Curse of the Crimson Throne

Bug Hunt
Crown of Fangs, Part 10

A Visit to Vigil

The afternoon of 11 Erastus, 4708

Arlynn asks Egan to scry Akkuya, a bartender she knew in Lastwall’s capitol of Vigil. The druid uses the Queen’s bathtub as the focus, into which the party sees Akkuya, a Keleshite man in his thirties dressed in flowing silk, chatting with patrons in a wooden tavern called the Catapult Wagon. After plopping on his hat of disguise, Zandu studies the location and then teleports himself, Arlynn, Flint, and Kyra into the tavern.

The bartender and patrons look startled and reach for their weapons, but calm down after Arlynn announces herself to the tavern. Akkuya remembers Ser Arlynn and they catch up. He offers to buy rounds for the party but instead Arlynn buys a round for the tavern. Since it’s late in the day, the adventurers hurriedly finish their drinks and then split up to go shopping.

Zandu and Kyra go scout out shops to visit the following morning to get various magical items. As they go about their business, they are approached by a sketchy peddler offering them both a “Friendship Medal” to welcome them to Vigil. Zandu realizes that the items being handed out for free have a magical aura, while Kyra signals that she finds the guy suspicious. The sorcerer declines the offer with exceeding politeness and the two of them hastily move on.

Path Found

Zandu then seeks out the Pathfinder Society Lodge in Vigil, looking to inquire about some magic scrolls. The lodge itself is a distinctive structure, a low building of dark stone in a city painted primarily in white. Zandu enters the lodge only to discover that he is somehow expected and is led to a back room office piled high with books and papers. Seated behind a massive desk, playing with a deck of Harrow cards, is a gnome woman wearing a holy symbol of Desna.

She invites him inside and appears to be expecting him. She flicks out a card out from her Harrow deck in front of him. It is “The Liar.”

“That’s the second time I’ve seen this card drawn out of a Harrow deck for me in recent days,” Zandu remarks, thinking back on Zellara’s latest Harrow reading.

“Ooh, what an amusing coincidence,” the gnome woman says. “May I interest you in our selection of scrolls?”

She hops up onto a nearby set of shelves and after digging through a pile of scrolls and books, brandishes an iron scroll case. Zandu pays her for the scroll and compliments the case.

The sorcerer offers to assist the Pathfinders by sharing knowledge once his current quest is complete. She thanks him for the offer and tells him to ask for her, Venture-Captain Evni Zongnoss, should he ever need anything.

For Victory. For the Heart.

Arlynn, on the other hand, visits the local wizard’s guild to inquire after magical gauntlets for herself and Nox. She ends up trying on multiple styles of gauntlets so that Serithtial can get a feel for one that fits the best.

Arlynn then visits the Grand Cathedral to Iomedae at the heart of the city. She speaks with the head priestess after an evening service, to speak about the deeds and news from Korvosa. They speak in length of Arlynn’s great deeds in aiding the poor, defending the weak and downtrodden of the city, becoming a hero of the city. The Head Priestess is amazed by her remarkable progress in such a short time, as well as her mentoring of Irabeth. Arlynn is also keen on mentioning Nox and her plans to introduce a greater church presence in Korvosa. This intrigues the head priestess, who replies the church would be eager to assist in this endeavor, should the local government be amendable. Lastly, Arlynn presents Serithial and pledges to return the blade to the city once their quest comes to its end.

The four adventurers return to the Catapult Wagon at sunset, in time to witness the disabled catapult outside its entrance spring to life and hurl an illusory orc smack into the white inner walls of the city. Flint recognizes that the tavern itself was converted from an old siege tower.

Zandu also takes this opportunity to tell Arlynn about the creepy medallion peddler he encountered earlier.

Monster in the Basement

Back at Castle Korvosa, the rest of the party unwind after their battles earlier in the day. An exhausted Ashla quickly beds down. Nox takes a relaxing soak in the royal baths, and then beds down early between the crimson sheets of the Queen’s bed. Laori and Irabeth trade off use of the baths once Nox is done. Egan, meanwhile, takes earth elemental form and decides to scout out the ground floor of the castle.

The gnome druid earth glides down into a large empty mess hall. He then wanders into a seemingly-empty torture chamber, which gives off a skin-crawling sense of unease that reminds Earth-Egan of his experiences in Scarwall. Within the torture chamber he finds an enormous, gargoyle-like creature floating in the center of the chamber. Hanging lifeless from its chest is the body of the missing Abadarian priest Ishani Dhatri

In a panic, Egan rushes back to the royal bedroom to alert everyone, rousing a disgruntled Nox from his slumber. The gnome explains what he saw to the fighter and to the freshly bathed Irabeth, who made good use of the Queen’s scenting bathing oils and perfumes.
Nox says that while this discovery is troubling, they should stick to the plan but send orders to the Hell Knights to quarantine the lower levels. Irabeth notes that they shouldn’t act until the others return, but she’s not certain if they will be returning that night.

While Nox issues orders to the Hellknights, Egan hears the sonorous tones of Laori’s singing drift up the hall from the baths. Drawn by the music and eager to share his discovery, Egan barges into the bathroom to excitedly tell her. Laori takes this interruption in stride and listens attentively to his story, while the gnome comes to realize that the elf maiden is completely naked beneath her pink bubble bath. He covers his eyes to avoid staring as she rises out of the bath and wraps herself in a black towel. Laori offers to relay the news to Arlynn via a sending spell and see what the others’ plans are for returning.

Once she’s dressed, the elf maiden—looking even more fabulous than usual—sends word to Arlynn, who is startled to hear of Ishani’s fate and curses in Bekyar. The paladin urges the others not to do anything until she and the others return the following morning. Laori then bursts into the royal bedroom to relay this response, waking Nox a second time. They go over their security arrangements for the evening. Egan’s magic had blocked both stairwells in the castle’s second floor with stone plugs and a guard of Hellknights set to watch over each, along with Zandu’s alarm spells. Nox also arranges to have one of the Hellknights wake him at 3 a.m., after he’d had a full rest, so that he could serve out the rest of the watch.

Silent Night

The night of 11 Erastus, 4708

Laori invites the others to dine on some lembas and meat and veggie pies she baked in the castle kitchens while Nox and Irabeth were bathing. They then move Sabina’s bed into the bedchamber, with the remaining adventurers drawing straws to see who gets it for the night. Laori wins, but gives the bed to Irabeth. Egan beds down on the bench from the royal lounge, while Nox offers to share half of the royal bed, so long as they sleep head to foot. Laori leaps at this offer and graciously decides to leave off her hooked chainmail, sticking instead to her skull-embroidered black jammies. The elf maiden is overjoyed to be participating in a “sleepover” with the party, and after initially protesting the term, Nox wearily relents.

Despite resting in a castle still inhabited by enemies, the night passes uneventfully for the adventurers until Nox is woken by a Hellknight armiger at approximately 3 a.m. The fighter has some trouble extricating his feet from Laori’s tight embrace, but manages to get out into the lounge to don his armor without waking any of his companions. There he finds that the elf priestess also left him a single lembas as a midnight snack.

The guard asks after their status and reveals that the night watch spotted prowlers in the vicinity of the Lictor’s camp in the throne room and the Seneschal’s room on the floor below. Nox inspects the watches and provides the lantern of revealing to the guards by the throne room. After sharing some words of encouragement, he heads downstairs to visit with Neolandis.

Houses of Cards

Outside the Seneschal’s room he is briefly stopped by Verik Vancaskerkin, but after proving his identity, Nox is allowed to see Neolandis. The seneschal is awake and seated in an armchair facing the door, a crossbow in his lap. His bed, meanwhile, is piled with pillows to mimic his sleeping form.

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t rise,” Neolandis says. “My shadow might silhouette against the window.”

Nox commiserates with the seneschal over the experience of being hunted by the Red Mantis and promises to flush out the remaining assassins come the dawn. The fighter then congratulates the seneschal.

“With Togomor and the false queen both dead,” Nox says, “there’s no question that you are absolute authority in the city.”

“As absolute as the Seneschal can be,” Neolandis remarks. “I’m no king.”

“No, but perhaps a kingmaker,” Nox says.

“At this point I still need to be a Queen un-maker,” the seneschal says. “We can’t officially remove Ileosa until the heads of the Five Great Houses all come together and vote as one.”

“Do you foresee any challenges in them doing so?” the fighter asks.

“Just the rebellion,” Neolandis snorts. “The cowardly, good-for-nothing dandies are all cooped up in their respective bolt holes until the violence has calmed down. I’ve been trying to get that weasel of a headmaster Toff Ornelos to come out of the Acadamae and take a look at some of that blood you collected.”

“Do you foresee any problems with House Arkona?” Nox asks.

“In getting rid of Ileosa?” Neolandis says with a shrug. "No, no problem at all. They’ve turned coat and there’s no turning back. What comes after, that’s a whole other matter.

“Assuming we can pull everything off as I intend,” Nox says, “and we will in short order, what do we do about the empty throne? It can’t be idle too long before the Lictor starts having ideas of grandeur.”

“Oh, he already has plenty of ideas,” the seneschal chuckles. "I don’t know whether he’d actually make a play for the throne, though.

“Not if we cut him out first,” Nox promises. “Any other challenges?”

“According to the city charter,” Neolandis says, "the Crimson Throne must be inherited by a member of the Arabasti family. Ileosa is the last lawful heir of the Arabastis, through marriage. Someone from her family might try to make a claim, but I can’t see that going too far. And of course, I can think of three of the five Great Houses who’d be interested in taking the throne for themselves. And whoever is named the new monarch has to be approved by the five houses. There’s going to be a lot of politicking and horse trading over this one—maybe more than a little backstabbing, as well. Another little present that Ileosa will have left to us.

“I must admit that I’m not accustomed to court life as much as I would like to say otherwise,” Nox says regretfully. “A lot of this politicking is not my forte. However, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m inquiring so much.”

“I’m not wondering,” Neolandis tells him. “Your motives are pretty obvious.”

“I just think a clean slate is what this city needs,” Nox explains.

“To be frank, I agree with you,” the seneschal nods. "I don’t like any of the other candidates on offer.

“Whatever opinions you might have of me,” Nox says, “just know that I am a fair man, a just man, a lawful man. None of this I do for glory, for power—I do it for service, as my family name dictates. Do you know anything about House Nox of Cheliax? We are aligned with those who commit themselves to service.”

“I don’t know anything of your kin at the moment, but I intend to learn more,” Neolandis replies. “You’ve made a good impression, Lord Nox, but I can’t commit to anything at the moment.”

“I completely understand,” Nox says. “No point picking out the drapes when the house is still on fire. In tonight’s case, quite literally.”

“I have a feeling this is starting to become a race,” Neolandis says, shaking his head. “I don’t know where Ileosa is or what she’s up to, but the fact that she’s not here worries the hell out of me.”

Nox asks how Cressida has been faring. Neolandis notes that while she took the death of Marcus Endrin and the city’s downward spiral quite hard, being able to finally take the fight to the Queen openly has returned some spring to her step. Nox notes that he had an easy time persuading Marcus’ brother Flint to join for much the same reason. After praising Flint’s archery, Nox suggests that he could make a great Commandant of a restored Sable Company. Neolandis reveals that some of the hippogriffs and their riders managed to escape Ileosa’s tyranny and are on their way back to the city. Though it will still be a long time before Sable Company is back to its former strength. Nox figures they will have to make due with what they have, and bids the seneschal a good night.

Queen Dreams

After lying down to sleep, Egan finds himself in a single, windowless room. A large bed sits in a corner, and there is a nice table with two chairs, a desk with a stuffed armchair, a lamp, and a stove. On the east wall is a glass showcase full of two dozen rare card decks, all displayed with care and competence, usually with several pieces laid face up and with a matching leather, ivory or wood case. A stone trap door sits in the floor in the northern corner, and a single toilet sits behind a partially folded screen to the south. Based on the look of the place, the gnome guesses he is somewhere high in Castle Korvosa, perhaps in an attic.

