Curse of the Crimson Throne

Home is Where the Hate is

Crown of Fangs, Part 2

Sail the Friendly Seas

After thwarting the Bekyar slaving raid on Harse and raising Arlynn from the dead, the adventurers try to find a place for the rescued children to stay. The village’s Mayor and blacksmith, a brawny middle-aged woman named Vidria assures them that the children will be looked after. They’ll stay in the temple of Erastil for a day or two until foster families are located.

Arlynn questions one young boy of eight, an orphan she recognizes, who explains that he snuck out past curfew and was snatched off the street by the “mean lady” (Shivkah).

The villagers are tremendously grateful to the adventurers for saving their community. Vidria offers them free horse shoes for their mounts and they find that they have free room and board at every inn in town. The Crimson Blades repay the kindness by providing the village with the rations from the Scorpion’s Kiss.

Once the children are being looked after, and with Arlynn on the mend, they begin sailing the Scorpion’s Kiss down the river, floating Treebeard along after them. As the only remotely qualified sailor in the bunch, Kyra runs around the deck trying to instruct them in the ship’s operations.

“Raise the mizzen-thingy! Unfurl the sails! Avast the other thing!” she calls out. “Damn it, I haven’t done any of this since dad died.”

Due as much to the current of the Falcon River as anything else, they sail southwest, arriving at the industrial center of Pallin’s Cove near sunset. Built on a rock spur of land at the estuary of the Falcon River, the town bristles with siege weapons, the manufacture of which also seems to be its main industry.

As they approach the city, Kyra uses her ring of invisibility while the rest of the party don hats of disguise to pose as Bekyars. Disgusted with the thought of pretending to be a slaver, Arlynn stays below decks.

They are challenged by a patrol skiff, whose captain hails them. “You’re back right quick. It was just the other day you went up the river.”

“Our business was concluded sooner than expected,” Zandu tells him. “Will there be any trouble passing through Pallin’s Cove?”

“No, no, of course not,” the skiff captain says, visibly unnerved by the sight of the slaver ship. “Will you be dropping anchor here? There’s a storm coming in.”

“Storms do not concern us,” Zandu tells him, “and we have business elsewhere.”

The skiff captain is visibly relieved as the black ship glides on past the town and out onto the open sea.

In the ship’s cabin, Ashla and Kyra review the Bekyars’ maps, noting several hidden camps along the Mushfens west of Korvosan territory. The half-elf also notices a secluded cove between the Falcon river estuary and Korvosa where they could berth for the night. Kyra figures they’ll be able to reach it by midnight.

Rather than risk sailing into the city, the adventurers decide to leaving the ship there and then teleport into Korvosa after scrying Nox at an appointed time and location. Egan sends a sea gull off with a message to the old Chelaxian embassy.

Meanwhile, the storm blows in out of the west.

Raiders of Goblin Cove

Kyra struggles to keep the ship on course as the storm batters it, so Water-Egan summons up a hurricane to divert the storm. It is challenging to find the hidden cove in the dark, but Water-Egan senses the tide lapping against the shoreline and guide the black ship smoothly into the calmer waters.

Finding no dock, they drop anchor and send Owl-Egan to scout out the shore. The druid spies a simple ramada and stone fireplace, but no permanent structures. He does spy small footprints, about the size of a halfling’s, in the wet sand. Scanning the shoreline with a spyglass, Arlynn spots figures moving along the hills ringing the bay. She passes the glass to Zandu, whose gnoll eyes are about to make out a band of goblins, weighed down with crude sacks, trudging up the hillside away from the cove.

Zandu decides to investigate in person, casting fly on himself, grabbing Kyra, and handing the bull’s eye lantern to Arlynn. As he swoops down on the fleeing goblins, Zandu lets out a dragon’s breath of crackling electricity, frying the lead goblin. As the sorcerer lets out an intimidating roar, the goblins shriek in terror. “AAAH! HAIRY DRAGON!”

Zandu demands to speak with their leader. One after another the goblins point at the goblin behind them, until everyone’s grubby fingers are pointed at the last goblin in the line. He drops his cargo resignedly.

“Where is your chief?!" Zandu demands. "I wish to speak to him!”

“You want big chief?” the goblin spokesman asks meekly. “Him that way.”

“How far is he?” the sorcerer inquiries. “How many suns? How many Moon rises?”

“About an hour actually,” the Goblin replies flatly.

“Oh. Lead on then,” Zandu says.

The goblins lead him to the caves where their tribe resides. After a brief exchange with a goblin guard, Zandu and invisible Kyra are led inside and taken before the chief, who is seated on a throne made of squirrel skulls. Chief Poog also wears a shirt of chain mail and in place of a crown, wears a live frog. The goblin spokesman, Glabrick, introduces Zandu as a “Hairy Dragon” who swooped down upon the raiding party.

