As the dust settles on the corpse of the last of the rakshasas, a crowd of citizens coalesces in the marketplace, jubilant at the rescue of the hostages and the defeat of the fiendish Guard leaders. They rush into the square to cluster around the adventurers, while Zandu remains perched on the statue of the Queen overlooking the space.
“Hooray for the Saviors of Korvosa!” the admirers cheer.
“And what’s that Gnoll doing there?” a bystander can be heard asking.
“Citizens of Korvosa,” Arlynn starts to address the crowd, “behold the fiends that are your oppressors!”
She motions toward the bodies of Rakshasa laid out on the cobblestones of the square.
“Citizens of Korvosa!" the paladin calls out. "We must rise up to meet this tyranny head on! Steel yourselves against this tyranny! By the grace of Iomedae, we shall prevail against the False and Tyrannical Queen!”
The crowd roars with enthusiasm and the party notices that many of them have grabbed makeshift weapons—hatchets, cleavers, clubs, torches, and even a few pitchforks.
“Let’s storm the castle!” someone calls out. Dozens of voices bellow in agreement and the mob starts to drift towards Castle Korvosa.
From his perch on the Queen Ileosa statue, Zandu lets out a terrifying roar, which silences the crowd and allows Arlynn to continue.
“There will be a time to march on the castle, but it is not this day," she tells the assembled masses. “Today, return to your homes and prepare yourselves. Sharpen your blades and spread the word to your neighbors, the day of reckoning shall be upon our fair city soon.”
The commoners nod their heads in agreement and start to disperse, making plans amongst themselves according to the paladin’s command.
But Zandu’s roar also provokes another response, as an answering snarl rings out from Castle Korvosa. A dark shape flits across the sky, blotting out the stars with its passage, and the Crimson Blades steel themselves for another fight.
Dragon Rider of Korvosa
The dark shape in the sky dives down towards them, revealing itself to be the rumored black dragon. And it is not alone—a rider clad in Gray Maiden armor is mounted upon its back.
“That rider wields Sabina’s sword!” Arlynn exclaims. Watching as the rider guides the dragon to the ground, rather than keep its advantage in the sky, she adds “And that Dragon it doesn’t seem to be as smart as an average Black Dragon…”
“Soon it’ll be deader than the average Black Dragon,” Irabeth growls.
The dragon’s arrival gives the adventurers pause, while the rider struggles to maneuver the dragon, which seems to be confused by her instructions.
Irabeth lifts her sword aloft and shouts, “By the grace of Iomedae, grant my allies the strength to slay this foul..uhh…Wyrm!”
As her aura of justice washes over the party, the other adventurers look at her askance.
“What?" Irabeth says, blushing. "It’s really hard to come up with something on the fly!”
She charges forward to strike the foul beast with her sword, but its thick black scales shrug off her mighty blow. The creature responds by biting down on Irabeth with its massive jaws, splattering her with its acidic saliva.
They hustle past a baker closing up shop and are heckled by the same drunk that they had encountered in the Shingles earlier. Nox barrels his way through the evening crown outside a tavern, but is held up by a determined stray dog.
Back in the market square, Arlynn and Ashla also close in on the grounded dragon, striking at it with their swords, while it spews acid over them and fights back with teeth, tail, and wings. Egan, in the form of a huge Air Elemental, moves above the dragon and buffets it with his fists. circles around behind the dragon to flank it, loudly pretending to be the sorcerer, but the beast proves resistant to her magic.
Invisible Zandu, meanwhile, bestows haste upon the party. He then calls out to the creature in Draconic to ask what compels it to fight the party in the service of a puny human queen. The dragon replies that he is under a geas. Zandu responds to this revelation by unleashing a lightning breath at the monster.
The Crimson Blades continue to wear down the great wyrm, as the creature continues to be hampered by directives from its rider. After Sabina again foils the dragon’s attempt to take flight, the monster’s yellow eyes flare and it turns to bite her. Immediately after biting the Gray Maiden, the creature shudders and starts puking acid on the ground.
Sabina takes opportunity to dismount and turn to face the dragon.
“We need to take this beast down before it realizes it has an entire city at hand to destroy!” she cries out to the adventurers.
Irabeth shrugs at this changing of sides and continues to hack at the dragon, though her blows continue to clang off its hardened scales. Zandu, meanwhile, casts black tentacles to try to hold Sabina in place.
The dragon continues to vomit, this time deliberately, belching up a vast pool of acid that splashes the adventurers around it.
Even so, the party continues to trade blows with the dragon. Ashla air walks out of the acid pool and then strikes true with her short sword, finding a loose scale. The dragon responds by slapping her and Arlynn with its wings.