The trap door soon opens and Queen Ileosa climbs into the room.

“Eodred’s been trying to keep me from seeing you, but I had to come. I’ve seen you from afar several times when Eodred came to visit, and I’ve seen how he treats you. It is the same with me. You know he doesn’t care for you. He visits simply to lord his status over you. He has no true feelings for me, either. He whiles away his hours with whores and drunkards. He’s more of a monster than you could ever pretend to be. And truly, I have to say that since I’ve first looked upon you I have not been able to keep you out of my mind.”

Egan is confused. Ileosa appears to be talking to him, but that couldn’t possibly be right. He begins to suspect that he is seeing into a conversation from the past through someone else’s eyes. He decides to remain quiet and let the scene play out.

“I know there are some who would call your kind ugly. They’re fools who can’t appreciate your devilish good looks. And it shouldn’t matter anyway. You’re the elder brother. In a just world you’d be king. We both know Eodred’s wasted his inheritance while you’ve been trapped up here alone as he parties the years away down below on your mother’s gold. And you? How long has it been since you’ve even shared the same room with a woman?” (She draws closer)

“You should be the king. If only Eodred were out of the way. you could rule and I could be your Queen.

She reaches out and traces a line with her hand just above Egan’s head. “Is it true what they say about a tiefling and his horns?”

The gnome shivers. He realizes that he’s being mistaken for Venster Arabasti, the king’s secret bastard brother. Neolandis had told the party Venster went missing shortly before the king’s death and asked them to keep an eye out for him in the castle.

“Can you help me be rid of this brute?” Ileosa asks, her breath hot on his cheek.

Egan continues to play dumb, hoping to learn more of the Queen’s plans.

“I’ve come up with a plan,” she half-whispers. “You can help me escape from this true fiend on the throne. It would not take much at all.”

She produces a little vial of a thin, clear powder. “Just coat the tops of your cards with this powder when he comes next to play his little game with you. That’s all you need do. Then he will sicken and die, leaving the throne to us. You will be freed from this cell and able to walk openly to claim your birthright with me at your side.”

Egan doesn’t recognize the poison in the vial, but suspects it’s some alchemical concoction. With Ileosa looking at him expectantly, he reaches out to take the vial. She responds by leaning in and kissing him, much to the gnome’s distress. As her attentions grow more passionate, Egan reaches around behind her empty the vial of poison powder down her neck. This causes the Queen to suddenly go rigid. A moment later, her eyes flare a piercing blue and she snarls at Egan with a mouth full of sharp teeth. Before he can try to riggle out of her grasp, she crams a brick in his face and he wakes up, startled.

A Vigilant Morning

The morning of 12 Erastus, 4708

As dawn breaks over Vigil, Arlynn seeks out her old friend the Watchknight Tiran Maksev, a thin and pale elf covered in tattoos. She finds him at the same bakery he always visited each morning during her time in Vigil.

“Ser Tiran, is that you?” Arlynn asks.

“Well, who else could I be?” he says, turning around.

“No one else has tattoos like that,” the paladin says with a smile.

“Well if it isn’t little Arlynn,” he says, looking up at her.

“Good to see you my friend,” she says as they embrace.

“What the hell are you doing here back in town?” he asks her.

She brings him up to speed on her mission in the city and then tells him about Zandu’s encounter with the welcome medallion gifter. Arlynn notes that he and Kyra did not trust the man, with the halfling getting “no good vibes” from him. Arlynn regrets that she was not there to detect whether the man was evil, but trusts her friends’ instincts. She uses a hat of disguise to give Tiran a look at the strange man’s description.

“Well, I don’t recognize the man,” Tiran grumbles, “but his handing out magical trinkets and passing them off as welcome tokens could be any number of bad things. I shall have to investigate—it could be another plot against the city.”

“I wish I could help you,” Arlynn says, “but as you now know, Iomedae calls me to a different battleground.”

“I understand,” the Watchknight nods. "I wish you’d change your mind, of course, but we each have our own calling.

“By the way,” the paladin asks in parting, “is Berdred’s Armory still the best smithy in town?”

“Och, yes, if anything, they’ve gotten better,” Tiran says, bidding her farewell.

At Berdred’s Armory, Arlynn acquires an enchanted suit of Adamantine Full Plate, in exchange for her current spiked armor. To her pleasant surprise, she is able to negotiate a favorable trade.

Flint then asks about obtaining an enchantment for his bow. Berdred politely declines as she isn’t a spell caster, and directs them to the wizardry guilds. This fish-out-of-water moment annoys Flint, who is not used to bartering for his own equipment.

Zandu on the other hand inquires at the Pathfinder Society regarding the creature Egan saw, and is provided with a wealth of information about its weaknesses. After all the errands have been met, they teleport back to the castle.

Egan informs them of his dream. Zandu tries to determine what poison the Queen used, but it is a toxin that he is not familiar with.

The adventurers wonder about the dream’s significance and whether it is connected to the mysterious disembodied voice that had whispered “Save me… Game room…”

It’s Almost a Trap!

Based on the revelations in the dream, the party resolves to march to the 3rd floor, to see if they can find the late King’s older brother. They moved up the central staircase, with Egan, Ashla and Kyra scouting the area ahead. Arlynn, meanwhile, remains on the floor below, gazing up a the third floor balcony.

The wooden floor, walls, and ceiling of this large hall present a rich and harmonic scheme of decorations. The ceiling is supported by pillars and partially hidden by a hanging forest of silk draperies in the colors of autumn. Near the walls, these draperies reach down to the floor in foamy cascades. Crimson circular couches sit around the base of the pillars, while in the middle of the hall is a dance floor and a balustrade opening to the stage hall below.

Ashla, Bat-Egan, and Kyra fan out across the room, cautiously. As Ashla passes by one of the pillars, a dagger drops from the curtains above to land near her feet.

Nox is struck with a sense of déjà vu that has him realizing this is an ambush, to which he chugs a potion of fly, and tosses a flask of alchemist’s fire high upon the drapery. The others take up defensive positions as they await the Red Mantis Assassins’ somewhat botched ambush.

Several assassins drop down to attack Ashla. Nox charges one of the assassins, mauling the Red Mantis with his sword. Kyra chucks two daggers at another, severely wounding it. Arlynn flies up and cuts down the one Kyra wounded. Zandu also flies out and dares the assassins to attack him.

A door at the far end of the room slightly opens but only Flint and Bat-Egan notice. Flint fires his arrows and kills one behind Zandu and the one in front of Nox.

At this point, the barbed devils come out, and try to grapple Nox and Ashla but fail. Ashla slashes at one with both her swords, loses her shortsword but manages to wound the devil in front of her. Bat-Egan calls a lightning storm, dealing decent damage against one. Zandu bites a solid chunk out of the Red Mantis assassin in front of him. Irabeth activates fly and charges the devil in front of Nox, landing a solid blow. Laori charges the other assassin flanking Ashla, but does not cut very deep through its chitinous armor.

The Red Mantis confronting Zandu deftly slips away from him and retreats into the folds of the curtains beyond the sorcerer’s blindsense, while below another Red Mantis flees from Ashla, leaving the fight to the devils. Nox proceeds to dismember one of the fiends.

Kyra tries to hunt for the missing Red Mantis, but can’t determine where they went, and instead throws her dagger at the barbed devil. Arlynn then swoops down on the fiend, striking him with her sword.

Around the room, the air shimmers and giant red mantises materialize in the room to menace the the adventurers. A sickly cloud of greasy darkness washes over the party, leaving Ashla sickened. The giant mantises attack the party, slashing Flint but having trouble striking the others.

The barbed devils, seeing that the fight is turning against them, teleport away.

Arlynn nearly slays one of the giant mantises, while Bat-Egan kills one with call lightning.

Zandu casts haste upon Arlynn, Irabeth, Nox, Ashla, Egan; then he tries to hunt for the missing assassins, swooping around the back of the room, but fails to detect them. More Red Mantis assassins appear in the main room, attacking Nox and Arlynn with thrown daggers.

An invisible foe deals grievous wounds to Nox. Arlynn, using her mask of the mantis, spies the red mantis commander attacking Nox.

“Like Cinnabar before you, you too shall bite the dust.” Arlynn charges the commander. The commander deflects her attack with her sawtooth sabre.

“Strike at her from this position and we can flank her!” Arlynn calls out to Nox and Irabeth.

The commander attempts to acrobatics away, but Nox, Irabeth & Arlynn are able to strike at her. Arlynn’s blow lands, even as the woman seems to momentarily fade from view of even the paladin’s true seeing. The assassin runs up the side of the wall and seems to vanish into the conflagration on the ceiling. The fire is now spreading down to the wooden floor, singeing Arlynn and Ashla.

Flint continues to attack the enemies near him, killing the remaining giant mantis and attacking the assassins, killing one.

Ashla tries to track the unseen commander. She spies tracks on the ceiling, but they abruptly end at one point.

Bat-Egan flies out to investigate further, then kills another assassin with call lightning.

Zandu, floating ten feet in the air, moves up and senses the commander’s presence with blindsense. He casts a quickened true strike and tries to cast enervation on her, but fails to land a finishing blow.

Nox charges up into the air to attack her, striking a solid hit.

Irabeth rushes to join in, growling “Cowardly, backstabbing lûb-ob shatraug frangîzûrz” Unfortunately, her sword strike fails to land.

Laori goes to assist Flint against the remaining assassin. The two surviving assassins disappear.

Finish Her!

Arlynn flies up to attack the commander, striking a devastating slice with Serithtial that leaves the commander bleeding out. Bat-Egan quickly stabilizes the dying woman.

“Don’t kill her!” Arlynn calls out. “We need her alive in order to see that justice is done. Irabeth, take her down to Laori. I hear she’s good at binding things.”

“Ooh, yes,” Laori giggles, reaching for her masterwork manacles.

With Bat-Egan perched atop the assassin’s mangled body, Irabeth carries the unconscious Kayltanya down to the waiting elf priestess.

As Irabeth lays out the wounded murderess on the floorboards, the two remaining Red Mantis assassins reappear, poised to toss their daggers at their fallen leader. Flint brings one down with several swift arrows, striking the blade from the killer’s hand, while Irabeth throws herself atop Kayltanya to shield her from the other assassin’s knife. Nox and Kyra rush in to finish off the last assassin before he has time to fade back into the shadows. Bat-Egan puts out the spreading flames with create water.

Interview with a Mantis

With their enemies defeated, the Crimson Blades consult on what to do with Kayltanya, ultimately deciding to bring her before the Seneschal in his chambers. There, Egan revives the prisoner with cure light wounds.

“You assassins have been trying to kill us for quite a while,” Arlynn observes. “Cinnabar disliked the killing of innocent civilians. I wonder, what did you think of her? Do you share her beliefs?”

“I thought that Cinnabar was not living up to her family legacy,” Kayltanya says. “It’s why I gave her the important task of hunting you lot down. Clearly, she is more of a failure than I anticipated.”

“Clearly, someone else is failing to live up to the Red Mantis Assassin reputation,” Zandu bristles, his draconic fangs and claws extended. “You’re just another one of these weaklings we’ve squashed like ants at a picnic.”

“You may be right,” Kayltanya shrugs, her manacles jangling. “I certainly can’t disagree with you, sitting here trussed up like this. But the thing about the Red Mantis is that we never give up.”

“Your minions were trying to kill you,” Zandu replies.

“As they should,” she continues. "For each of us that perishes, three more shall take her place. Again and again and again, until the contract is served.

“You guys did actually manage to kill me off once,” Zandu acknowledges. “It’s not a very permanent thing.”

“That’s a terrible way to run an army,” Flint observes, “sacrificing all your experienced members.”

“We’re not an army,” Kayltanya replies. “We are pilgrims following the footsteps of He Who Walks in Blood.”

“Well, whatever organization you are,” Flint continues, “if you get new guys that don’t know what they’re doing, you’re only going to be less effective going forward.”

“I’ll take your criticisms under advisement,” the Red Mantis leader sneers.