Poog looks at him skeptical. “Why you no have have wings?”

“Don’t need them,” Zandu replies, starting to levitate.

Zandu then demands that the chieftain pledge his tribe’s loyalty and also offer the gnoll sorcerer the first picks of their raiders’ haul. Glabrick upends the sacks of loot, revealing that most of it is junk taken from slaver’s waste pile. Zandu then demands choice pieces from the tribe’s treasure hoard, obtaining a keen Orcish longsword, maps of the coastline of Korvosa, and a set of small-sized masterwork hide armor that looks as if it was made from a dragon wyrmling.

Zandu gives this last item to Glabrick, who he places in charge of guarding the ship when the party leaves. Having taken the goblins under his “protection,” the sorcerer grabs his new emissary and flies back to the vessel, with Glabrick shrieking in terror all the way.

Egan points at the goblin. “What.”

Zandu introduces the goblin to the rest of the party and instruct him to not let anyone but the party aboard the ship. They then leave Glabrick aboard the ship with Reno and Badger and make camp on the shore. Treebeard begins the long trek to towards Korvosa. The party also sends an animal messenger to inform Nox of their exploits and instruct him to go to a location the next morning where they can conveniently teleport in secret.

After waking the following morning, Egan scrys Nox’s location to determine if he is at a safe place to teleport into Korvosa.

Light in Dark Places

Back in Korvosa, Nox is still nursing his wounds in the empty embassy, with no one but his hireling Marl for company. He sends the mercenary out to fetch Theandra Darklight of the Three Rings tavern, one of Ambassador Amprei’s contacts in the city.

Theandra has the look of a woman who was beautiful and athletic in her youth but who has grown matronly with age. She carries a few scars and is missing the last few fingers on her left hand. Marl announces her and after a pointed look from Nox, steps outside.

Nox cuts to the chase, noting that the Ambassador vouched for her and asks for her assistance. He presents her with the assassin’s note and asks what she can tell from it. Theandra inspects the document and says that the paper is of high quality, the sort used by the Korvosan government and the better merchant houses in the city. Nox is not surprised, but asks her to keep digging for more information.

He also asks about the nobility’s opinion of the Queen and whether they could be swayed to oppose her. Theandra says that while House Endrin has been vocal in its opposition to the Queen, the Great Houses have stayed neutral, save for House Arkona which nominally supports the Queen in exchange for being given free reign of Old Korvosa. Theandra thinks the Great Houses wouldn’t be unhappy to see the Queen go, but they won’t act themselves until they’re sure that they’re backing the winning side.

Nox also asks if she could arrange for some trustworthy servants to help get the embassy back into shape. Theandra assures him that she’ll send some girls over. Nox thanks her and says that he’ll be visiting her at the Three Rings Tavern later in the week.

On her way out, Theandra remarks on a very persistent sea gull that has landed on his windowsill. Once she is gone, Nox retrieves the party’s message from the bird.

Regroup

After reading the message, Nox decides to head down to the embassy basement at the appointed time to wait for them. After a few minutes, the rest of the Crimson Blades apparate into the basement. Irabeth grumbles at returning to site of her former imprisonment.

Nox and the others swap stories about their respective journeys back to the city. Arlynn heals the fighter of the lingering wounds he’d suffered during the ambush days before. Nox brings them up to speed a bit about goings on in the city and his own current position in the embassy as an alleged Adjudicator of the Empress of Cheliax come inspect the colony.

Nox recommends that they try to preserve this cover as long as possible, since it will allow them to move openly in the city. The others explain how they’ve acquired hats of disguise to help them stay incognito.

Zandu, meanwhile, feels a psychic tug from Zellara’s Harrow Deck. He gets out the deck and the ghostly fortune teller manifests, saying that she can sense that their final clash with the Queen is fast approaching. She wishes to give them some final insight into the future which could aid them in the coming battles.

The Harrow reading begins. During the Choosing, the Crimson Blades draw the following cards:

  • Nox: The Tyrant
  • Ashla: The Empty Throne
  • Egan: The Unicorn
  • Arlynn: The Theatre
  • Zandu: The Liar

Nox laughs at his choice of card. “Does this always happen to you guys? The irony?”

The chosen cards are then shuffled back into the deck and Zellara lays out the spread.

The Past The Present The Future
The Tangled Bryar The Brass Dwarf The Avalanche
The Foreign Trader The Survivor The Waxworks
The Theatre The Vision The Twins

Zellara interprets the spread. The Tangled Briar ordinarily represents a dark secret from the past casting a shadow over the present, but it is misaligned, suggesting that the dark deeds of ancient days offer hope for the future. The Theatre is also misaligned, suggesting that a prophecy long foretold is just for show. The Survivor represents rebirth, or the rediscovery of that which was thought lost forever but rediscovered once more. Ordinarily the Avalanche would represent disaster, but the card is an opposite match, suggesting that the calamity will be averted, although not without consequences. The Waxworks is the card of torture, imprisonment, and physical entropy.

