting the room on fire.
This is enough to send the badly scorched choker scampering out into the dark. Zandu likewise scrambles through a trap door and down into a dark hallway. Hearing raised voices speaking with an unusual cadence, he carefully approaches the exit to the hallway, which opens onto a set of scaffolding overlooking a grand stage, where an opera is in progress.
Zandu is quickly noticed by the lighting technician, a gnome named Mikah. Feigning drunkenness, Zandu mentions that he might have knocked over a lantern when he woke up in the attic. The gnome smells smoke and soon most of the production crew is working on a bucket line, while desperately trying to hide the disaster from the audience—they can’t afford to stop the show. Zandu volunteers to help with the lighting, and throws some minor illusions into the production, too.
Afterwards, Mikah praises Zandu’s efforts and offers him a part-time apprenticeship as a lighting and effects technician. Zandu notes that he can act, too. The sorcerer also learns that the Marbledome opera house is poorly maintained and financially troubled, despite being sponsored by House Jeggare, one of the Five Great Houses. He returns home to find Slim still missing, shrugs, and goes to bed.
Travelers from Distant Lands, Friends of Old
Shortly after dawn, the Varisian rogue returns with his three guests: Kyra, her mother Yamyra, and the paladin Irabeth. Kyra greets the others as friends she met while managing the Sticky Mermaid. Zandu suggests that she could look into taking over management of the Marbledome.
When Ser Arlynn steps forward to greet the halfling, Irabeth roars and challenges her to an immediate duel. It’s soon discovered that the half-orc was purchased in Kaer Maga’s slave markets by Arlynn’s sister. Irabeth apologizes to Arlynn and the two quickly bond over their shared experience training as Iomedaen paladins in Lastwall.
Kyra takes off for Twitcher’s Tavern in the Shingles to try to reconnect with the Cerulean Society on the mainland and arrange for permanent quarters for her mother. Slim and Irabeth bed down to sleep off the night’s adventures and are joined by Arlynn, who used her lay on hands to cure Zandu and several strangers of the Blood Veil that morning.
While the two paladins and the rogue sleep, Egan ventures out in the wilderness to track down a porcupine, hoping to expand both his knowledge of nature and his repertoire of wild shapes. Zandu revisits the opera house. He finds the Marbledome’s manager, Touran Palastus, berating the staff as they disassemble the sets and gear from the previous night’s performance. Zandu challenges the man to treat his employees more kindly and then delivers a rousing speech to the staff—unfortunately, at least half the audience is left asking “Wasn’t that the man who started the fire last night?”
Slim awakens in early afternoon, having dreamt up a cunning plan for investigating the hospice. The party treks over to Citadel Volshyenek to see about borrowing the captured Queen’s Physician outfit from Cressida.
The Dead Man’s Tale
In the half-empty Citadel, they find Verik Vancaskerkin on guard duty with Grau outside the makeshift evidence room, having given his parole not make any escape attempts. Inside, the Abadaran cleric Ishani Dhatri inspects the body of the dead physician while Cressida looks on.
Ishani reveals that he has learned more about the magical items recovered from the wreck of the Direption. The strange necromantic coffers are able to transfer a disease from one object to another when both are placed inside, leaving the latter item supernaturally contagious for an entire week. More interesting is the Queen’s Physician mask, which when worn on the head grants immunity from the blood veil while also shielding the wearer’s alignment.
Warning the party that the spell can only be sustained for two questions, Ishani casts speak with dead on the corpse. The adventurers ask the deceased who was involved in the plot against the city. The dead man says that the Cult of Urgathoa was approached by the assassins of the Red Mantis to help craft the plague. Cressida asks him where the cult is now. The cadaver says that they are at their new temple in the Vaults, whose location he does not know, but if they find the Red Mantis leader, “the doctor,” they will find the cult. With that, the body falls still once more.
Slim gives Cressida a tastefully edited version of his encounter with the strange assassin in Old Korvosa and shows her the mask and sawtoothed sabre he recovered. Given the mantis theme, it seems safe to conclude that the mysterious assailant was one of the Red Mantis assassins. Cressida frets that they now have a whole other faction playing bloody-minded games in the city.