“Ouch! That’s going to bruise!” complains Ashla.
Laori carefully steps out of the pool to use mass cure light wounds, pretending to empower the with her “totally arcane magic.” The dragon lashes her with its heavy tail, negating the healing she had done to herself with the spell.
The black monstrosity slaps its wings out once again, battering Arlynn and Ashla.
While the battle rages on, Nox and company continue to push their way through the city streets towards the action.
Meanwhile, the now-riderless dragon casts a darkness spell, attempting to blind the party, and flies up 60 feet, forcing its way throw Air-Egan.
The gnome druid tries to blast it with a flame strike but fails miserably to injure the spell resistant dragon, and instead the flames fall back toward the stockade, reigniting it.
Nox, Remmy, and Kyra manage to push their way through the streets and see the dragon overhead—and a wooden fence standing between them and the action. Nox charges ahead of the others, pulls out his sun sword Vigil and his shield Ovis, and rams into the fence. The combined force of his strength and the powers within Ovis shatters the fence and allows the trio to burst forth.
“Oh Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!” Nox triumphantly exclaims.
“Yes yes very impressive Lord Ox, I mean Nox.” Kyra jeers invisibly behind him.
The crash happens to catch the attention of Sabina, who has since moved away from the acid, black tentacles, and darkness of the battle area.
“Remmy! You’re alive!” she exclaims, “Come now, we need to take down this foul creature!”
Ashla, using her air walking, charges up into the air to strike against the creature with her dragon bane longsword, finding its mark.
“It seems this fight has taken to the air…” Nox surmises, reaching for his bow.
All of the melee combatants at this point are badly bloodlied. Deep, dark red blood drips from a dozen wounds on the dragon, while Arlynn, Ashla, and Irabeth have all suffered grievous wounds from acid, tooth, and tail. Nonetheless, the two paladins take to the skies to press the attack, as does Laori. Ashla, meanwhile, prepares to disengage. The dragon also tries to put distance between itself and the flying fighters, but is swatted to the earth by Air-Egan’s gale force fist.
“I’m so glad we ran all the way here…” a dejected Nox remarks, watching the dragon plummet to the acid-pitted cobblestones.
After the battle, the party confronts Sabina. The Gray Maiden commander lays down her sword, tears off her helmet to reveal her scarred face, falls to her knees and throws herself on their mercy. She confesses that she did terrible this in service to the Queen, her lover, but begs them to give her a chance to undo what she helped to come to pass. Before she says anything more, she asks that they relocate to somewhere safe. Nox offers her sanctuary at the Chelaxian embassy, and Zandu teleports them and Remmy directly there.
The Butler Did It!
While the others begin to split up, Arlynn turns her attention to her brother, Jerem. He thanks her for her timely intervention, but she challenges him about the evidence pointing to him as a spy. Jerem insists that he would never betray the resistance and knows nothing of the espionage. Irabeth confirms that using zone of truth. They then discuss how they could expose the spy. Irabeth hits upon the idea of comparing the dates and locations of the cell’s meeting with the suspected leaks. They determine that most of the leaks appear to have happened while the nobles were meeting at the Farima townhouse.
Arlynn accompanies Jerem back to the townhouse to investigate, riding on Princess to get there. They are greeted by the goblin butler Grimlurk, who welcomes them inside and summons the family cook to provide them with refreshments. After sweeping the house for magical espionage enchantments, Arlynn questions the servants using zone of truth.
Kentra denies any knowledge of the leaked information, though she does ask if if Arlynn can use magic to help her with her own pet project. The half-elf cook is convinced she’s the bastard daughter of one of the nobles and hopes to force them to admit it.
Arlynn then questions Grimlurk about the resistance meetings hosted at the townhouse. The goblin describes how he saw to the needs of the attendees, but the paladin realizes he is avoiding directly answering the question. When she demands that he answer her directly, he attempts to drink a potion, but Arlynn siezes hold of him. Jerem takes the bottle away, revealing it to be a potion of invisibility.
Both Farima siblings are shocked that their trusted servant could betray them. Grimlurk maintains a stiff upper lip, but having been caught, he confesses everything: he has been spying on them and their guests for years, at the behest of the master of the Reformatorium, who then sells that information to the highest bidder.
The traitorous butler is placed in shackles and Jerem promises to alert the resistance about the Reformatorium’s spy ring. With her brother exonerated and the spy exposed, Arlynn dons a hat of disguise and carefully returns to the embassy.