The dark deeds of the past are likely to be the actions of both Kazavon and Mandraivus, still cancelling one another out centuries later. False prophecy could be the failed destruction of Kazavon.

The Survivor clearly represents the Crimson Blades, who have returned to the city after many ordeals, have recovered the long lost Serithtial in the process.

Peering into the future, the party can avert the disaster befalling Korvosa, for a price. Should they fail, the torment of the Wax Works will swallow all.

After the reading, the party plans their actions for the day. Zandu, Kyra, and Laori will teleport to Kaer Maga to purchase supplies and sell goods, while the rest of the party will don disguises as Nox’s entourage and proceed with him to the Gray District to contact the resistance.

Rebel Huddle

This is most of the Crimson Blades’ first time out and about in Korvosa since they escaped the Arkona mansion months ago. The city has changed for the worse. Patrol of Gray Maidens seem to be present on every street, while the citizens on the street appear cowed into submission. New statues of Queen Ileosa have popped up everywhere, with more and larger statues still being built by labor gangs overseen by harsh Gray Maiden task masters. Agents of the Temple of Asmodeus are also out and about, urging citizens to donate vials of their blood as a means for the Queen’s forces to identify and protect loyal subjects.

Unnerved by these developments, the party makes their way to the Gray District, where the tombstone-lined pathways are even quieter than usual. They travel to the fortified Grand Cathedral of Pharasma at the center of the enormous cemetery. After being challenged by the guards at the cathedral entrance, the party talks their way inside where they are met by Bishop Keppira d’Bear. She leads them down into the catacombs below the cathedral, leaving them in a large, empty chamber.

Moments later, the party is reunited with Cressida, Neolandis, Vencarlo and Grau. They are also accompanied by Chammady’s After the reunion, they ask for updates on what the Crimson Blades have been up to. In turn, Cressida explains how Arlynn and Zandu’s followers have helped the resistance survive and grow.

The adventurers ask about the strength of the resistance and Cressida states that she has about 150 volunteers on board, including many former Guardsmen, though they have had to scrounge for weapons and supplies. She says that the Gray Maidens are the main military strength in the city at the moment, The Guard is a shadow of its former self, with demoralized rank and file being led by regime toadies and other bad apples. Nox asks about Corporal Bendis’ reliability and is told that Bendis is honest, but too set in his ways to abandon the guard. Arlynn asks after Verik Vancaskerkin, learning that he has joined the rebels.

Cressida says the resistance is almost ready to make their move against the Queen, including revealing that Neolandus still lives and that a result, Korvosa’s government has a legal option beyond open rebellion to depose Ileosa. Cressida hopes that this information will rally the noble houses, arbiters, and magistrates, but she also fears that doing so will spur Ileosa to step up the violence to even greater levels than before.

That’s why, before the rebels can take to the streets and seek out the support of the city, she needs the party to weaken the regime by hitting key targets and gathering intelligence from the castle. Cressida has heard numerous rumors about what has been going on inside it: that the Gray Maidens are mind-controlled, that devils and a dragon dwell within its walls, that the Red Mantis are now secretly in control of it, and that Ileosa has herself transformed into a monster. If even some of those rumors are true, it could dramatically undermine Ileosa’s rule if proof were to get out.

In addition, there are a few problems outside the castle that Cressida would like the adventurers to investigate. Chief among them is a new “hero of the people” who has been fighting rebels in the streets. Cressida says the rebels are false and she suspects the hero, who calls himself Trifaccia, is false as well. She asks the party to find out who or what he is.

The adventurers also bring up the idea of trying to reach out to Sabina Merrin, the commander of the Gray Maidens, who they suspect might not be happy with the direction the Queen is taking the city. Vencarlo and Grau concur that she would not willingly be going along with the Queen’s atrocities. Arlynn recalls Sabina’s concern over Remmy and suggest that the former Gray Maiden reach out to her contacts in the Order to get a message to Sabina in order to draw her out. Remmy is willing to try, and the party decides to send one of Zandu’s cousins to shadow her as backup.

There are several other smaller tasks that Cressida raises. Ishani Dhatri, Abadarian priest and vocal opponent of his church’s public endorsement of Ileosa, has vanished. He was last seen approaching the castle.

The Queen has been trying to bolster her forces by hiring mercenaries, which could give her a decisive advantage. The corrupt official Grask has been her main source for hiring mercenaries; Cressida wants him captured. Arlynn decides to send Chammady and her Sworn Swords to grab the guy. Nox suggests snatching him by the Three Rings Tavern.

