The Gallery of Spite
Now on the second floor of Castle Korvosa, the Crimson Blades pick their way through a storage room clogged with chairs of all shapes or sizes. They emerge into the castle art gallery, where the walls are lined with portraits of former kings and queens of Korvosa, all of which have been defaced with magic to make their subjects appear grotesque.
The gallery’s most recent addition, a painting of the late King Eodred II, has been slashed to ribbons. The adventurers stow the painting away in a bag of holding for mending later, while behind it Kyra discovers another secret door leading outside to the main causeway of the Grand Mastaba. The Crimson Blades then advance into the hallway, which forks in two directions, one that leads towards the main entrance and one that leads back towards a cloak room.
The group splits in half to explore in each direction. While Ashla and Zandu loot the wardrobe, acquiring a wand belt and a kimono, Nox and Arlynn step into the castle foyer. The chamber has been reconfigured for battle, with tables overturned to serve as barricades. Their contents, marble busts of sensechals and former royal figures, lie in a heap on the floor, also defaced with magic into grinning grotesques.
Clearing the Foyer
Two Gray Maidens have taken up a position on the far side of the foyer behind an overturned table and they call out an alarm as soon as the adventurers enter. Each of the warrior women holds not a sword but a thunderstone.
“You should’ve remained silent.” Nox says coldly as he charges into the room.
He bull rushes through an over turned table and slashes into one of the Maidens. Flint follows right after and unleashes a vital strike with his bow. Arlynn clicks her winged boots, granting her flight as she swoops forward and strikes the other Maiden.
Earth-Egan senses figures in the nearby Castle gatehouse, and earth glides toward that group to see if they will react. The trio of Gray Maidens and two erinyes in the gatehouse are aware of the fight, but remain at their posts.
In the foyer, the embattled Maidens use the battered table push back with the battered table, pushing Nox back five feet with the table. In retaliation, Nox lunges at them, taking one Grey Maiden down with two quick cuts from Vigil. As she buckles, he stays his hand to allow Arlynn to stabilize the foe. Flint fires a pair of arrows at the other one, finding their mark in the eye slits of her otherwise faceless helm, killing her instantly.
“Hah! Bullseyes!” Flint declares, looking for a chuckle from his comrades.
Nox nods from beneath his own helm, grinning at the clever pun. Arlynn on the other hand sighs heavily as she works on stabilizing the dying Maiden. Earth-Egan rolls into the foyer, reaching out with his tremorsense to scout the throne room. It seems another large fight would be on their hands if they head out the door, so the warriors decide to hold position in the foyer, setting up barricades for Flint to shelter behind.
Earth-Egan carries the unconscious Gray Maiden to the Stealth Group, who tie her up in the second floor midden after stripping her of equipment. Learning from the gnome druid that their companions are holding place, the other half of the party continues past the cloakroom and into the castle stage hall.
I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This
The ceiling of the hall is open to reveal the balustrade of a balcony thirty feet above and the interior of a lantern dome some sixty feet above. A colonnade along the room’s perimeter supports the balcony and casts a deep shadow on the walls. At the far end of the room is a theatrical stage built on a wooden platform. The adventurers stick to the shadows along the walls, searching for anything of interest.
Ashla finds a strange item in a dark corner of the room, a piece of some kind of eggshell painted with scenes of human misery in disturbing detail. After Zandu determines that it has no magical qualities, the ranger picks it up. The sorcerer identify the item as something a bored erinyes would craft as a memento of a particularly delicious act of torture.
Ashla offers it to Laori. The elf priestess examines the fragment excitedly, then looks at the glowing holy sword in her other hand and guiltily puts the sword behind her back.
“It’s art, you’re allowed to appreciate art,” Ashla insists.
“Iomedae will not hold it against you,” Zandu agrees. “Yes, you may have some twisted tastes in art. Most people do!”
“That is really reassuring,” Laori smiles back. She carefully stows the fragment away.
Kyra, meanwhile, finds a peephole over the back of the stage, looking out across the room from the royal bedchamber. But as far as the halfling can tell, it’s not in use at this time.
Zandu investigates a closet, discovering stage equipment of some value. He then “stealthily” approaching the royal bedchamber, trying to use his blindsense to see if there is anyone inside. He doesn’t detect any person, but is struck with a strange premonition that there is a hidden menace within the room. He is left with a vague sense that things in this castle aren’t what they seem.
Call the Locksmith!
Ashla, meanwhile, ventures into Sabina’s room, which seems almost clinical in its spartan decor. A dressing table, empty armor stand, empty sword rack, and narrow bed are the only furnishings.