“Do you know what other horrors may await us in this corrupted castle?” Arlynn presses her.

“How would I know?” Kayltanya replies. “My place has been on the third floor. There are defenses I’m aware of and defenses I’m certain I’m not aware of, and no knowledge of how many you’ve run across so far.”

“How many assassins did you bring with you here?” Zandu asks.

“Only those you’ve encountered were those who remained,” she tells him.

“Were you the ones last night who lit the crown fires and prowled around my companions as they slept?” Arlynn asks.

“Of course we were,” Kayltanya replies. “Who else would be in a position to scale the castle walls?”

“What does the fiery crown mean?” the paladin demands.

The Red Mantis leader rolls her eyes. “Do I need to explain elementary symbolism to you? Crowns, queens, rebels against the queen. You cast this message proclaiming the queen slain. Then a blazing crown appears atop the castle. What do you think it means?”

“Symbolism that we burned the Queen’s body?” Zandu offers.

“Maybe a signal to an army we have not yet encountered to try and quell our rebellion,” Arlynn says. “Or could it be something more?”

The paladin casts zone of truth on the chamber. Kayltanya replies by keeping her lips shut.

“Your silence is all I need to know,” Arlynn says. She cocks her head at the Red Mantis leader. “Cinnabar abhorred the killing of innocents—would you be the same, by any chance?”

A Killer’s Ransom

“I am a high value prisoner for my order,” Kayltanya announces. “If you sought to ransom me back to the Crimson Citadel, there would be a high reward—and perhaps our order would set aside any disputes in Korvosa.”

“Would that include your obligation to try to kill us?” Arlynn asks.

“It very well could,” she says.

“We might want to consider it,” the paladin says, glancing among her colleagues. “But until then, I urge you to share any knowledge that can help protect innocent civilians in this city from unnecessary bloodshed. It would be taken into account in your sentencing.”

“For now, our contract with Ileosa still holds,” Kayltanya declares. “I will not go back on that.”

“Can I knock her out yet?” Zandu asks.

Arlynn looks to Neolandis, who steps forward to ask his own question: “Did you help Ileosa kill the king?”

“Our order is sworn never to strike at true monarchs,” the Red Mantis commander tells him.

Arlynn and Neolandis then share a nod and Zandu knocks Kayltanya unconscious with a single smack.

“So, how do we go about ransoming her?” the sorcerer asks as her head lolls forward.

“We probably have to talk with her about that…” Arlynn trails off as they both look down at the unconscious woman.

Beat the Worm
Crown of Fangs, Part 9

The afternoon of 11 Erastus, 4708

Too Much Tongue

The worm devil lashes out with two of its tongues at Ashla, tripping her but failing to pull away her remaining short sword. It lashes out again with its other tongue, this time successfully removing her other sword and dealing a fair bit up damage. As it is ripping away the sword, Ashla manages to slash out at the three heads’ eyes, blinding them temporarily. The half-elf ranger struggles against the grasping tongues, but is unable to break free.

Flint steps into the illusory wall, then smites the worm devil and looses a vital strike against it, dealing substantial damage. The worm devil retaliates by casting a spell, which ripples through the air, causing everyone to become exhausted save Arlynn as well as Laori and Nox, who were safely outside the room.

Laori turns around the corner, and as she takes stock of what’s going on spots the horned devil Mavrokeras and exclaims, “You! You are SO dead!” She then proceeds to air walk over to the horned devil.

Kyra’s Gambit

At that moment, several barbed devils appear in the already cramped room. One among them shouts, “There they are! Those are the ones that killed my brothers! Kill them!”

“And by Iomedae’s grace, you’re next!” proclaims Arlynn.

One of the barbed devils slashes out at Flint as he pokes his head out from the illusory wall, striking him twice. It tries to grapple Flint, but fails utterly as he wrestles from its grasp. The creature seems extraordinarily ferocious which is frightening but does not faze Flint.

Zandu is struck by another one of these barbed devils, slashing into him deeply into him, dealing considerable damage while grappling him, the sheer ferocity of the attack strikes fear into the gnoll’s heart.

Irabeth is also struck by one of these creatures, which in her paralyzed state leaves her helpless to deflect its blows, and is soon also grappled in the devil’s deadly embrace.

At this Kyra tumbles out of the wall, landing beneath the flying Arlynn. The halfling brandishes her gleaming ghost-touched adamantine dagger aloft and shouts out, “It’s a good thing you boys have your hands full, it’ll make it easier to kill you with Serithial!!”

Though the other fiends look skeptical, the barbed devil holding onto Irabeth quakes in fear. Kyra throws her dagger at the creature, dealing substantial damage and causing the barbed devil to scream out in pain: ”Augh! It is Serethial! It burns!”

Druid Magic

Egan earth glides into the center of the room and casts greater dispel magic on the party, his waves of natural magic flooding outward from the center of the room, manifesting as an ocean breeze that peels away not only the negative effects that have stricken the party but also the exhaustion that had settled upon them. Ashla, still tongue-tied by the worm devil, is too far away to benefit from the spell.

The Worm Devil replies with another spell, seeming to grow even larger and more monstrous. Flint and Kyra are convinced the creature has unlocked some hellish new power, but the rest of the party are able to recognize it as an illusion.

Giant in Iron

Meanwhiled, the charmed, giant-sized Nox continues to hastily stride through the castle, passing by posts of hellknights which shrug and allow him by, he makes to the castle foyer when Freya manages to catch up to him.

“You’re in an awful hurry,” she says, trying to keep up with him. The close-helmed Nox is deathly silent, continuing to hastily march forward. “Hellooo, Lord Nox? Are you in there?” She says again.

As they pass out the castle gates, she calls out to the two hellknight guards on duty. “What are you just standing there for?! Help me restrain him, he’s clearly been ensorcelled!!”

The guards and Freya try to restrain the giant fighter, but the three of them are unable to slow him down as he continues trudging forward with the trio hanging off him.


Arlynn touches down on the stone floor and summons up another wave of channel positive energy, but her divine grace is less effective at healing the wounds of the party. Even so, the blessing is a welcome one.

Freed from her paralysis, Irabeth smites at the barbed devil grappling her. “The halfing’s struck her blow, now it’s my turn!"

She strikes out with her longsword. The devil catches the blade in its teeth, but Irabeth manages to continue driving the blade into its face, cutting a terrible gash that leaves the monster badly wounded but still upright.

The Worm Devil makes another attack against Ashla, slashing at her with its other tongues. Ashla, tries again to break the grapple and manages to wriggle free of the fiend’s grasp.

Clouded Room, Clouded Mind

Despite Earth-Egan’s attempt to interfere, the Worm Devil dominates Flint, commanding him to kill Arlynn. The archer turns and unleashes a torrent of arrows that bounce off of the paladin’s buckler. The Worm Devil then casts another spell, unleashing an acid fog into the room. Laori strikes an opportune attack during the casting, doing a fair bit of damage to the Worm Devil but not enough to cause the spell to fail.

The elf priestess is still furious at the horned devil, but she notices the deteriorating situation in the room and decides to change her attack. She casts one baleful look back at the horned devil, “You’re gonna get yours soon, but first…” She starts to cast her own spell, but both the horned devil and the worm devil strike out at her, dealing a devastating amount of damage and disrupting her spellcasting.

Luck of the Halfling

The barbed devil hanging off of Irabeth calls out to its brothers and shouts, “Kill the Halfling! She has the sword!”

“Oops…” Kyra mutters as the three fiends turn to glare at her.

The barbed devil grappling Irabeth releases her to lunge at Kyra. As it attempts to seize hod of the Halfling, the fiend overreaches. Irabeth kicks it in the ass with a smite-powered iron boot while Kyra deftly rolls forward between the creature’s legs. The barbed devil topples forward and impale itself on its own claws, perishing. Kyra springs back to face the other devils. “Yeah, it was all Serethial, baby!”

The barbed devil facing Flint also lunges after Kyra, but misses her as well. The halfling then moves stealthily behind the Barbed Devil grappling Zandu. “Leggo my gnoll!” she shouts, stabbing at the creature with her dagger, but failing to pierce its coat of nettles.

Wrath of Mavrokeras

Earth-Egan moves up and tries to cast dispel magic against the Worm Devil, but the creatures try to interrupt his spells. The gnome takes damage, but manages to strip away the illusion the fiend was hiding behind.

The Horned Devil moves toward Arlynn, swinging its Spiked Chain at her as it says, “Flesh Shredder will break you before she binds you!” The chains whirl around smashing down at Arlynn, but she manages to bat the strikes away from her.

“I yield to no Devil!” she exclaims, as she blocks the third strike.

“You will yield to ME!” It roars back, trying to get a bite out of her. Arlynn again manages to redirect the blow, causing the creature to miss. Frustrated, it spins around to lash out against her with its spiked tail, slashing the Paladin. The wounds it causes unnaturally swells as it bleeds out.

The Worm Devil tries to cast another spell, but Egan manages to interrupt it with a stony fist.

The Bigger They Are…

Outside, Nox attempts to shrug off the hellknights and Freya, but his shaking causes him to go off balance, causing him to topple over and enabling them to pin him.

With her arms locked around his neck, Freya barks out more orders to the hellknights. “Keep him pinned down! And someone get the paravicar!! He is the Chelaxian Adjudicator, and we must get to the bottom of what has befallen him!”

Arlynn marches over to Flint, and says, “By the grace of Iomedae, please keep this soldier in your service to STOP SHOOTING ARROWS AT ME!” She casts protection from evil but unfortunately it is not enough to overcome the evil of the Worm Devil that has the scion of House Endrin dominated.

War of Attrition

Still stricken with terror, Zandu intimidates the barbed devil into letting him go so he can flee. The other barbed devil strikes out at him as the sorcerer escapes into the secret passage, dealing a terrible wound but failing to grapple him. Irabeth casts lay on hands on herself, and marches toward the direction of the horn devil until it comes into view. She slashes out at the creature but isn’t able to strike true. Despite her grievous injuries, the furious half-orc seems determined to bring the devil down.

The Worm Devil floats over the royal bed in the corner of the room. Ashla reaches for her longsword, deftly rolling to her feet as the creature’s tongues lash around her.

The worm devil then instructs Flint to kill Arlynn by any means necessary. Then the fiend uses its tongue attack to disarm and grapple Ashla once more.

Pressing the Attack

Flint proceeds to punch Arlynn, the blows sending shocks bouncing off her shield but failing to damage the paladin.

Laori moves over to pick up her sword, but takes an attack of opportunity, dealing significant damage to her.

The barbed devils continue to attack Kyra, managing only to hit her but she continues to evade their grasp. Despite bleeding from a dozen puncture wounds, she taunts, “Can’t catch me! You better run before I get you with Serithial!”

But the second barbed devil does manage to strike supernatural fear in her heart.

“Gah! Time for me to get out of here!” she exclaims as she uses her acrobatics to run up the wall and slide back around the secret passageway behind Zandu, using her ring of Invisibility to disappear from view.

The Worm Devil casts another illusion upon itself to hide behind, now appearing as some sort of infernal hydra.

Egan Enters the Fray

Earth-Egan, taking a stock of the situation, decides to return to his gnome form. He emerges from the wall, stonework crumbling off him until it reveals the familiar small stature of the party’s resident druid, with a big grin on his face and his staff and scroll drawn, “Hi.”

Laori turns to him and says enthusiastically, “Hi~!”

Eagan’s smile then turns into a scowl, “You bastards and your magics are going down.”

“Aww damn! Shit just got just got real! Awesome!” Laori cheers.

“This is a fine mess you’ve gotten into, Sermignatto,” the horned devil growls in Infernal at the worm devil. “Once this battle is through, my debt to you is paid in full.”

The horned devil does a whirlwind attack, attacking Arlynn, Egan and Ashla. Arlynn manages to deflect it, Egan is too short for it to strike him and Ashla dodges the strike. He then takes a bite out of Irabeth.