The Gray Mistress’ Confession
At the embassy, Remmy keeps Sabina occupied until the Crimson Blades regroup to debrief her. Sabina says that at first she thought that the shift in Ileosa’s personality was a sign she growing into her role as a commanding monarch, but the Queen has gone off the deep end. Sabina now wonders whether the Queen ever cared for her—she certainly hasn’t shared her bed since Ileosa began wearing “that ugly crown.”
Sabina also admits that she willingly allowed Ileosa to scar her face as a proof of her devotion; for a time Sabina thought that the other Gray Maidens had also willingly submitted to the process, but Remmy’s treatment shook her from this ignorance.
Now she says that Ileosa has brought devils and Red Mantis assassins into the castle, along with the black dragon they slew.When questioned, she thinks the devils are under the power of Togomor, the new seneschal—his appointment was another strange move, as Sabina says she and the Queen used to make fun of him.
With the information provided by Sabina and Neolandis, the party is able to develop a pretty accurate map of the castle interior. The adventurers question her about the castle defenses and Sabina admits that she has not left the second floor of the keep very often. Among the devils, she says that there are three barbed devils, the Yallops, on the first floor while a horned devil named Mavrokeras is lurking somewhere among the towers on the fourth floor. The Red Mantis are mainly active on the third floor. The throne room and the Queen’s quarters are on the second floor, while Togomor’s rooms are on the first floor.
Sabina explains that the Gray Maidens they will encounter in the castle are the elite of the order and completely loyal to Ileosa, but there are many others in the city that still consider her their commander. This includes a number of Maidens who weren’t “receptive” to the indoctrination and are being held captive below the Longacre Building in North Point.
Arlynn sympathizes with Sabina’s plight and recognizes that she did what she could given her situation. This proves to be of little comfort to Sabina, as she feels fully responsible for what has happened in the city. She suggests launching a diversionary attack to free the imprisoned Maidens, which will draw forces away from the castle and make it more vulnerable to a strike from the party.
The party debates different methods of entry into the castle, consulting with Sabina on access points. They ultimately settle on the secret door in the armory on the first floor, although Sabina warns them that this and the other entrances are likely to be watched or guarded. The discussion is interrupted by the arrival of a seagull carrying a note and an amulet, which approaches Egan. The note, written in druidic, is from Faunra, wishing the gnome the best of luck and offering him a token of good fortune—his father’s missing amulet.
Also during the planning, Nox receives a discrete signal and excuses himself from the discussion to meet with his contact. She has returned with word that his missive to the Hellknights has driven them to march on the city. With this revelation, Nox brings to the party’s attention that his contact with Ambassador Amprei is the presumed-dead Freya Mikkelsdotter. This announcement produces mixed reactions among the party, but the news of assistance from the Hellknights helps smooth over the secrecy. Nox then orders Freya to assist in getting the Hellknights into the city and to direct them to the castle.
Zandu’s Trip Home
With events moving so quickly, Zandu announces that he needs to pay a visit to his family in Cheliax to ask for aid and information. Arlynn also decides to come along, in the hopes that Zandu’s family can procure her a spell to remove the last touch of the grave from her. Together with Kyra, they teleport to the Loranth Estate outside Kintargo.
They arrive in the estate’s teleporting chamber, where they are greeted by family servants. Zandu asks to speak with the most senior member of the family present.
He is taken, alone, to a private meeting room with his uncle Degius, a bald ox of a man covered in orcish tattoos, who is initially tired and suspicious. Zandu asks for aid in overthrowing the Queen, including help from the family, access to the spells from archives, and a restoration spell for Arlynn. He also asks for help researching a way to change his body type to halfling and explains his intention to marry Kyra. He also notes that some of the blades would be willing to help in a move against the Thrunes.
Degius notes that the family has already lent what aid it can in by sending so many of Zandu’s cousins to the city. But the old fighter brightens when he learns of Zandu’s plans to marry Kyra and promises to have the family’s top arcane specialists look into his request.
Zandu then introduces Degius to Arlynn and Kyra.
“You’re a big one,” the paladin says as the tatooed man steps into the room.
“All the ladies say that!” he chuckles. “So, I understand you’re in need of some healing. I can tend to that.”
He then punches Arlynn in the gut, a wave of reddish energy spreading out from the impact site. Through the pain, Arlynn can feel the last negative impacts of her return to life fading away.
“That’s how we do it in Gorum’s name!” Degius calls out, clapping her on the back. The warpriest, however, is exceedingly polite to Kyra (without revealing Zandu’s intentions).
A search of the archives turns up only one item from Zandu’s list—a mass heal scroll.
With the scroll in hand, Arlynn cured, and the research underway, Zandu prepares to teleport them back.