Ashla rifles through Sabina’s wardrobe, finding only workmanlike outfits. She then looks for any secret or overlooked items. She discovers a book that appears to have been chucked across the room and fallen behind the bed. Titled The Sapphire Bard, it is a Chelaxian romance of ornate quality, complete with illuminations. A note on the inside cover reads “To My Shining Knight, from Ileosa.”
Ashla takes the book, though she is unsure of whether to return it to Sabina.
Kyra, meanwhile, tracks down the hidden door that Sabina had told them about. Finding no traps, she checks for locks.
“No traps,” the halfling reports, “though give me a second with this lock…”
She fumbles a bit with her thieves tools. As she continues to have trouble, Zandu casts knock and the door grinds open loudly. Ashla realizes that the door had no lock—instead, Kyra managed to get it wedged shut when she was checking for locks. The halfling slides her ring of invisibility back on as her face turns beet red from embarrassment.
Ashla shrugs and sighs. Zandu, relying on his blindsense pats Kyra on the shoulder, and she pats his furry hand back.
“Better I screw up now than on something important,” the halfling offers ruefully.
“At least it didn’t blow up,” Zandu agrees.
The secret door opens onto a narrow, five foot passage leading from Sabina’s room to the royal bedchamber. Rather than press on, the Stealth Group reunites with the others to share what they had learned.
A Throne of Crimson
Unsettled by Zandu’s discovery, the adventurers decide to deal with the forces in the throne room before investigating the bedchamber. As the rest of the party closes in, Arlynn and Nox break down the foyer door and charge into the throne room.
“Togamor, you fat bastard!" The paladin shouts. "You will answer for your actions as will th—Queen?!”
Arrayed before her are three fiendish wolf creatures the size of horses. Behind them, a squad of Gray Maidens are arranged in a protective line at the foot of a stone dais, on which the Crimson Throne looms over the room. Seated upon the great chair, dressed in brilliant green, is Queen Ileosa Arabasti. She smiles at the adventurers, and greets them as if they were long-lost friends, thanking them for finally seeking her out. She claims to have been observing their progress over the past few months, and thanks them for the assistance they have provided the people of Korvosa before her demeanor turns cold.
“However,” she continues, “your services are no longer required. If you leave Korvosa immediately and never return, I will not seek their execution as traitors to the crown. Go now!” she commands, fixing her gaze on Nox.
The fighter briefly has mind filled with thoughts of fleeing, but quickly shakes them off. He takes several steps forward into the room, drawing his sword and pointing it at Ileosa.
“I have not, nor shall ever, take orders from the likes of you,” Nox growls back at her.
“They you shall all die," Ileosa declares. "Guards! Off with their Heads!”
Arlynn closes her eyes, and whispers a prayer. “Iomedae, see us through this dark hour to strike down your enemies, and keep your servants safe in our hour of need.” The faint glow of Iomedae’s grace washes over the party. With that she marches into the room, smiting the Queen as she advances.
Kyra, still invisible, slips into the reception area beyond the throne room, where she slides unseen into cover.
The Queen responds to the adventurers’ persistence by giving a rousing order to her followers. “Strike the down, my servants, and the glory of my kingdom shall be yours!”
The Gray Maidens and the monstrous wolves seem to be heartened by her words.
Enter the Fray
Nox moves forward and shouts, “For the people of Korvosa!” and charges at one of the hellwolves. The beast tries to take a bite out of him, but even its hardened fangs are unable to breach his armor. As the great maw snaps out, Nox can see the flames flickering in its throat, reminding him of a hellhound.
Ashla rushes into the room to stand abreast with Arlynn. At this, the Gray Maiden arcanist beside the throne summons up a wall of fire that carves across the room at an angle, cutting the warrior trio off from the rest of the party. Laori steps through the fire excitedly, her spiked chain mail smouldering as she emerges from the other side. The elf priestess then cheerfully calls upon her god to strike the arcanist with blindness. The Maiden clutches her helmed face in confusion and wobbles uncertainly on her feet.
The Queen’s eyes blaze at this indignity. She once again points at Nox, “Your quest will end in failure! Leave Korvosa and never return! Or perish in fire and blood!”
The fighter once again feels the weight of the command washing over him, but he does not falter. “I shall not yield to a Tyrant! Justice will be met today in blood!”
Stand Up Night at Castle Korvosa
At this Flint emerges through the fire, shouting “Enough of your tiresome speeches!” He chucks a thunderstone at her with amazing accuracy, pegging the Queen in the head. The stone booms around her.