A Call for Help

Meanwhile, Nox is struggling against the hell knights, his massive frame continuing to be a difficulty for them to contain. One manages to pull one of his arms behind him, but that allows him to elbow the other one, knocking them loose and allowing him to break their grasp. Freya manages to hang on as he stands up stoically.

“Damn! Well we have other ways to deal with this…” she curses as she grasps a pendant around her neck, causing it to glow. The pendant projects an image familiar to Nox, that of Ambassador Amprei.

“Ah, Lord Nox,” the Ambassador begins, a bit bemused at the current sight, “You seem to be in a spot of bother. Not to worry, I can have you fixed up in a jiffy.” He begins cracking his knuckles, “You will owe me big for this…”

The Noose Tightens

Arlynn took to the air, but is grappled as she approaches the horned devil. Arlynn uses her divine bond and transforms Serithial into a longsword infused with brilliant energy.

The horned devil curses at the sight of it, and the Worm Devil proceeds to slam Arlynn into the ground. Her spiked armor, infused with her smite, wounds the creature causing it to retract and release the paladin.

Zandu transforms into a Dragon and attempts to fly past the barbed devils but is struck by one of the devils, and is grappled.

The worm devil tries to bite the prone Arlynn with one of its mouths, but the senior Paladin manages to deflect the blow.

Irabeth uses her last lay on hands on herself, and takes a five foot step to unleash a torrent of blows against the horned devil, shouting, “Die foul demon! For the Inheritor!” Her blows slam down upon the devil but only one finds its mark.

One Sword, Three Necks

Ashla strikes against the creature, striking true with her longsword, dealing significant damage. The Worm Devil is looking badly wounded at this point.

It tries to pin Ashla with its tongue, but the half-elven woman wrestles free, using her free hand to wrap the tongue around her arm so as to pull the creatures heads in, allowing her to cut all three of them off at once—killing the Worm Devil. As it crashes to the ground, the fog and mind control spells dissipate instantaneously.

The Devil’s Escape

Dragon-Zandu takes this opportunity to speak to the horned devil in Draconic, telling him that his debt has been paid and there is no further need for him to remain.

“You are most wise,” Mavrokeras replies, also in Draconic.

Flint, unable to understand their exchange and free of the mind control, quickly draws his bow and fires off a volley of arrows and a tanglefoot bag at the devil dealing a devastating amount of damage and slowing the creature.

Laori in the meantime uses a heal scroll on herself. Zandu continues to take damage from the devil grappling him as it drags him further into the chamber. A frightened and badly wounded Kyra flees down he hallway.

Egan tries to hit the demon with Call Lightning but fails to penetrate his spell resistance.

The horned devil tries to cast a spell, but Irabeth’s and Ashla’s attack of opportunity manage to disrupt the spell. Irabeth’s attack strikes hard upon the creature, but Ashla’s strike does no lasting damage. Having failed to cast his spell, he tries to flee, provoking attacks from Laori and Egan. Laori strikes true.

Waking the Sleeping Giant

Nox feels the grips of the mind control slip away, as he becomes aware of his surroundings he notices Amprei’s visage. The two have a confrontation regarding trust and loyalty, and Nox suspects the Ambassador trying to take credit for things the party has accomplished. As the image fades away, he notices that Amprei is within the Embassy.

He gets a sit-rep from Freya and he thanks her for aiding him as he runs back towards the castle at blinding speed. As he re-enters the chamber on the second floor, he calls out to the squad that he past first and calls out for a sword, to which they toss him a +1 thundering longsword that enlarges as he approaches the devil. Arlynn, who stood up and charged after the devil, notices Nox back in the room and smirks, “You haven’t forgotten about Lord Nox have you?”

“Oh, its you.” The horned devil spits out venomously.

“Yes,” Nox says, raising his borrowed blade, “_Me_.”

Frustrating Fiends

Flint in the meantime takes a step back and unleashes another volley of arrows, which does significant damage but is reduced due to its damage reduction.

Laori also rushes out and airwalks over Arlynn and shouts, “Give back Mr. Pointy!”

The barbed devils remaining take a step back, and teleport away. Flint and Irabeth both curse.

Payback’s an Adorable Elf Maiden

Kyra in the meantime, tries to sneak attack the devil but it instead sinks into Nox. He catches the blade before it returns with his off hand. The Nox seethes through the pain, focusing his anger at the devil.

“Sorry! Really, really, sorry about that Nox!” Kyra apologizes.

Nox growls lowly. The Horned devil tries to cast teleport to get away, but being surrounded seals its fate. Arlynn strikes it true with Serithial, setting up Nox’s thundering blow, stunning the creature as Laori cut the fiendish devil’s head off.

“This is what happens to people that steal my stuff!” she shouts at the severed head, holding it up by one of its horns.

Nox looks at the dagger that still drips with his blood, and turns to Kyra, “I like your knife, I’m keeping it.” She briefly pouts for a moment, and then nods with that. He smirks, and then releases it, returning it to her.

Adventure had Half a Day

The party regroups, heals and searches the room. They discuss gathering supplies in the capital of Lastwall and send Zandu, Arlynn, Flint and Kyra to do so. Arlynn also intends to use her connections with the Church of Iomedae to convince them to send a group of clergy to aid in the rebuilding efforts and hopefully seed a larger push to have her deity have a higher sway in the city.

Nox and the others provide orders to the hellknights to guard the fortified posts they created battlements while they party rests. Nox specifically asks Zandu to clean off the royal bed before he leaves, and he takes a bath in the royal bath before changing into something comfortable climbing into the royal bed.

New Devilry
Crown of Fangs, Part 8

The afternoon of 11 Erastus, 4708

Voice from Nowhere

With Ashla and Flint both afflicted with insanity following the battle in the throne room, the Crimson Blades consider their next steps. But their deliberations suffer an unsettling interruption.

A faint voice, coming vaguely from the ceiling, whispers “Save me… Game room…”

“There’s something over there, there’s something over there!” Ashla cries out, struggling with her bonds.

Laori checks the skulls on her person while her long elven ears twitch. “I think now I’m hearing voices.”

“I hear them, too,” Flint says reassuringly from where he’s tied to the horse.

“Flint, I love the sentiment, but that’s not really reassuring right now,” the elf priestess replies.

“Laori, if it makes you feel any better, I heard it, too,” Nox says.

“So, should we get these two fixed?” Zandu asks, gesturing at the two lunatics. “My family should have a cleric on hand who could probably heal them.”

A Visit With Cousin Unam

The party decides that the best thing they can do is have Zandu teleport the two headcases, lashed securely to Princess, to his family’s estate in Cheliax. Upon arriving, he requests his uncle Degius Loranth but discovers that the old Gorumite has left since his last visit. Instead, he is visited by his cousin Content Not Found: unam, a gaudily dressed cleric of the Lantern King.

“Well, Cousin Zandu, you’re a bit worse for the wear,” Unam says. “I see your choice of companions has… markedly improved.”

Flint gibbers at him.

“Right back at you,” Unam replies cheerily.

“We were trying to take over Castle Korvosa,” Zandu explains, “and we ran into a horned devil that cast an insanity-inducing spell on them, I was wondering if I could get it fixed?”

“Well, I’m certainly happy to assist you to the length that your pocketbook can stretch,” Unam tells him.

Zandu hands over the cash. “Can we get these two healed up?”

“Stand aside, stand aside,” Unam says. I’ll show you what someone who still has the Lantern King’s favor can do."

“Yes, yes,” Zandu says grudgingly.

After the cleric has removed the affliction from the two warriors, Zandu persuades him to open up the family’s stores for another round of trading and resupply. However, the party had already claimed the choicest spells from the Loranth archives during their last visit.

With Ashla and Flint on the mend, Zandu teleports everyone back to the throne room, arriving in the aftermath of yet another battle…

A Slimy Surprise

Meanwhile, the remainder of the party decides to assault the castle gatehouse, where Earth-Egan had sensed the presence of enemies. The adventurers take up positions outside the door, hoping to lure the enemy into into a trap. Kyra stealthily goes for the door, unlocks it and just before she opens it has a gut feeling that she should be a little softer with pushing it open. She does so, and it slowly creaks it open. As soon as the door creaks open, Nox unleashes a trio of arrows at the Gray Maiden that comes into view, two of which hit their mark.

Earth-Egan glides through the floor to attack, but notices that one of the Erinyes is dangling a clay vase over the door with her lasso, while several more vases are standing in the guardpost next to the murderholes to the level below. The druid decides to smash the vases instead, causing one to splatter its contents on one of the Grey Maidens. Instead of boiling oil like Egan had suspected, a greenish ooze comes out, which starts to devour the Maiden in an acidic fashion. Egan surmises this is a green slime, which instead of the oil will eat through organic matter and even metal.

The second erinyes grabs the remaining urn and flutters into the air, watching the area where Earth-Egan emerged from the wall. As Earth-Egan lashes out, the erinyes smashes the urn over his fist and the slime begins tearing into his stony skin.

A Game of Catch

One of the other vases is knocked into the air. The Maiden that Nox feathered earlier drops her weapons and catches the urn. She tosses the urn at Nox, then quickly closes the door, while her companion rushes to cut the green slime from the wounded Maiden. Nox is wounded by the slime, but the daylight gleaming from Vigil causes it to wilt. Arlynn charges the door and tries to force it down, but it is too sturdy for her to overpower.

Outside, Earth-Egan notices that his treant Treebeard and a group of Hellknights are attacking the castle. The treant is hurling boulders, one of which slams into the druid, while inside the gatehouse, one of erinyes is firing flaming arrows down at them. Egan hammers the fallen angel with his stony fists.

Arlynn, meanwhile, unleashes Serithtial on the guard room door, obliterating it and bowling over the Gray Maiden beyond. Kyra tosses two daggers at the remaining urn held aloft by the erinyes’ rope, but misses both times. Abandoning his bow, Nox moves up to take a swing at the dangling urn, spilling ooze over the remains of the wooden door, which it devours before shriveling under the glare of his sunblade. With the guardhouse entrance crowded, Irabeth goes to pick up Nox’s bow from where he dropped it.

Outside, the horned devil Mavrokeras appears to toss a fireball down at the Hellknights.

Finishing the Fight

Inside, the two erinyes retreat and begin casting spells—but Earth-Egan distracts one of them with a hard left hook. The other one teleports out of the room. The Gray Maidens attempt to sabotage the portcullis winch, while the prone figure rises and moves to retrieve her sword to face Arlynn. The paladin slams her into the wall and knocks her over.

“Stay down!” Arlynn commands.

Kyra slides into the room and tosses a dagger at the saboteur, wounding her. Nox then charges into the room, battering the she-devil to the floor with his shield. Egan smashes the Gray Maiden saboteur between his stony feet.

As Laori enters the room, Arlynn points at the prone Maiden. “Detain this one!”

Aww, I don’t have my chain," the elf priestess groans. “If only I had my chain.”

“You do have manacles,” the paladin offers helpfully.

“It’s not the same,” Laori says wistfully. “They don’t have spikes.”

The remaining erinyes attempts to to teleport again, but Earth-Egan and Nox silence her permanently.

Taking Prisoners

“Lay down your weapons, NOW!” Nox bellows at the sole upright Gray Maiden.

“I’ll never answer to traitors and usurpers like you!” the warrior woman says, but there is a tremor in her voice.

“Then you shall join your Queen if you don’t surrender,” Nox replies. “Join your Queen in death.” he hastily adds.

“Loyalty shall get you nowhere this day,” Arlynn urges. “At least save your lives.”

The paladin’s words seem to get through to her. She looks from the adventurers to her prone companion to the army outside and finally tosses her bow to the floor. “You’re not going to get away with this.”

“I already have,” Nox says.

“If you think that, you’re fools,” she tells him. “Her Radiant Majesty has powers beyond your mortal ken.”

“Well, I’d like to see her try now that we’ve cut the bitch’s head off,” the fighter shrugs.

“You speak lies.”

Arlynn reveals the broken Crown of Fangs and says “You shall be treated fairly.”

They tie up the two Maidens and raise the portcullis, allowing the Hellknights access to the castle.

