Under the Big Top
Black Marin glares at the adventurers for a moment before pounding onto the table set up on the stage, hammering the Freedmen assembly back into order. “All right! Any new business?”
One man gets up to complain about the refugees crowding into the district from the Korvosan lands to the south, while another questions the continued Shoanti military build up. Arlynn steps forward to assure the crowd that the Shoanti pose no threat and to pledge that she and her comrades are committed to restoring order in Korvosa.
After the meeting, Arlynn uses her newly acquired rod of splendor to erect an impressive tent filled with victuals just outside the Common House to feed the poor. She and Egan stand outside dispensing healing to those in need. A curious Laori ends up joining in at their urging, though the elf maiden keeps handing Kuthite pamphlets to everyone who arrives.
Nox’s Shopping Trip
Back in the Common House, Nox recruits Kyra and Irabeth to help him follow up on a tip about a relic of his family. Having heard that the family’s sun blade Vigil was somewhere in Kaer Maga, Slim investigates at the Downmarket. He is directed to an antiques stall operated by a Taldane man in Qadiran robes named Telmaro, who welcomes their interest but says he has not seen the sun blade. Telmaro points Nox to the half-elf antiquarian Lelur, who keeps a shop on the Tarheel Promenade district of the city.
The trio treks to the Tarheel, where they find the shop bedecked with heraldry. Inside, the elderly proprietor excitedly examines Nox’s ram shield, praising its fine craftsmanship. Nox says it was part of a matching set of Arma Solari given to his ancestor by the Church of Aroden, which impresses Irabeth.
Nox asks if Lelur has a matching sword. The half-elf retrieves the weapon and displays it, launching into another spiel about its quality and storied history. Nox glances at Irabeth to see if Lelur is telling the truth and the half-orc gives him a nod. The mercenary then steers the old man back onto the topic of purchasing the sword, leaving Kyra to do the haggling.
Zandu and the Skulls
Zandu enters the shop just as they are preparing to go check out a Vudran shawarma place. The gnoll sorcerer presents Lelur with the three dozen talking skulls obtained from the devil’s tower in Scarwall. The half-elf identifies them as representing half the peerage of Lastwall and Tamrivena from 800 years ago. The biggest find of the group is Count Andachi of Tamrivena.
Lelur recalls that the young count, harried by the orcs of Belkzen, sent an army under the command of a mercenary named Kazavon to quell the green horde only to have Kazavon grow into an even greater threat. Count Andachi ultimately raised a second army to march against Kazavon, but was defeated and slain.
Zandu nods along with the tale, then sells the enchanted remains to the half-elf. He suggests that Lelur arrange the skulls in a special corner of his shop under a silence spell so that their talking won’t be disruptive. The gnoll then tags along with Nox and the others on their way to the Vudran restaurant.
Against the Slave Lords
Once everyone has reunited at the Common House, Arlynn asks around about the disturbances to the south and learns that Bekyar slaver in a black ship are raiding up the Falcon and Jeggare Rivers unchecked by Korvosa. Arlynn consults with the rest of the Blades about the possibility of asking the Shoanti to combat the slavers. Black Marin warns that inviting the barbarians south could have unpredictable consequences.
Arlynn asks him what the Freedmen and Kaer Maga can do to help the people being preyed upon by the Bekyars. Black Marin pledges that the Freedmen will help people seek refuge in Kaer Maga, but notes they lack the resources to confront the slavers directly. Arlynn ultimately concludes that they will have to deal with the slavers once they have finished their task at Scarwall.
Entering the Donjon
Teleporting the next morning, the party returns to Castle Scarwall and approaches the donjon, a squat, square fortress at the back of the castle that is loomed over by the adjacent Star Tower and its leering Zon-Kuthon symbol. There is no entrance to the ground floor of the donjon; instead a staircase leads up to two great double doors on the second floor. As they reach the entrance, when Sial warns them not to touch the door.
“Can’t you sense it?” the Shadowcount asks. “There are overlapping forbiddance effects on this building.”
Sial explains that the spells bar any but a follower of Zon-Kuthon from entering, but also prevent Kuthites from leaving. This is why Sial and Laori struck up their alliance with the party. When the Kuthites enter the donjon, their passage will lower the forbiddance effect for a brief window, during which the Crimson Blades can follow. When exiting, the reverse is true.