The resistance also has a spy problem. The Queen’s forces managed to identify and eliminate the main rebel cell in the Midlands. Cressida has traced this and other leaks back to a group of minor nobles who are sympathetic to resistance. She asks if the adventurers can spare someone to help ferret out the spy problem. The party decides to send Irabeth to interview the nobles with her zone of truth while some of Zandu’s cousins investigate more surreptitiously.

As they prepare to depart, Cressida asks that they not meet at the cathedral again, to avoid placing Bishop D’Bear and her people at risk. She promises to stay in touch.

Upon returning to the embassy, Nox also donates 300gp to repair the rusty, worn-out armor and weapons of Corporal Bendis and his squad, winning some extra goodwill.

Once Zandu and his group return from Kaer Maga with supplies, the party decides that their next move will be to unmask the false hero Trifaccia. Ashla suggests that they find a suitable regime target to strike at, which should provoke him into appearing. Zandu concurs, and wants to add an extra note of chaos to the proceedings to smear the Cerulean Society as well.

Diversion

The next morning, the party puts their plan to lure out Trifaccia into motion. Zandu, in gnoll-form but dressed in a blue Cerulean Society uniform, links up with invisible Kyra and several of his followers, also disguised as Cerulean Society goons. The trio melts a hole through the wall of Martin’s Metal Menagerie, a weapons shop whose owner is vocal supporter of the regime, while simultaneously igniting its front door. Zandu and company loot the store while loudly declaring that they’re working for the Society on behalf of the resistance. Outside, Ashla-as-Blackjack waits in the shadows while Nox and incognito Arlynn and Egan wait for Trifaccia to arrive.

Unfortunately, the false hero does not appear. Instead, a few moments later two a patrol of Gray Maidens arrives on horseback. While the rogues melt into the shadows with their loot, Zandu creates a diversion by swooping over the street, cackling wildly and issuing threats. The Gray Maidens start loosing arrows while their commander unleashes scorching rays at the sorcerer, who fires back with lightning bolts that slay one Maiden and badly wound the commander. Nox leaps in to “aid” the Maidens, firing arrows in the general direction of Zandu.

As more reinforcements arrive, Zandu teleports himself and the arrows he’s been collecting back to the embassy. Arlynn, posing as a priest of Iomedae, cares for the Gray Maiden leader. Nox’s “heroism,” meanwhile, left an impression on the Maidens and the townsfolk.

Showdown

After their failure at the weapons shop, the party regroups and concocts a different plan to draw out Trifaccia. A couple of days later, Arlynn, Laori-disguised-as-Zandu and Irabeth set up a tent in the Midlands District to feed the people as the Crimson Blades, saviors of the city. Pigeon-Egan quietly keeps an eye on the scene while Zandu and Kyra lurk in a nearby alley, ready to create more mayhem.

About 45 minutes after the tent is raised using the rod of splendor, a gang of Varisian toughs show up and start flinging insults at Arlynn and the others.

“You think you can just stroll back into town and throw yourselves big party? If you were really interested in helping Korvosa, you wouldn’t have abandoned us! You’re not heroes, just posers!”

“There is no need for trouble,” Arlynn says. “We are all looking after the future of Korvosa. Come, let me get you a drink.”

“I wish you’d go to hell!” one of them heckles.

Arlynn feels a strange prickling sensation over her skin, which she will later recall as similar to the feeling she always gets just as Zandu casts teleport, but the power of the goddess swells within her and the sensation subsides.

“What was that?” the paladin asks sharply, as the rowdies start to close in around her.

“Look at her,” one of them sneers, "as soon as one of us common folk get close her hand goes to her shiny sword. Think you’re hot stuff in that polished armor, eh? I wish you looked more like the ungrateful pig you really are!”

Arlynn feels as if an invisible vise is trying to compress and contort her into an unnatural shape, but Iomedae’s blessing is still upon her. She shakes off the spell and lunges forward, grabbing hold of the last speaker. The paladin casts zone of truth and sets about questioning him.

“What did you do? Who is casting those spells? Tell me who sent you!”

“I wish you’d just up and die!” he spits at her.

A searing pain lances through her, almost sending Arlynn to her knees and she realizes that but for the grace of Iomedae the fell magic would have slain her. Nox steps into the tent and tries to assist with dispersing the rowdies.

It is then that mocking laughter rings out across the ten. A figure in a hooded cloak, where a strange golden three-faced mask appears standing on some crates in the back of the tent. The Varisian thugs panic.

“It’s Trifaccia! Run!”

Nox grabs hold of the thug Arlynn was interrogating as he tries to slip by.

“Greetings, heroes of yesterday!” Trifaccia introduces himself to the party. He thanks them for their past service, but chides them for disturbing the peace, noting that even the judgment of the gods appears to have struck Arlynn. He challenges one of them to a duel on the condition that if they loose all of them must leave the city forever. It is at this point that the true hero of Korvosa, Blackjack, shows up to accept the challenge.

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