The Half-Claimed Throne

A company of Hellknights led by Mistress of Blades Maidrayne Vox marches into the throne room. At the center of the column is Lictor Severs DiVri, who sits down on a fold out chair beside the throne and begins directing his men to fortify that floor of the keep and begin searching through the records. They are soon joined in the throne room by Cressida Kroft and Neolandis Kalepopolis and a force of rebels, who infiltrated the castle through the secret door the party used.

The Lictor declares himself regent of the city, but Arlynn and Nox are able to persuade him to accept Neolandis as co-regent for the time being, which mollifies the rebels. The Crimson Blades get an update on the battle for the city, learning that loyalist Gray Maidens and other regime supporters continue to fight, but they have been pushed back to The Heights and sections of North Point near the Great Tower. The Great Houses have deployed their own guards to help the rebels, while the Ironsoots have organized many of the cities craftsmen. Unfortunately, there have also been some violent clashes between the Ironsoots and the House Arkona guards, which leads the party to recommend keeping the two of them far apart.

With the return of Zandu and the others, the Crimson Blades explain how they defeated a simulacrum of the queen. Zandu hands out some vials of the blood taken from it, for analysis. The party also warns that Togomor is still on the loose and perhaps the Queen as well. The rebels and the Hellknights agree to focus on fighting the loyalists in the city, while allowing the party to continue investigating the castle.

Togomor Round 2: Electric Bugaloo

The party, now gathered and restored, decided to tackle the royal bedroom where Zandu had had his premonition of danger. The Crimson Blades elect to approach from both the main door and the secret passage from Sabina’s chambers.

Nox forces his door open and enters the room, pushing a table aside as he readies himself for battle. Upon hearing Nox’s entry, Arlynn bashes down her door. At this point, an arc of lightning races out; striking adventurers in one group and then lances across the room to hit the other group. Irabeth leaps into the arc of the lightning, landing half on top of Kyra and shielding her from the electrical blast.

“Get of me, you big green oaf!” the halfling cries out. “What the hell are you trying to do?”

Irabeth climbs off of Kyra, and stumbles to her feet, avoiding the halfling’s gaze. All of the half-orc’s hair is standing on end from the electrical charge.

“Is… everybody all right?” the junior paladin asks.

“Not really,” Nox admits from the other side of the illusion.

“Is he visible?” Irabeth calls out.

Embarrassingly, She stumbles to her feet and calls out to Nox, “Is he visible?”

“No!” Nox angrily barks back, trying to steady himself since he had taken a solid hit from the lightning.

“That never stopped me before!” she replies as she marches into the room.

Fall of the Fat Man

Zandu enters the room with the lantern of revealing to unveil the Bloatmage Togomor, and gives enlarge person to Nox. Kyra moves into the illusory wall to toss daggers at the mage, but only manages to nick him. Earth-Egan takes this opportunity to emerge from the wall to grapple him. Ashla moves in and activates her winged boots to fly up and strike him with her longsword.

Suddenly, bearded devils materialize in the room. Earth-Egan notices these are merely illusions, which he relays to Zandu in Terran. Zandu calls out the illusion to everyone. Arlynn then rushes in and calls on her aura of justice to grant smite to everyone.

As she rushes in, the paladin shouts, “Your time is at an end, fiend! Iomedae’s wrath be upon you!”

At that she cuts Togomor’s head clean off. As the bulbous visage spirals away to plop onto the hard stone floor, a strange, peaceful smile can be seen on the bloated face.

The Devil You Know and the One You Don’t

As Togomor’s lifeless body hits the ground with a wet thud, a huge creature appears beyond Earth-Egan in the bedchamber portion of the room. The creature has the shape of an enormous slimy worm, with a fang-toothed maw at one end and three human-like heads at the other. Zandu realizes this was the danger he had sensed and recalls the card he chose during Zellara’s reading—The Liar.

The creature reaches out to into Nox’s mind and telepathically commands him in a melodious tone to drop his weapons and walk out of the Korvosa. His mind weary from the day’s skirmishes and attacks on his mind, Nox succumbs, and walks past the main entrance to the bedroom and out toward the main hall without a word.

Meanwhile, a second presence appears in the royal bed chamber: the horned devil Mavrokeras. Facing two powerful fiends with one of their strongest warriors having abandoned the field, the party braces for a fight.

The Empty Throne
Crown of Fangs, Part 7

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.

Arcana Inflicted

“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 Signal

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.

Swords Against Wizardry
Crown of Fangs, Part 6

The Pincer Closes

The sounds of boots edge closer, and the Crimson Blades quickly take defensive positions against the oncoming pincer attack. The adventurers move east from the apartment into a large guardroom, with Nox and Arlynn in the lead while Irabeth holding up the rear. Earth-Egan senses five armored humanoids approaching from the northeast and another half dozen figures approaching from the northwest. He calls out a warning in Terran, which Zandu hastily relays.

The gnome druid glides through the wall towards the first group and makes the first strike by unleashing a flame strike upon the squad of Gray Maidens waiting in the next room. The conjured flame blasts through the Maidens, badly scorching all but the lightly armored commander, who seems least affected.

Nox charges down the hall and into a reading room, where the five warrior women are recovering from Earth-Egan’s fiery blast. He cuts one of the Maidens down with Vigil, letting out an intimidating war cry. The Maiden commander, an arcanist, responds by casting wall of fire upon and around Nox’s vicinity. The flames billow up around him, his flesh starting to burn underneath his armor. Arlynn feels the heat of the flame and rushes to Nox’s side.

A Cloud of Death

In the rear, Zandu casts greater invisibility on Irabeth, and Flint steps behind her, reading his bow to unleash a torrent of arrows on the next creature that appears. Another squad of Maidens, led by the corpulent Togomor, moves into position in the recently vacated small parlor to the west. Flint catches a glimpse of the obese mage and unleashes a flurry of arrows.

Kyra also takes this opportunity to throw her returning dagger at a nearby Gray Maiden she glimpses at that moment. The arrows seem to have done a fair bit of damage to the mage, but he seems unfazed by the attack.

Laori also unleashes a flame strike at this moment, and while it causes screams of pain from the Maidens, but again Togomor seems unperturbed yet again. Togomor casts spell that produce a rolling cloud of green fog the fills the large parlor, obscuring vision and leeching at the fortitude of the party.

Zandu and Egan sense a large creature in the room with Togomor and the Maidens, also casting a spell. Ashla senses a spell being cast by the creature but can’t get a fix on its position. The thre of them call out a warning. Irabeth moves out of the cloud, still invisible, and ducks into the doorway to Togomor’s apartment to wait for an opportunity to strike.

Earth-Egan glides through the castle stone into the northwest wall of the parlor, where the druid casts ice storm at Togomor and his squad. The small parlor is suddenly filled with a maelstrom of sleet, hailstone and snow, battering the Gray Maidens. Togomor again seems unaffected as hailstones smack against his bald head.

Hell’s Angels

Nox emerges from the wall of flames, and bats away a Gray Maiden’s attack, sending her sword flying across the room. Ignoring her, he raises his shield to deflect the readied arrows from two Maiden bow women from flanking their commander.

Nox cleaves into the Maiden commander, striking her down. He continues to make himself an imposing figure, and the remaining Maidens are continuing to be shaken by his imitating presence. At that moment, three darkly beautiful winged women teleport into the room, armed with burning longbows.

“Arlynn,” Nox calls out to the paladin, “it looks like Remmy’s torturers have arrived.”

Arylnn, torn between the melee in front of her and the chaotic sounds of spells and battle behind her, weighs the options and curses under her breath. She knows she is needed in both fights and feels that by aiding one leaves the other group at risk.

“Iomedae, aid them…” she prays aloud as she leaps through the conjured fire and immediately deflects an armored gauntlet from the swordless maiden. She counters with a mighty blow that leaves the maiden incapacitated.

The Harsh Light of Truth

On the other side of the field, Earth-Egan notices that there is a small discrepancy between Togomor’s movements and the sensation of vibrations Egan senses through the stone floor. The vibrations are traveling instantaneously every time the obese wizard shifts his feet, instead of lagging a fraction of a second as they move through the stone. Egan realizes this is because the vibrations are all being created in his own mind—Togomor isn’t even there!

“Togomor is an illusion!” the gnome calls out in Terran, his craggy voice echoing through the sleet storm.

“Damn you, Togomor, you coward!” Zandu shouts in Common from within the poison cloud. “Show your real self!”

“Motherfucker!” Flint shouts. “My arrows were worthless!”

Togomor calls out for them to abandon their foolish fight against enemies who “far outstrip your paltry capabilities.” Ashla laughs in response.

Zandu, armed with the lantern of revealing, emerges from the thick green fog in to the sleet and snow raining down on the parlor. Piercing through Egan’s ongoing ice storm, the lantern reveals a huge horned devil lurking in the corner near Togomor. Zandu ducks behind Irabeth, who also stands revealed by the lantern. Flint follows Zandu’s lead and emerges from the poison fog as well, catching a glimpse of the horned devil as he takes position behind Zandu. The archer immediately looses an arrow at a Gray Maiden, killing her.

Soon after, Ashla emerges from the cloud and sloshes through the wet snow to challenge the devil. “You have stupid horns!” she shouts.

The fiend, realizing he has been revealed, lets out a fearful scream of frustration and whips Ashla with his massive spiked chain. The weight of the chain feels heavier than it should as it strikes her, almost disorienting her. She responds with a strike from her longsword, and while the blade doesn’t do any damage to the devil it does cause pink sparks to scratch off its scales.

Kyra creeps out from the poison fog soon after, and seeing the current situation, decides to tumble through the melee into the hall behind them. Now thoroughly covered in snow she does her best to blend into the background.

Finally, Laori bounces out of the green mist and into the sleet of the ice storm. She gushes over the spiked chain, calling dibs on it for herself as she moves into position to strike the horned devil. She cheerfully stepping into the same space occupied by the Togomor illusion, almost entirely vanishing into its tremendous girth.

Wizard’s Warning

The storm-lashed image of Togomor calls for our heroes to surrender, casting a spell that unleashes a rainbow colored spray of magic at the party. A ray of yellow light flashes toward Ashla but in a split moment she is able to dodge with her uncanny reflexes. A ray of blue light blasts toward Flint, but miraculously he manages to ducks at the last moment, discovering that Zandu had already been ducking behind him. The orange ray of light strikes Egan, delivering the familiar tickle of acid against his resistant earthy hide. Irabeth does not fair so well, taking the full effect of the acid attack.

Taken aback by the relative ineffectiveness of his spell, the illusion of Togomor commends the party for being as resilient as they are but again calls for their surrender as he notes they are severely outmatched. At that moment, six figures take shape in the shifted poisonous fog, which Zandu, Egan and Ashla recognize by sound to be more bearded devils.

“You bearded devils, I hate you!” Ashla hollers over her shoulder.

The Great Goad

The Horned Devil lashes out with his spiked chain, shouting “Rip the veils of fasciae, Flesh Shredder! And flood the way to truth with waves of healing blood!”

Ashla sharply responds, “Incoherent babble will get you nowhere, fiend!”

The strikes slam into Irabeth, dealing devastating damage to the junior paladin. She stands strong against the assault, but her wounds do appear to be taking a toll. The devil then lets out a terrifying roar, but the party resists, maintained by Irabeth’s aura of courage.

Egan launches his stony fists into the devil, landing a solid blow with his left hook.

The Lasso of Coercion

On the other side of the battle, Nox takes a step towards one of the archer Maidens, and cuts her down with three devastating strikes. One of the dark angels lets loose her lasso, which lands near Nox and starts to coil around his leg, but he manages to shake free of it. The rope, however, remains limber like a snake ready to strike. The two remaining angels take aim with their fiery bows, unleashing a torrent of arrows at him. Fortunately for him, only one arrow seems to get close enough to glance his visor, the remaining arrows either ping off his armor or are deflected with his shield.

Arlynn marches toward one of the angels, effortless parrying the glancing swing from the unarmed Maiden as she strikes a solid blow against one of the winged creatures. Nox smiles underneath his visor, as he knows the fallen angels have clearly underestimated the true threat in the room.