After Kyra has checked the donjon’s heavy double doors for traps, Sial throws them open and steps inside, with the rest of the adventurers hustling after him. They find themselves in an eerie foyer, with a basin of water at one end—a dagger lying at the bottom of it. Laori explains that the design of the foyer suggests that the donjon must be some kind of temple to ZK. Kuthite priests would cut themselves and wash the wound in the water as a ritual of purification upon entering. But Laori and Sial both sense that the site has been profaned and is no longer sacred to the Midnight Lord.
The donjon interior is utterly dark, causing Nox to activate his sunblade and Zandu to cast light on Arlynn. The Crimson Blades begin prowling the abandoned halls of the donjon, wary of any danger. As they explore the corridors, they run up against the slick black walls of the Star Tower jutting into the donjon at an angle. They come to the conclusion that the donjon was built around the Star Tower.
Symbol of Pain
Arlynn and Kyra get slightly ahead of the party, investigating a door to a side room. After the halfling picks the lock, the paladin throws the door open. Beyond they find a small chapel to Zon-Kuthon, with a grisly statue of the Midnight Lord staring back at them from the far end of the chamber. A strange glyph is inscribed on the statue’s forehead and it flares with a bright red light as their gaze falls upon it. A wave of overwhelming agony ripples out from the statue, washing over not only Arlynn and Kyra, but the rest of the Crimson Blades nearby.
Despite the pain, Arlynn spies something lurking behind the statue. While Kyra struggles to try to disable the glyph, Arlynn advances into the room and challenges the shadowy figure to show itself, while the rest of the adventurers hasten to assist her. The creature lurking behind the statue is an undead being dressed in the tattered finery of a priest of Zon-Juthon, its teeth filed to points. The mummified cleric casts another harmful spell but is swiftly brought down by the collective fury of the Crimson Blades.
The adventurers retreat beyond the reach of the symbol of pain until its effect burns out and then return to search the chamber. The back wall of the chapel is in fact part of the Star Tower, where Ashla notices a secret door. After Kyra unlocks it, they peer inside, seeing what appears to be a meeting room with doors leading off to left and right.
The party decides to leave the Star Tower for now and continue scouring the donjon, where they expect to encounter another lord of Scarwall.
Five Unlucky Ghosts
On the opposite side of the donjon’s second floor, the Crimson Blades step into what appears to be a small lounge and library. While Nox lingers to investigate, the rest of the adventurers continue down the hall, finding a series of five priestly cells holding the tattered remains of their occupants.
Back in the lounge, five sinister shades ooze out of the dark corners of the room towards Nox, surrounding him only to be repulsed by the brilliant natural light of his sunblade. Nox calls a warning to the others and although some of the shades manage to flee to the relative darkness of the hallway, the adventures make short work of them, with Nox dispatching three of the shadows personally.
Heartened by their easy victory and the discovery of hidden treasure in the library coyly stashed within a book titled On Vaults and Treasure Chests, the Crimson Blades descend to the ground floor of the donjon.
Into the Shrine of Midnight
The bottom of the temple-keep proves to be dominated by a massive shrine to Zon-Kuthon. After Earth-Egan scouts out the chamber, the party warily enters, on the lookout for danger.
This vast chamber is floored in gray slate and supported by thick pillars of obsidian. Torches mounted on the pillars burn, yet their flames are strangely dim, barely lighting the cathedral-like space. The pillars themselves are decorated with skulls and bones—tiny white pinpoints of light seem to dance in the eye sockets of each skull. To the northwest, a tall statue of a skull-headed man dressed in dark robes stands behind a black marble altar, on which lie heaped mounds of ashes, bits of bone, and a single skull, its teeth and eye sockets set with glittering gemstones. Jagged, barbed chains dangle from the statue’s eye sockets. Thick black curtains hang from the walls of the chamber.