“That’s for my brother!” Flint proudly proclaims.
The thunderstone deafens the arcanist and wounds the Gray Maidens, but having little visible impact on the Queen. She glares at Flint.
“Your brother was a traitor and he died a traitor’s death, as you shall, too, if you do not abandon the city.” She sneers at his smug expression. “You think this is funny ? Well, laugh it up!” she commands, with a wave of her hand fan.
Flint starts to laugh uncontrollably, his whole body wracked with spasms—then just as suddenly he stops, having forgotten the punchline.
Ileosa balls her fist in anger and weaves a spell through the air with her fan. “You should all flee from Korvosa!”
She casts her arms wide to unleash the magic upon them. Nothing happens, and the Crimson Blades burst out laughing, starting with Ashla. Even the Gray Maidens chuckle as the Queen looks around in confusion.
The Hidden Wizard
Earth-Egan glides through the floor beneath the Crimson Throne, sensing the impressive weight of its heavy steel frame. But is it a slightly less hefty weight that he is drawn to.
“I’ve found that imbecile Togomor, he’s right here!” the gnome druid shouts with all his gusto, speaking (somewhat amazingly) in Common rather than Terran. Two large stony fists rise out of the floor to slam into what originally appeared to be nothing, causing the invisible wizard to yelp in pain.
Taking advantage of the surprise, Zandu leaps through the fire. After hastily patting down a few smouldering patches of fur, the gnoll sorcerer casts haste upon the party.
Togomor lifts up into the air, spurring Egan to again swing at him, landing another sharp, stony left. But the bloated wizard manages to stay aloft and out of view of Egan’s tremorsense. Moments later, the unseen spellcaster unleashes a freezing ray that lances into Arlynn, badly wounding her.
The Fires of Hell
The hellwolves then press the attack, as each belches forth a wave of fire at the party. Most of the Crimson Blades are badly burned, but Nox is left unhurt thanks to his ring of evasion while Zandu is especially scorched. The room fills with the scent of burning flesh and fur. Laori, on a hope and a prayer, manages to avoid the worst of the inferno despite being caught in two overlapping waves.
As the adventurers reel from this firestorm, something smashes through the stained glass windows to the east. Two erinyes can be seen flying outside. The fallen angels lash out at Nox with their lassos, but he manages to avoid it entangling him. Then another familiar figure comes into view beside the comely fiends—the horned devil Mavrokeras winks into views. With a flick of his wrist and a few infernal utterances, he hurls a fireball into the center of the party’s formation. The Crimson Blades cry out in surprise and pain.
“What the hell is going on over there?!” Kyra shouts from the other side of the wall of flames.
“Fire, and lots of it,” Zandu weakly croaks back from his position on the floor; parts of his fur are still alight. Arlynn, taking the stock of the situation, unleashes a healing burst, healing the party a fair amount of life back.
Still invisible, Kyra slips past the wall of fire and after casting a worried but unseen look at Zandu’s still smoking form, she sneaks up towards the royal dais with her dagger in hand, ready to strike.
Closing the Distance
Nox, empowered by inner strength (and untouched by fire), unleashes a torrent of blows against the two hellwolves in front of him, dealing a fair bit of damage. Ashla smites the one in front of Irabeth as she unleashes her own flurry of blows, dismembering it outright. Its chunked and charred remains plop unto the floor, stinking of brimstone.
Arlynn clicks her heels and takes flight, swooping over the hellwolves towards the Queen. The Gray Maidens cry out in alarm and position themselves in a protective line along the dais between Ileosa and the paladin. The Maiden arcanist, blind and deafened, calls up an illusory hellscape to give the room a similar feel to the mess hall the party had encountered below. Though the scene is horrific, the party is inured to it at this point.
“Fear?” Zandu scoffs. “That’s my job!”
With so many in party still badly burned, including herself, Laori unfurls a scroll of mass heal to restore them to full health. Her obsidian gaze then drifts outside to the horned devil and the spiked chain wrapped around its left arm.
“You! That’s my god’s weapon, and mine too," the elf says, airwalking out through the shattered window. "You give that BACK!”
Flint supports her as she moves in, unleashing a storm of arrows at one of the erinyes, empowered by Arlynn’s smite. He bullsyes several shafts right between its eyes, causing the fallen angel to tumble down to the ground below.
“You think your paltry magics can overcome the power at my side?” Ileosa sneers at them. “If you had any wits about you, you’d drop your weapons and flee the city at once!”