Flashing Swords

Meanwhile, Zandu casts haste upon the adventurers around him. The image of Togomor raises a finger to blast a green ray of light at Earth-Egan, but although the spell sears away a chunk of the druid it doesn’t appear as effective as he had hoped. He is definitely frustrated by this, and swears to find a way to strike true against the druid.

Flint takes stock of the situation and looses a torrent of arrows against the horned devil. Several of his shafts strike true, but are not as damaging as he had hoped.

Ashla goes toe to toe with the great fiend, unleashing a flurry of strikes from her longsword and shortsword. Her strikes cut long gashes in the monster’s scaled hide, although only her mithral short sword seems to be stabbing deep into its flesh. Her storm of blows appears to leave the devil bloodied.

A Surprise Guest

Earth-Egan senses an unfamiliar figure quietly stalking up the corridor from the mess hall to the parlor. As the stranger creeps closer to Kyra’s position in the hall, Egan remembers a recent conversation he had with Nox about battle tactics.

“Always use your unique traits to your advantage, Egan,” Nox had sternly instructed, “If you feel you can get the opportunity over someone who is attempting to get the upper hand on you, you must always take it! It may mean the difference between life and death in a fight.”

With this advice firmly in mind, the druid strikes out at the newcomer with his huge stony fists, catching the unsuspecting and previously stealthed Freya off guard. The attack causes her to curse loudly at the wall and Egan, revealing her presence in the hall. Embarrassed, Egan rumbles an apology in Terran.

Kyra reflexively throws herself against the wall, trying to evade detection from the alerted Gray Maidens. The halfling takes this opportunity of still being unnoticed and deals two devastating stabs at the maiden in front of her, severing the poor maiden’s femoral arteries, causing her knees to buckle as she expires.

Devil’s Dogma

At this point, Zandu has a realization about the illusion that is serving as a conduit for Togomor’s spells, and relays to Egan in Terran that he could potentially dispel the illusion. Egan acknowledges and states he will try. Togomor takes this opportunity to attempt to hit Zandu with a spell, of which he manages to shrug off the effects. Frustrated, the obese wizard quickly follows up with a couple of magic missiles at Ashla, who had been taunting him these past few intense moments.

The bearded devils emerge from the fog, as the green cloud starts to drift away from the adventurers. The new devils move up to reinforce their larger compatriot. Ashla and Laori get in a couple of strikes against them, but the blows don’t hit as hard as they intended.

The large devil growls out towards Ashla as he prepares to strike at her with his chain whip, “You shall embrace the enlightenment of agony.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Ashla venomously spits back.

“Ummm…actually it kind of does,” interjects Laori, raising a hand.

“Whose side are you on?” exclaims Flint.

The enormous spiked chain lashes out violently against her, the first blow stunning her initially but as she shakes it off the remaining blows slam into her. Ashla is still standing and holding her own but is badly injured.

Irabeth channels another burst of positive energy, healing herself and her companions.

Earth-Egan casts dispel magic upon the image of Togomor. The attempt is successful, and the image distorts and then shatters like glass, revealing Laori. The elf maiden notices this and shouts gleefully, “Ta-daa!”

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Meanwhile, Nox steps forward again between the Angel and the Maiden. He unleashes several furious strikes at the Angel, and the combined force of Vigil’s deep cuts and a slam from Ovis bring down the winged warrior. He carries his swings around to strike the Maiden, battering her badly but not quite enough to bring her down.

The remaining Angels retreat into the stairwell and begin casting. Arlynn manages to take an opportune strike at one, cutting it down, the other teleports away. The remaining Gray Maiden, keenly aware of the dire situation she now faces, attempts to flee upstairs. Nox catches her and runs her through with his sword.

Arlynn begins to head back toward the others when she catches a glimpse of the remaining Gray Maiden, dying but still flickering with life. Without a second thought she bends down and stabilizes the woman’s condition.

“This one still lives—Iomedae has seen fit to spare her,” she says softly, her gaze briefly shifting toward Nox. He nods in agreement, to which she replies, “I’m glad I didn’t have to convince you. Come, we need to reach our allies in all haste.”

Laori Unchained

The battle rages fiercely on the other side of the fight. Laori swings at the horned devil with her spiked chain, but the fiend catches the chain and yanks it from her hands.

“Hey, that’s mine! I called it!” she cries. Furious, she turns to the bearded devil behind her and wraps an arm around its neck. “C’mere you, I need a hug!”

She rams the devil’s face into her chain-clad bosom, impaling it on one of her spikes. Disgusted, she lets the devil’s body fall to the snow-strewn ground, where it vanishes.

“You’re no fun,” she says, balling her fists.

Cheating Death

On the other side of the sleetstorm, Ashla courageously tries to fend off the devils despite being surrounded. But she takes several punishing blows—including a stray arrow from Flint. She is rendered unconscious and dying.

Irabeth tries to intervene and heal her, but is interrupted by one of the bearded devils.

Earth-Egan sinks into the floor and travels beneath half-elf, touching her with the restorative power of nature to heal her completely.

During this, both Freya and Kyra sneak up to one of the bearded devils that took Ashla down, and their precise strikes bring it down.

Zandu, enraged by seeing Ashla taken down launches a barrage of magic missiles at one of the bearded devils, helping Flint’s attacks take down one of the bearded devils.

Set ’Em Up, Nox ’Em Down

Nox rushes forward through the wall of fire again, taking damage as he rushes past, and is soon faced with a trio of bearded devils down the hall.

Hunkering down, he calls out to them, “Nice of you to set yourselves up for me, now prepared to be knocked down!”

The trio looks at each other in puzzled manner. With unnatural gusto, Nox barrels into the two in front of him, his brashness catching them off guard and knocking them prone. The third awkwardly tries to hit Nox as he runs by with its glaive, but misses horribly and hits one of its allies.

Just a few steps behind the fight, Arlynn runs into the hall and raises an eyebrow at notices Nox’s handiwork. She steps over the fallen devils, while they claw at her ineffectually as she moves past.

You Wouldn’t Like Her When She’s Angry

The horned devil, senses the battle is going poorly by the sounds coming from the other side of the battle and casts a spell. The party members surrounding it try but are unsuccessful at striking blows to disrupt its casting and the devil vanishes. Egan surmises that it was a greater teleport spell.

Laori starts cursing in Elvish as she realizes the devil took her spiked chain with it. Irabeth is also cursing, in Orcish, having taken a beating without ever landing a single strike against the vile fiend. She immediately starts tromping towards the hall where Nox and Arlynn are finishing off the remaining bearded devils. The two senior warriors each cleave one in two, but leave the third prone devil to the furious half-orc. Flint joins in by picking up the final bearded devil, grappling him and reading him for a killing blow from Irabeth.

She looks at her senior paladin and the two fighters and growls, “Don’t patronize me!” as she unleashes three hate-filled strikes from her longsword, cutting off its head with the third. Flint is startled a bit when the summoned devil goes poof and disappears.

“You’ll get used to it,” Nox says to Flint, fanning away the smoky traces of the demon.

There Will Be Blood (Probably)

With their foes fled or vanquished, the party gathers together for Arlynn and Egan to dispense healing, and then dispersing to loot the bodies. They strip the wounded gray maiden of her armor and then lay her out on Togomor’s rank-smelling bed. The adventurer’s then scour Togomor’s apartment, where they discover a hidden stash of platinum coins and the wizard’s spellbooks. Not only do the books contain a wealth of powerful magic, they also hold notes on constructing various sinister constructs, including the creature that hunted Remmy and something called an “akaruzug” that requires the soul of a freshly slain corpse to sustain it. Upon learning that, Arlynn and Nox fear for the fate of Ishani Dhatri.

Togomor’s books also contain speculation about Ileosa’s plans to achieve immortality, plans she has apparently not shared with the wizard. Flipping through the texts, Nox notices that random pages will be dedicated to half-finished sketches of a strange worm-shaped creature with three heads at one end and a gaping maw at the other. The adventurers cannot identify the monster to any degree beyond suspecting that it is some kind of devil.

Adjacent to the guardroom, the Crimson Blades discover the Arabasti family archives, which record the histories and decrees of a century’s worth of Arabasti rulers of Korvosa. They notice that no new documents have been entered into the archives since the death of King Eodred II. Ashla notes that this further weakens the Queen’s legitimacy.

Within the reading room, they find a map of Korvosa marked with plans for a grandiose series of monuments to Ileosa. Beneath it is a chest full of maps, including one with annotations by Togomor that appears to be directions to a ruin called the Sunken Queen that lies in the swampy Mushfens northwest of the city.

News from the Home Front

After making these discoveries, the party also asks Freya what she is up to. She explains that after letting the Hellknights into the city, she took stock of the battle and decided to follow the party’s path into the castle to update them. Ashla is skeptical of the Ulfen rogue, but is placated by Arlynn’s assurance that the blond woman seems to be speaking the truth.

Freya explains that Sabina’s raid on the Longacre Building has been a success and a large number of Gray Maiden defectors have joined the rebels. The Hellknights, meanwhile, have captured the old Guard headquarters in Citadel Volshyenek. This has spurred the Great Houses to start deploying their house guards against the Queen’s forces, although violence has also broken out between the Ironsoots and House Arkona’s troops. The regime forces still hold the Great Tower and other sections of the city, but momentum seems to be on the rebels’ side. Three treants have also been seen striding through the city in the direction of the castle, news which heartens Egan.

The adventurers decide to send Freya back to Cressida with the information they had learned of Ileosa’s plans. They also urge her to tell Cressida to keep the Arkonas and Ironsoots apart from each other. Nox adds that she instruct the Hellknights to try to take the lower levels of the castle if the opportunity arises. The adventurers also note that Cressida should look into seizing the blood vials collected by the Temple of Asmodeus, as they may play some role in Ileosa’s blood magic scheme.

They ask her to return to the castle when she is able, as they may have additional messages for her to carry. Freya says she is happy to return “as long as you look first before swinging fists.”

“Don’t worry, I recognize your footsteps now,” Egan assures her.

Nox wishes Freya good luck, as she does to him before fading back into the shadows.

Cast Off Your Chains

While the rest of the party goes about their business, Laori remains in the snow-strewn parlor. The elf priestess stares at the spot where the horned devil had disappeared—with her chain in its clutches.

“This is ZK punishing me,” she moans. “The spiked chain was his sacred weapon…”

“Do not be afraid, Laori,” Arlynn reassures her. “Your courage lies within your heart, not your weapon, and you’ve friends who will always stand by your side. Nor is the Midnight Lord is the only god to watch over us. Do you recall when the Inheritor blessed Slim’s crossbow against one of the Scarwall ghosts? The bearer always matters more than the blade.”

“While I understand that spike chain is special to you,” Nox says, handing her a Gray Maiden’s longsword, “these always cut. Just like your spikes, don’t they?”

“Spikes kinda poke more than cut, really,” Laori says, holding the sword by the pommel as if it were unclean. As she takes the weapon from Nox, however, it starts to glimmer with a holy light reminiscent of the kind that often surrounds the blades of Arlynn and Irabeth. The elf maiden is surprised, but grips the sword hilt more firmly and makes some practice swings.

“You see? Zon-Kuthon isn’t the only one who has your back,” Arlynn grins.

“More so than that, I think,” Nox says. “Just like the one you saved in the other room, it looks like Iomedae has her eye on somebody else.”

“Are you sure she isn’t going to, y’know, do a double take?” Laori asks skeptically, glancing down at her hook-studded black chainmail and the skull-faced unholy symbol hanging from her neck.

“I don’t know what that means,” Ashla declares. “So probably not.”

“Oh, a double take is when you look at something and you look away and you look again and you’re shocked because you didn’t really notice it the first time,” Laori explains. “It’s part of a comedic routine that, like, these acting troupes in Riddleport would sometimes do and we’d hit them with rotten fruit. It was so much fun!”

“Are you saying Iomedae made a mistake?” Ashla asks.