The vast chamber is supported by thick pillars of obsidian. Torches mounted on the pillars burn, yet their flames are strangely dim, barely lighting the cathedral-like space. The pillars themselves are decorated with skulls and bones—tiny white pinpoints of light seem to dance in the eye sockets of each skull. At the far end of the chamber, a tall statue of a skull-headed man dressed in dark robes stands behind a black marble altar, on which lie heaped mounds of ashes, bits of bone, and a single skull, its teeth and eye sockets set with glittering gemstones. Jagged, barbed chains dangle from the statue’s eye sockets.
Ashla spies the skull on the altar and recalls her vision from the other night. The rest of the party, however, remains more suspicious of the two statues, recalling their experience in the chapel upstairs. But after thoroughly searching the shrine and finding no other threats, the adventurers circle back to the skull.
Drawing closer, Arlynn suddenly recognizes the jeweld skull as some sort of powerful undead creature. She tip-toes back to the others to quietly inform them of her discovery.
The Bag Man Cometh
The Crimson Blades are leery of confronting the creature within the shrine, but they suspect that it could be another lord of Scarwall which they need to defeat to break the curse. Zandu suggests that he could try to use mage hand to snatch hold of the skull and drop it into a bag of holding. He speculates that might be enough to break the creature’s connection to Mithrodar.
While most of the adventurers look at Zandu askance, Arlynn notes that if the plan works they could take the creature out onto the hallowed ground of Mandraivus’ tomb and kill it there. They decide to give the plan a try.
The rest of the party retreats to a safe distance while Arlynn creeps back over to the altar and holds out the bag of holding. Sweat trickling down his fuzzy head, Zandu carefully summons forth a mage hand and then swipes at the skull.
Its two enormous ruby eyes flare with red light as the sorcerer’s telekinetic fingers close around it. The skull tugs against his mental grip as an unnatural breeze stirs up the debris on the altar. But with surprising deftness, Zandu stuffs the enraged undead into the bag of holding in Arlynn’s hands.
The paladin claps the bag shut and the party races from the donjon, scarcely able to believe their good fortune.
Swords Against Death
Using magic to speed their escape from the castle, the Crimson Blades carry the bag with the increasingly irate undead out to the tomb of Mandraivus and Ionas. Arlynn and Egan suggest opening the bag into a contraption of shaped tone into which holy water could be poured, by the idea is dropped. Instead, the adventurers close ranks into a tight circle, into which Arlynn releases the bag.
A frightful, piercing wail issues forth from the bag, slamming into the party like a cyclone. While most of them are able to brace against the keening howl, Zandu can feel the spirit blessing the Sklar-Quah ancestors imbued him with burning away as it wards off the deadly cry. But others are not so lucky.
Kyra claps her hands over her ears and turns deathly pale, her face twisted in agony. A wave of pain also washes over Arlynn through the shield other link between them. The halfling collapses to the ground and the amulet around her neck flares with white light before crumpling into dust. She still breathes, but faintly.
Remmy and Laori also grasp at their ears in futility, before falling over stone dead.
Zandu grabs Kyra and rushes her away from the bag of holding.
The jeweled skull rises out of the bag, aglow with deathly crimson light. As it starts to spit out another spell, Nox strikes it with his sunblade, cleaving the skull in two.
Zandu pours a healing potion down Kyra’s throat and nurses the halfling back to wakefulness. She is so traumatized, she doesn’t even take part in the looting.
Arlynn and Egan, meanwhile, check on Remmy and Laori. The paladin asks Sial if he can raise their fallen companions and the Shadowcount grudgingly agrees, though only if he is paid for the privilege. Sorting through the jeweled remains of the skull, Egan also finds a massive diamond that would be suitable as a casting component for a raise dead spell.
After storing the bodies of their friends in the bag of holding to protect against rot, the Crimson Blades eat a cold meal and spend a grim night barricaded in Mandraivus’ tomb.
Zandu makes sure to bed down by Kyra, but the halfling isn’t interested in sleeping in her custom bed and instead huddles up against him.
The following morning, the adventurers teleport back to Kaer Maga, where they secure the remaining spell components. Then, in a private room in the Common House, Sial grudgingly calls upon the dark power of Zon-Kuthon to restore life to the two dead women.
Remmy and Laori draw breath again, still frail after their ordeal. The party decides to spend some time in the city while they recover.