Together, the party concocts a plan for infiltrating the hospice. Slim will pose as a Queen’s Physician, while Arlynn and Ashla will disguise themselves as members of the Guard helping him escort two unruly patients—Zandu and Irabeth—to see Dr. Davaulus. Egan will slip in after them in cat shape. To add to the ruse, Zandu plans to cast enlarge person on himself to give him the appearance of a mutated plague victim.
“Why do I always have to be the prisoner?” Irabeth groans as Slim places some manacles loosely around her wrists.
Aren’t You a Little Short to be a Queen’s Physician?
The party bursts into the lobby of the Hospice with Slim in the lead, urgently demanding to see Dr. Davaulus. Pointing at the blotchy hulk of Zandu, Slim claims that the blood veil seems to mutating, adding that “this could be the breakthrough the doctor is looking for!” Slim explains that the man-giant and his half-orc companion knocked out his Gray Maiden escorts in Racker’s Alley, necessitating the intervention of the two guardswomen. A pair of Gray Maidens tromp out of the hospice to attend to their fellows, with Slim warning that he also saw signs of vampires in the area.
Amidst all the confusion, Cat-Egan slips into the hospice and starts scouting the area. He tries to investigate a curious set of boxes stacked in a corner, but ends up creating a racket that forces him to slink back into the shadows.
Slim continues to bluff his way through increasingly skeptical layers of security until the party is finally stopped at the upper floor of the hospice by a pair of Gray Maidens. Slim insists he has “orders” to take the patients straight to doctor Davaulus, but when questioned as to where his orders came from, the whole ruse falls apart.
The ensuing battle is fought half on the stairs and half in the confined antechamber on the second floor, as Queen’s Physicians stream out from the room beyond. Arlynn, Ashla, and Irabeth take care not to deal lethal damage to the Maidens, but Slim, Zandu, and Egan extend no such luxury to the plague doctors.
A mob of Queen’s Physicians surrounds the giant Zandu and bludgeons him to the verge of death before turning their attention on Slim, who is soon assisted by an enlarged Arlynn. Ashla and a Gray Maiden fight an inconclusive duel on the staircase until Irabeth is able to join her and together knock the Maiden senseless. Cat-Egan scampers into a corner and begins striking the Maidens with heat metal and chill metal, taking one of them out of the fight.
As the battle begins to wind down, Cat-Egan picks up a new scent of someone invisible approaching the lift in the corner. The druid calls down a bolt of lightning on the stranger, alerting the rest of the party. Irabeth follows the invisible figure onto the lift while Arlynn tries and fails to halt its descent. Before the elevator slips out of view, Slim manages to slide inside, bowling over the invisible man. At the rogue’s direction, Irabeth reverses the controls and the lift rises back towards the top floor. Cat-Egan creates water in the elevator, exposing the invisible man’s location.
The unseen foe sends the lift lurching back down as Ashla and Cat-Egan overhear people tromping up the stairs. Cat-Egan uses shape wood to peel the staircase up into a wall, barricading the upper story from below. In the elevator, Slim dumps an inkwell over the sopping wet victim, revealing him to be Dr. Davaulus. Slim tells him to surrender, but Davaulus instead turns the question around, warning the rogue that he’ll be in a great deal of trouble once the lift reaches its destination.
Arlynn takes this opportunity to seize the lift cables with her enlarged hands, arresting the descent and slowly hauling it back up. Slim and Irabeth try to subdue the doctor, but Davaulus’ rapier snakes out and spits Slim in one savage blow. Irabeth is left to face the doctor alone.
As Arlynn hauls the lift cage back into view, Asha tumbles past Davaulus into the elevator and Zandu casts enlarge upon her. As the half-elf swells up in size, she forces Slim, Irabeth, and Davaulus out onto the second flood. The doctor refuses to surrender and continues to lash out with his deadly sword, despite being surrounded on all sides. Ashla finally knocks him unconscious.
Oh Remmy, No!
In the aftermath of the fight, the party makes a series of grim discoveries. In the chambers beyond they find a dozen Varisians strapped to operating tables and inflicted with unnecessary surgeries and other experiments. The reason why is found among Davaulus’ papers: he has discovered that some Varisians have proven immune to the blood veil and he determined to find out why so that the plague can be made more virulent.