“Yeah, and I’ll probably get hit with rotten fruit.” Laori says, casting her eyes down. She flexes her grip on the glowing sword. “But, maybe not, maybe not.”

“If they try I’ll block it with my shield,” Nox assures her.

“And I’ll block it with my fists,” Egan adds.

Size Matters Not

“Aww, that’s so sweet,” Laori squees. “I knew I could count on you guys!” She tries to grab Nox and Arlynn into a big hug. The one spike that impaled the devil’s eye has a malicious gleam, but the heroes shrug and enjoy the embrace.

“Go Team Super Blood Explosion!” she shouts upon releasing them.

“Team Super Blood Explosion?” Nox repeats skeptically.

“It was our Blood Pig team name,” Ashla helpfully explains.

“What’s Blood Pig?” Nox asks warily. “Oh, wait, you can just tell me later.”

“It’s a sport so awesome that we won it and now they don’t need to play it anymore ’cause we won it so awesomely,” Laori blurts out. “Also, they’re out of pigs.”

“Those were the good old days,” Egan muses.

“Um, you’ll have to tell me this afterwards,” Nox says.

“I got thrown down a hole,” Kyra grumbles.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Nox says. Kyra’s eyes narrow.

“Not because you’re small, but because there was apparently pigs,” Nox continues.

“Yeah, thanks,” Kyra grits. Across the room, Ashla snickers.

“Well, you’re about the size of— I mean, not in that way, but I meant just—” the fighter stammers as the halfling’s fingers drift towards her dagger hilt.

“Nox, just stop talking,” Egan advises, stepping between them.

“Listen to the reasonable one,” Kyra says, bowing her head at the gnome. “You don’t want to say anything you can’t take back. Because when you do, I’ll remove your tongue. Not like right now, but a like year from now. When you’re sleeping. Remember how I got my ring.”

“I do,” Nox says with a solemn nod. Kyra cocks her head at him, then shrugs and drifts back over to Zandu’s side.

You Have Reached Level Two

After drying out a bit from the sleet storm, the adventurers consult the map of the grounds that Sabina and Neolandis prepared for them. With Togomor’s whereabouts unknown, their next target is the Queen, likely to be found either in the throne room or her quarters on the second floor.

Rather than the central staircase, they take a smaller set of stairs up from the reading room to reach a storage room adjoining the gallery.

Mysteriously, the storage chamber is heaped and stacked and piled with chairs of all shapes and sizes, from simple stools to elegant armchairs.

From overhead, a voice faintly whispers…

Castle Crashers
Crown of Fangs, Part 5

At the Loranth estate, Kyra is impressed with the scale of the family’s holdings, but admits she’s been keeping her sticky fingers to herself since they’re Zandu’s kinfolk.

With Arlynn cured, the archives searched, and the spell research underway, Zandu teleports the three of them back to the embassy in Korvosa.

In Like Flint

While Zandu, Arlynn and Kyra visit the Loranth Estate, Nox and Marl take a nighttime trip to House Endrin. They try to dodge the curfew, but quickly fall to arguing about which back alley route to take through the city. Their dispute draws the attention of a squad of Gray Maidens, who demand to know why they are skulking in the shadows violating curfew.

Nox introduces himself in a menacing fashion, insisting that he is on official business traveling to the Endrin Estate. He successfully intimidates the Maidens into offering him an escort to the estate.

Nox announces himself to guards at the entrance, insisting that he is here to see Telus Endrin. Marl been shuttling messages back and forth between the embassy and the manor, so he is welcomed inside despite some initial suspicion over the late hour. Nox is led to a foyer, where he inspects a painting depicting the meeting of city founders Waydon Endrin and Jetska Korvosa while servants summon Telus.

Telus, up late drinking and brooding, calls them into a guest room. Nox references their correspondence and says that the time has come to strike at the Queen. Telus has reservations on joining the fight, particularly the repercussions of failure. Nox reassures him that tomorrow’s raid will be glorious and will result in the elevation of both House Endrin and Telus’ own name. Telus presses for specifics and is promised the elevation of his family as one of the Great Houses as well as his appointment as the new Commandant of a restored Sable Company.

They discuss plans for a little while, preparing for the big raid in the morning. Marl, meanwhile, helps himself to the quality booze in the guest room. When Telus steps out for a moment, the sellsword questions Nox on how useful the noble will be in a battle. Nox notes that Telus is one of the finest archers in the city, where he is known at tourneys by the nickname “Flint.”

Rather than risk the curfew again, Nox decides to spend the night at the Endrin estate.

False Hopes

Back at the embassy, an agitated Remmy approaches Egan with a heavy conscience. She had been talking to Sabina and is outraged that the party hasn’t fully confided in the defector regarding the situation with the Queen, particularly the possibility that the Crown of Fangs is possessing Ileosa in some way. She says that they’ve made Sabina feel like killing the Queen is only way to stop her.

Egan says that keeping Sabina in the dark is for the best, since while the party will try to capture the Queen that might not prove possible. They don’t wish to give the former lover of the queen a false hope. Remmy seems to be reassured by this, although still heavy-hearted. She joins Egan and Laori in baking good berry tarts.

Guild Wars

After returning to the embassy, Arlynn goes through messages to the resistance, giving marching orders and receiving information. Most noteworthy is an offer of help from the Ironsoots, an underground guild of smiths and ironworkers in Korvosa.In the event of an uprising, the Ironsoots are willing to help organize the common people into more than just mere mobs, while in the longer term they are willing to sabotage the regime’s equipment supplies.

In return, they want official recognition once the Queen is overthrown. The Korvosan Charter currently outlaws guilds—other than the Cerulean Society—in order to prevent price fixing. Cressida and Neolandis argue against taking up the group’s offer, while Vencarlo supports it. After consulting with the rest of the Crimson Blades, Arlynn decides to strike a middle course: appealing to the Ironsoots to aid the rebellion anyway, which would earn them tremendous goodwill. This deft response seems to be amendable to all parties.

Dreams and Portents

After finally bedding down for the evening, Egan has a dream about his father. They are strolling through the woods north of the city, with the older gnome telling his son that he is proud of him and all that he has accomplished with the Crimson Blades. But their path is abruptly blocked by a giant tentacle stretching out from Korvorsa, having crushed everything in its path.

Egan’s father warns that the evil in the heart of the castle has stretched its tentacles beyond the city and into the wild. The party may strike at the heart of the corruption, but just as the starfish can regrow itself from a single arm the evil will return unless the party follows the tendrils where they lead. He warns Egan that “it all ends in blood.”

When morning reaches the Embassy, Egan relays the dream to those present.

Bridge Over the River Jeggare

Per the plan, the uprising does not begin until mid-morning, when Sabina and the rebels launch their attack on the Longacre Building. That is the signal for the general uprising, as well as attacks on the city walls. Treebeard and his treants attack the North Gate, hurling boulders at the structure, while the Hellknights attack the southern gate (with some help from Freya). Bells ring out across the city, as squads of Gray Maidens scramble to put down the rebels and hold the gates.

Nox and Flint find themselves caught in the East Shore district as the uprising begins and soon learn that the Gray Maidens have closed the High Bridge gate. The bridge itself is littered with bodies from the rebellious citizens’ first attempt to take it. Nox and Flint quickly come up with a plan to get across. Flint takes Nox’s potion of fly, while Nox rallies the common people to take back their city. The rioters create a turtle out of an overturned wagon and begin advancing across the bridge, with Nox in the lead to draw the Maidens’ arrows.

Two shafts find their mark on the fighter, drawing blood, while a third shaft also zaps him with electricity. Flying overhead, Flint notices that the third arrow does not appear to have been loosed by any of the visible archers. Unable to spy the winch mechanism for opening the gate, Flint flies closer to take aim at the Gray Maidens.

Meanwhile, a ballista is wheeled into position to loose against the rioters’ wagon. However, one of the Gray Maidens has a change of heart and knocks the siege weapon out of alignment. Dissension in the ranks breaks out, while Nox and the rioters reach the gates, where the fighter drinks a potion of enlarge person and works with the commoners to try to lift the portcullis.

Despite being harried by the invisible sniper, Flint swoops in and unleashes a torrent of arrows, killing two Grey Maidens. He asks the mutinous Maiden where the mechanism is to open the gates and she directs him to the chamber below her. In that room, the mysterious sniper giggles and says “See ya”, before passing invisibly near him to the arrow slit. Flint releases the winch to raise the gate and then reunites with Nox.

Just down the street, a group of cavalry lead by an armored centaur in Hellknight armor approach. Mistress of Blades Maidrayne Vox greets the two nobles and inquires after their status. She also advises that the main force is just behind them, and should have healing and spare horses with them. The Hellknights’ first objective is to capture Citadel Volshyenek, the Guard headquarters.

The two decide to wait and are soon approached by the larger contingent of infantry. They are greeted by Lictor Severs “Boneclaw” DiVri. Nox reveals the parties’ plan to storm the castle during the chaos and deposing of the Queen. The Lictor supplies him with healing and a horse, to which Nox also instructs that a detachment be sent to High Bridge to secure the area and heal the civilians injured in the assault. Lictor Boneclaw obliges and says he will await a signal from the castle and wishes them good hunting before returning to his march toward the Citadel.

The Secret Door

The two noble hustle across the city to reunite with the rest of the Crimson Blades near the base of the Grand Mastaba. Zandu teleports them in several groups to the area near the secret entrance. His magic spirals out of control on his first return trip, but thankfully he is teleported nearby and is able to find the rest of the party with help from a swarm of pseudodragons led by Majenko.

Once everyone has been assembled by the secret entrance, they face their next challenge—the fact that the secret door is 15 feet above ground level. Egan takes his Earth Elemental form and glides through the black marble walls to scout into the armory and look for traps. The secret door itself is locked, but detect magic picks up an aura around it that Egan and Zandu suspect is an alarm spell, or worse. Inside, the armory is empty save for racks of weapons and a long table under which rests a 15-foot ladder. Earth-Egan uses shape stone to expand an arrow slit near the door into a proper opening, using the excess stone to create stairs down to the party and block off a nearby spiral staircase leading up.

Hell’s Kitchen

The party advances down a long hallway to an empty room that looks as if it had been converted from kitchen storage into a barracks. Consulting the map that Sabina and Neolandis had sketched out for them, they continue towards the main mess hall.

As they approach the hall, they can hear a trio of guttural voices singing in a language Zandu recognizes as infernal, but the chorus is in Common:

“Who would say a single beast could give us such a double feast?
Yes, my friends, we’ve meat and fowl—cooking up from arse to jowl!”

The mess hall itself has been transformed into a little slice of Hell, complete with fire, brimstone, and the souls of the damned writhing in agony. Looking more closely, however, the adventurers are able to discern that the hellscape is merely an illusion layered over the more mundane chamber—perhaps to make it more homey for the three Barbed Devils who currently occupy it. The trio is singing off-key as they roast a hippogriff in the chamber’s huge fireplace.

With the devils distracted, the Crimson Blades have time to plot an ambush. Earth-Egan, Kyra, and invisible Ashla stealthily enter the room and each line up their target. The druid and the ranger strike true, but Kyra has a run of bad luck. Her blade glances off the devil’s barbs, and when she tries to duck beneath a table for cover her boot slips on a bit of viscera, sending her faceplanting while her returning dagger thunks into the tabletop above.

The barbed devils shriek in fear and pain at the ambush, while the rest of the party moves into the room. The devils’ first move is to back away from the adventurers as best they can and cast a summoning spell. Nox closes to battle with one while Ashla and Earth-Egan clash with the other two. Arlynn moves towards the center of the room to extend her aura of faith to Ashla, while Flint takes up a position to begin feathering the devils, and Irabeth and Laori guard the rear.

Beards and Barbs

The barbed devils’ summoning warps in five bearded devils, who wade into the fray, while the barbed devils’ own defensive spines sink into Ashla and Nox’s sword arms.

