We’re Coming to Get You, Ruan!
As they head down from the Sticky Mermaid to rendezvous with the rest of the party at Zellara’s, Zandu and Slim come across some acolytes of Abadar putting up a rather forlorn banner over the Bank’s entrance to celebrate tomorrow’s Taxfest.
Slim goes to investigate and learns that the Bank won’t be able to hold its usual feast due to public health concerns, but acolytes are planning to accompany the city tax collectors to distribute free food to those in need. Slim passes them 5 gp as an advance on his taxes.
After meeting up with the others, the five of them (plus Majenko) tromp down to South Shore through the early morning light. South Shore is Korvosa’s newest district and has largely been given over to the manors of the nouveau riche. There aren’t many people on the streets, but nonetheless the party notices that South Shore seems largely unaffected by the plague.
Carowyn Manor is a stately, gabled mansion along Shoreline Way, overlooking the bay. Festooned with cinderberry garlands and bright red drapes, its grounds are surrounded by a thick, thorny hedge. Ser Arlynn knocks on the door, but receives no answer, though they can hear the faint sound of movement within. Unable to get a response, the paladin turns to Slim, who deftly opens the heavy Bloodsworn mahogany doors.
The doors open onto a entryway that expands into a great hall, where a massacre has taken place. Upon the marble floor and heaped in the corners lie more than a dozen corpses, each clad in garish outfits of sequined velvet, revealing silk, and colorful feathers. Masks of all shapes and sizes adorn the dead. In several cases, though, these fanciful adornments have fallen away, revealing withered flesh covered in nauseating facial tumors. Most horrifyingly, upon a bloodslick space cleared at the room’s center sway three couples, jerking like hellish dancers, all obviously dead.
When Arlynn ventures into the great hall, the dancing zombies turn to attack her and Ashla. As the grasping undead converge on the paladin, a screaming bolt howls down from the balcony above and finds a gap in her plate mail. Ashla spies a giggling figure vanishing back into the shadows and warns the others before getting caught up fighting several lurching corpses.
Flanked by the walking dead, Arlynn tries to strike one down with her longsword, but the creature slaps the blade aside and it goes flying. The other zombie takes this opportunity to rip away her shield. Armed only with her spiked gauntlets, Arlynn ducks into the adjacent den—where she finds three more costumed zombies posed around the fireplace.
The dead converge on her from all sides, clawing at her with gnarled, grasping hands. The paladin is able to fend off most of them, but a zombie in a lioness mask gets through her defenses and sinks its teeth deep in her flesh. Arlynn begins chanting a prayer to Iomedae, while Ashla and the others try to fend off the zombies in the entryway.
Her prayer complete, Arlynn channels the positive energy of her goddess into a flare of golden light that batters the zombies, killing some and leaving the others badly damaged. The party make short work of the survivors, even as the sniper continues to fire screaming bolts at them. They get their first good look at her—a blond elf woman dressed in harlequin costume, a wild light in her blue eyes.
The party takes this opportunity to retreat outside and regroup, while a stealthy Slim lurks in the shadows on the staircase landing.
The Gorilla in the Room
Upon encountering the zombies and the mad elf, Ashla’s thoughts immediately turn back to Zellara’s Harrow reading, where she drew the Bronze Dwarf. She feels an invigorating sense of confidence and resoluteness settle upon her for this fight.
Once Arlynn’s wounds have been treated, the party ventures back into the manor. The elf pops up to pelt them with another screaming bolt and Slim takes the opportunity to strike back with a crossbow bolt of his own. Cackling, the elf encourages them to play hide and seek, then quaffs a potion and disappears.
Zandu uses spiderclimb to quickly scramble up onto the second floor gallery. A trio of zombies that are ambling around the room, pantomiming appreciation of the paintings on the walls. They all turn to come after him while the mad elf shoots him with a crossbow bolt from a nearby door. The sorcerer swiftly feather falls back to the great hall and warns the others. He and Arlynn then head back upstairs, where they get drawn into a fight with the zombies. Using detect magic, Zandu is able to get a rough approximation of the invisible elf’s movements as she runs along the far side of the gallery, opening a door to invite more of her grotesque toys out to play. As two new zombies shamble out onto the gallery, Arlynn and Zandu recognize one as Lady Olauren Carowyn, having met her at a party in the manor some weeks ago.
Egan summons a mountain gorilla onto the gallery to help his friends and the beast gets to work pounding on a zombie. The mad elf chides them for smashing her playthings. Slim calls out to the hidden elf “Not the kind of cat and mouse game you were expecting, is it?” The elf giggles that his threats remind her of ‘my Rolthie.’ Still invisible, she deftly jumps down into the great hall and retreats deeper into the manor.
Combining magic missiles with another channel, Zandu and Arlynn finish off the zombies upstairs. Zandu then feather falls into the garden, while Arlynn and the gorilla rejoin the others in the great hall. Zandu, Arlynn, and the great ape then burst into a side room to eliminate the zombies while Slim and Arlynn investigate another route into the back of the house and Egan guards the great hall.
Moving stealthily, Slim is able to get the drop on several zombies, beheading them with a single deft swipe of his blade. He gets caught up fighting a third and is joined by Ashla and Egan. The three of them join Arlynn and Zandu in converging on a single staircase leading into the wine cellar.
No Mercy for Madness
Arlynn takes point heading down the stairs, while Slim trails in back scattering caltrops behind them. They enter a dark and stuffy cellar with a well-stocked wine rack and several large casks lining the walls. A small wooden door squats in the southeastern corner.
Zandu detects the invisible harlequin just in time for her to shiv him. She barrels past the sorcerer and Slim and up the stairs. Then she hits the caltrops (“Ouch!”) and then opens the dining room door to find the gorilla (“Aaah!”).
By the time the party is able to follow her up, she has already managed to slip past the beast, moving with a limp. Slim vaults over the caltrops and Zandu spiderclimbs, but Arlynn and Egan are slowed down and Ashla faceplants onto the spikes.
The badly wounded harlequin elf makes it out onto the street, where Egan brings here down with call lightning. The elf lets out a cry of either pain or ecstasy and collapses. As she lies dying on the ground, Slim approaches her and determinedly finishes her off.
The Case of the Vanishing Virtuoso
With the villainess laid low and her zombies dispatched, the party explores the remaining upopened rooms on the manor. Behind the sturdy door in the cellar, they find a haggard Lord Ausio Carowyn. He describes how the “harlot-harlequin” burst into the manor and massacred the guests and servants with crossbow bolts that were tainted with a rapid-acting form of Blood Veil. Lord Carowyn is greatly distraught to learn his wife’s fate, but despite his distress he is able to tell the party that the missing musician Ruan was on the second floor gallery with the other musicians when the attack happened.
While Majenko is dispatched to summon the Guard to dispose of the bodies, the party conducts a thorough search of the manor but does not find Ruan among any of the corpses. Ashla and Egan inspect the grounds to see if Ruan (or anyone else) escaped that way, but find no sign of a getaway.
Ruan’s sister Deyanira arrives with the corpse disposal unit (she has been hanging around the Citadel awaiting news). Ashla tells her that her brother is not among the dead, but didn’t escape of his own accord, either. His whereabouts remain a mystery, but Zandu is convinced the youth is still alive.
The party searches the elf’s body, discovering among other artifacts a gold heart-shaped brooch into which the words Rolth + Jolistina have been crudely scratched.