They also discover to their horror that each of the four Gray Maidens they defeated has had her face deliberately mangled as part of some torture regimes. The victims include their friend Remmy, the former Guardswoman, who was knocked out by Ashla and Irabeth. Not only scarred, Remmy is also missing an eye.
They strap the young woman down on a bed in the lab and wake her up. She recognizes them and begs to be let out, insisting that “I have to serve the Queen.” The party shows her a reflection of her mutilated face and while she is not pleased to see it, she insists the torture was necessary for her to understand her place in the Queen’s new order.
The party presents her with the evidence that Davaulus was working to strengthen rather than cure the plague. They convince Remmy that Davaulus and his men had betrayed the Queen and need to be stopped. Remmy agrees that the Queen would never permit such a monstrosity. They ask her about the lift and she explains that there is a secret third floor below the hospice where the Gray Maidens were never allowed to go. Only Davaulus has the key to take the lift down.
The adventurers debate whether or not to let Remmy out of her restraints, until Slim declares that he trusts the young woman as a friend and frees her. Eventually, she is given back her bow, to help cover the party as they investigate the Vault below. Cat-Egan is secretly assign to watch her for any sign of treachery.
Into the Vault
After Arlynn and Irabeth change into full plate taken from the other senseless Gray Maidens, the party takes the wet and creepy lift down into the Vault. They bring with them not only Remmy—still unsteady on her feat after the beating she took in the fight—but also a bound and gagged Davaulus, who they considered too dangerous to leave upstairs with the Varisian patients and the other prisoners.
The lift opens into a subterranean chamber bedecked with an elaborate mural of gleeful corpses dancing in the plague-ravaged streets of Korvosa as a delighted Urgathoa looks on from a perch over two double doors facing the lift. Two other entrances lead north and south. Zandu detects and Slim disarms a powerful magical trap on the main double doors. The rogue then investigates the southern room; peering inside he spies four plague doctors gearing up for a fight.
Slim catches one of them by surprise, and the rest try to deftly tumble past him only to be surrounded and killed by the rest of the party. Remmy hangs back from the action, with Cat-Egan perched on her shoulder. (“Good kitty! You love the Queen, too, don’t you?”)
Arlynn dispatches the last of the plague doctors with a savage one-two, telling the corpse: “Iomedae says… hello.”
“That’s the best you could come up with?” Irabeth says, cocking an eyebrow at her fellow paladin. Arlynn shrugs.
Once the Queen’s Physicians are disposed of, the party takes the bound and gagged Davaulus, wraps him up in a tarp, ties up the tarp, crams him into a crate, ties up the crate, and scatters caltrops around it just to be safe. Slim grudgingly pokes an air hole in the crate before locking it inside the south room.
The room to the north holds supplies and Queen’s Physician outfits, with another door leading east. Peering through the keyhole, Slim spies a funerary-themed barracks where unmasked Physicians and priests of Urgathoa are relaxing, attended by skeleton servants. Creaking the door open a fraction, Slim tries to snipe one of the priests but isn’t able to bring him down.
The priests try to bottle the party up in the doorway while one of the Physicians runs to alert the rest of the temple, but the adventurers slowly press forward. Arlynn urges Irabeth to get into the quipping spirit, but all the half-orc can manage is “You have a problem: you’re gonna die.”
“I’m sorry,” she says, cutting down one of the Physicians, “it’s harder than it looks.”
As the party closes in on the few remaining priests of Urgathoa, Slim urges the others on, calling out “Arlynn, what do we say to the Pallid Princess?”
The paladin lashes out with her sword. “Your princess is in another castle!”
Unsatisfied, the rogue calls over his shoulder. “Egan, what do we say to the Pallid Princess?”
“UNLIMITED POWER!” shouts the gnome as he calls lightning.
With just one Urgathoan remaining, Slim turns to the half-orc. “Irabeth, what do we say to the Pallid Princess?”
“Not today, Slim, I’ve had my fill of quips.” She stabs the last priest and kicks his body to the floor.