Her words have power, but the adventurers are able to resist them.
“Abandon this city!” Ileosa continues, weaving another spell. “Throw down your weapons and flee. What chance do you stand when you cannot even keep your minds in order?”
This time, her charm strikes true on Flint, who suddenly looks around confused.
Irabeth casts fly and summons forth Princess, riding her steed out to challenge the horned devil. Along the way, the paladin forgoes her sword in favor of her lance.
Earth-Egan conjures up some holly berry bombs and places them underneath two of the Maidens’ feet. In Common, the druid rumbles out, “Grey Maidens go BOOM!” The eight bombs combust and send chunks of those two maidens flying into the air.
Zandu leaps to his feet and unleashes chain lightning on Ileosa and her minions. A hellwolf and a Gray Maiden are struck down, and all the others are badly wounded.
A still invisible and flying Togomor casts a prismatic spray upon Nox, Ashla, Flint and Zandu. While Nox and Zandu avoid the beams, Ashla and Flint do not. They are both perpetually confused, as per the insantity spell.
The Horned Devil blinks away, causing the junior Paladin and the cleric to howl in fury at once again missing a chance to take the devil on. The remaining (fallen angel) flies back, launching back and firing an arrow.
Togomor’s fat imp pops into its place, and points at Nox saying, “You, drop your weapons and flee the city.”
Nox, annoyed by the constant calls to flee, bellows, “I will not be denied my destiny!”
“Whelp, I tried,” the imp shrugs.
Who Knew Ileosa Would Have So Much Blood in Her?
Ileosa throws her head back and laughs, “You cannot kill me, I am beyond death itself!” She begins casting a healing spell upon herself.
She once again commands Nox to flee, to which he retorts, “Are you fucking deaf?”
“Flint did hit her with a thunderstone,” Ashla notes.
Arlynn, lifting high up into the air, shouts, “Serithial, strike true against your most hated enemy!” She then comes down hard splitting her in two. Ileosa’s halves hang upright for a moment, before melting into a pool of blood. The paladin spins around to point her holy sword at Togomor floating above. “You’re next!”
The two surviving Gray Maidens gawk at the display in shock. Kyra takes this opportunity to stab both of them in their femoral arteries, bringing them down.
Nox follows Arlynn’s lead and takes a five foot step, unleashing a flurry of blows that skewers the hellwolf. Laori heads toward the imp, slashing at it with her glowing longsword. Flint, momentarily lucid, takes a step forward and launches a flurry of arrows, again striking the imp a deathblow right between its pudgy little eyes. Irabeth charges the remaining erinyes with her lance, leaving a fearsome gash.
Having sensed Togomor’s location, Zandu pulls out his lantern of revealing to temporarily strip the wizard of his invisibility. The sorcerer then throws magic missiles at the fat man. Ashla takes the opportunity to click her heels and fly up to the mage, striking him several times with her longsword but unfortunately does less damage than she expected with her human bane weapon, unable to get through his stoneskin.
Earth-Egan rumbles through the stone, taking the lantern of revealing from Zandu and carrying it out to the broken windows, his stony hand reaching out to Laori.
“Does this help?” the gnome asks as it reveals the formerly invisible Horned Devil. The elf flashes a bright smile as drops the shield and takes the lantern from the druid, “Yes! Immensely!”
Togomor’s revealed self suddenly disappears again, as he flies past Ashla and casts another spell at the party still in the Throne Room. Sheets of ice shoot out from his fingers, slamming into the party below save Ashla and Nox. He then flicks his wrists and walks through a dimension door causing him to vanish from the fight.
The remaining fiends also take Togomor’s example and also vanish. Laori lashes out at the devil but again fails to strike true as it teleports away. She shouts “Thief! Thief! Give it back!” The elven cleric starts to cry as she tromps back inside.
Nox heads toward the balcony to take stock of the situation outside. The situation seems to have turned against the rebels. Nox instructs Egan to send up a signal of lights from the castle, indicating that the Queen has been met out and defeated. With a heavy sigh, he takes a seat upon a cleaned Crimson Throne.
“Yes, this feels right…” he mutters to himself.
Zandu and Arlynn on the other hand, are examining the false crown. They determine the “Ileosa” the party fought was some sort of blood duplicate using magic that Zandu is not familiar with. They all surmise the real Queen is out there, but at least for now the second level of the castle is mostly under their control.
The group ponders their next move, taking stock of what supplies and spells they have left. The paladins, unable to cure Flint and Ashla of their madness, lash their companions to Princes to keep them from hurting one another.