The turning point of the fight happens when Zandu strides into the room and lines up an effective blast of chain lightning that clears away most of the devils. After that, it was a matter of cleaning up the remaining devils, with Nox and Arlynn each cleaving one in two, Flint pinning one into the wall with a torrent of arrows, and Egan finishing the battle by earth uppercutting one into dust.

Arlynn finishes off a badly wounded barbed devil with Serithtial, the blade proving surprisingly sharp, and Earth-Egan smooshes another against a pillar, but the last of the trio, Peever, teleports away.

After pausing to heal and quickly investigate another empty barracks chamber, the adventures regroup and advance on the seneschal’s apartment.

It’s a Trap!

The Crimson Blades pile into a small junction room that serves as a public parlor, with a small hallway splitting off from it to connect with the seneschal’s residence. Kyra picks the lock while Zandu peers through the door with detect magic, turning up only a few auras from objects inside.

As Nox gets ready to kick in the door, but he gets feeling that something isn’t right. The Devils running rampant, no servants, humans sharing spaces with devils, it all is unsettling and not normal for a situation where the devils serve. After this moment, he kicks down the door, he has just enough time to see a large imp point and laugh, get shot by a quick-drawing Flint, and fly out the window. Before the party can react, the sound of armored boots fills their ears, approaching from both sides…

Eve of Rebellion
Crown of Fangs, Part 4

Revolution Delayed

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.

Blocks away, Nox, Kyra and Remmy abandon the burning spider corpse on the front lawn of the Reformatorium and make a desperate attempt to reach the source of the first roar.

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. Content Not Found: laor 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.

Sabina’s Turn

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.

Dragon’s Downfall

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 Content Not Found: kentra 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.

The Case of the Missing Maiden
Crown of Fangs, Interlude

A Few Questions

While the rest of the party treks off to rescue Jerem Farima, Nox and an invisible Kyra head to the Longacre Building in North Point to look for Remmy. According to Zandu’s cousin, she met with another Gray Maiden in an alley behind the building, but they were interrupted by a patrol of Maidens. In the ensuing scuffle, Remmy vanished.

Unable to find anything conclusive at the scene of the fight, Nox opts for the direct approach. He walks right up to the Longacre Building and tells the Gray Maiden sentries outside that he is investigating reports from concerned citizens about a scuffle between some Maidens. He is soon greeted by Sergeant Oriana, a big burly woman in the same faceless plate armor.

“This is an internal matter,” she insists. “What’s a Chelaxian diplomat doing asking about it anyway?”

“Some concerned citizens notified me of the incident,” he explains. “Turmoil within the Queen’s guard is a subject of great interest to Cheliax, as I’m sure you understand.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” Oriana grits. “Who were these concerned citizens?”

“I’m afraid they did not give their names,” Nox tells her. “Now, please describe the incident.”

“A deserter named Remmy contacted one of the sisters of our Order, Kelles Vel, and the two met in secret in the alley behind the Longacre Building,” the sergeant explains. “My patrol was returning to the building at the time and I attempted to arrest them for violating regulations—no secret assignations and no travel in public in groups of less than four. During the scuffle, the deserter lost her hat, which broke whatever illusion she was under and revealed her armor. We chased her into the Dock Trade, but a flock of those damned pseudodragons swarmed us and we lost her. A search of the city is underway.”

“I would be happy to assist with the hunt,” Nox offers.

Oriana cocks her helmeted head at him skeptically. “And what good would a lone diplomat be against this dangerous outlaw, especially wandering around without an escort? You could be abducted by the insurgents, or worse.”

“Trust me,” Nox says, patting his sword hilt, “I’m not some aristocratic dandy in shiny armor who doesn’t know which way to point a sword. I’m a troubleshooter for the Empress, and I have some experience tracking down fugitives.”

The Gray Maiden Sergeant gives him a once over and then nods. “Good! Korvosa has too many weak-wristed blue bloods as it is. If you want to search for the deserter, feel free. I’d be happy to assign you a squad of Maidens to help bring her in.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Nox says. “In my experience, the hunt goes faster if you work alone. Do you happen to have the enchanted hat the fugitive was wearing.”

“No,” Oriana says regretfully, “we gave the hat over to the Seneschal, Togomor, for his special construct to use to hunt her down. But I prefer to put my trust in people, not things. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get ready for another patrol.”

After bidding the Sergeant farewell, Nox treks towards the Dock Trade.

“I don’t like the sound of that construct,” he murmurs.

“Me neither,” invisible Kyra replies from down by his waist. “Sounds like we’ve got a race on our hands.”

The halfling informs Nox that the Dock Trade is a major center for black market goods in Korvosa, despite the best efforts of the Guard and the Hellknights. She notes that a flock of pseudodragons roosts in the area and will sometimes swoop down to create a ruckus. It’s curious that they intervened at such a convenient moment.

“Maybe Majenko has gotten the word out to the pseudodragons,” Nox speculates.

Threads of Evidence

The Dock Trade consists of a series of converted warehouses linked together and stuffed with stalls and lean-tos. They arrive just as the market is beginning to close for the day, with shopkeepers stowing away their wares. Kyra quietly points out that most of the goods on display have some slight damage here and there, “like they fell off the back of the cart.”

Kyra checks on the pseudragons, but finds they’ve been driven from their roost in the warehouse rafters. Nox asks around for witnesses to the incident, eventually find a suspiciously clean merchant with a bland face who claimed to have seen the whole thing.

“You didn’t hear it from me, but it was all the Maidens’ fault,” the merchant says. “One of them charged through here, waving around this gold necklace with a glittering green gem and shouting ‘Shiny! Shiny!’ So naturally those dreadful pseudragons took note and swooped down to investigate, just in time to get in the faces of the other Maidens—and everyone else nearby. Horrible little things, knocking over produce and getting their dirty little feet everywhere. They eat rats, you know! Dirty, disease-ridden rats.”

“This first Maiden, did you see where she went?” Nox asks.

“Who could tell with those winged beasts fluttering everywhere!” the merchant says. “Those Maidens clomped all over the market in their steel boots, even up on roof if you can believe it.”

Nox and invisible Kyra make their way up onto the roof of the warehouse, where with a little looking they find some crimson threads from a Gray Maiden cloak.

“The Shingles!” Kyra says. “Of course! I should have known that’s where she’d go.”

“Are you sure?” Nox asks. “I mean, she’s no Irabeth, but clambering around in that armor…”

“Remmy’s an Old Korvosa girl, like me,” Kyra says. “Bridgefront instead of Old Dock, but I forgive her. Old Korvosa is where the Shingles started and everyone raised there knows their way around them.”

Nox surveys the rooftop. Several makeshift paths of planks and netting connect with adjacent rooftops in multiple different directions, some rising up towards the castle and Citadel Hill and others descending down to West Dock or winding up towards North Point. As twilight settles over the city, the buildings start to fade together.

“Hmm,” the fighter mutters. “Where do Remmy’s parents live?”

“She’s got them set up in a house in Midland,” Kyra says, “but she won’t go there. Too obvious, and besides, they haven’t seen her since the whole ocular reduction procedure.”

“I see,” Nox says. He looks around and shrugs. “Well, it seems like we’ve hit a dead end.”

“Oh, don’t be a quitter,” Kyra says, nudging his armored thigh with an invisible elbow. “A Gray Maiden wandering around the Shingles is bound to attract attention. Let’s head down to Twitcher’s Tavern and ask if anyone’s seen her.”

“Lead on, then,” Nox says, “you know the way better than I.”

“Um,” says Kyra, “I think I’m gonna stay invisible if you don’t mind. This is kinda my first time out away from Zandu since the demilich incident and, yeah…”

She curls her small fingers around Nox’s hand and, still unseen, tugs him along in one direction.

Ages Past

Traversing the Shingles after dark is precarious, but clambering out on the open rooftops proves easier that trying to move through shadow-strewn alleys below.

“Tell me something, Kyra,” Nox asks as they clamber over roofs. “Why was Remmy and everyone else such big fans of a lowlife like Slim?”

“Slim was a good guy,” the halfling explains. “Kept his word and always had your back in a fight.”

“Doesn’t sound like the man I knew,” Nox says bitterly. “The boy was a coward who seduced my sister, got her in over her head, and left her to die.”

“The way he tells it, she was the leading him into trouble,” Kyra says.

“Valria was always a little headstrong and wild,” Nox admits.

“Whatever happened, Slim was definitely haunted by something,” Kyra adds

“I dunno, maybe you’re right and there was more to him than I thought,” Nox says grudgingly.

They scramble across a tiled roof and continue in silence for a little while, until the invisible halfling speaks up again.

“We’re kinda getting back to your bounty hunting roots tonight, aren’t we?” Kyra says cheerily, but a note of tension enters her voice as she continues. “When you were in the personal acquisition and recovery business in Cheliax, did you ever retrieve any … escaped property?” Kyra asks.

“I never went looking for escaped slaves and I never would; that business disgusts me,” Nox assures her. “And I wasn’t really a bounty hunter, more like Amprei’s muscle. Someone else would track down his enemies and then point me towards them to drop the hammer.”

“Well that’s good to know,” the halfling says. “Say, did I ever tell you how I got my brass ring, the one I wear in my hair?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Nox says.

“Back when I turned 20, there was this bounty hunter prowling through Smalltown and snatching up escaped slaves to take back to Cheliax,” she explains. "I already had a rep as quick, sneaky, and good at climbing, so the halfling elders decided that my coming of age rite would be to follow the bounty hunter discover his secret lair in the Shingles.

“Turns out it was a fortified shack over by Eel’s End. I shadowed the bounty hunter there and waited ‘til he went to sleep. But I didn’t go back to the elders. Instead I picked the lock on the door.

“He was flopped down onto this bed and snoring away, which helped muffle the sound as I carefully chained him to the wall with his own manacles. Once that was done, I decided to snag this little brass ring he had on his left hand. As a memento, you know?

“The whole time I was terrified that he’d wake up. But once he was all shackled him up and I had that ring, well, I kicked him away, stuck my tongue out at him, and then scampered off with his curses ringing in my ears. Then I reported to the elders and they came and beat the shit out of him and took his thumbs. They stuffed him into a crate and put him on a House Leroung ship, the ones with all-halfling crews, and shipped him all the way back to Westcrown as warning not to go slave-catching in Korvosa.

“The lesson in all this, Your Soon-to-Be Majesty, is don’t fuck with the small folk,” she concludes. “If you treat the halfling community right when you take the throne, well have your back, but try to bring any of that Cheliax crap here and I’ll personally cut your femoral artery—it’s right at eye-height for me.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about, Kyra,” Nox says. “My family has always been good to the halfling community and as for Cheliax, I think Korvosa is too close to the Empire already.”

“All right then,” Kyra says, much more cheerful. “As long you’re also a fan of regulated crime, I think there’s a bright future here for you.”

News of the Weird

Twitcher’s Tavern appears to have grown out of a large attic into a sprawling rooftop structure almost fractal in shape. As a result, its interior seems to consist almost entirely of shady corners where small groups of even shadier customers chat quietly. Nox gets a few strange looks for walking in wearing black and gold full plate, but once it’s clear he’s not looking for trouble the clientele ignore him.

The fighter strolls up to the central bare, which is tended by a flame-haired man in his late 30s with average looks. Nox asks for what’s on tap and the bartender notes that they have a wide variety of domestic and imported ales and liquors.

“Give me one of the local brown ales,” Nox says.

“Right you are, m’lord,” the bartender says, pouring up a frothy mug. He nods at Nox’s helmet. “Might be a bit messy going down, but I can get you a straw if you like.”

“No need,” Nox smirks and lifts up his visor to take a drink. Once he is sated, he asks “Any strange happenings in the Shingles of late? Any news of a lone Gray Maiden running about?”

“Strange things happen all the time in the Shingles,” the man says, “but I’ve heard of your Maiden. She’s been going on a merry dash across half the roofs in Korvosa, from what my customers say. Word is she was last seen by the Marbledome, right before the building collapsed just a few hours ago.”

“It collapsed?” Nox asks, startled.

“Part of it did,” the red head shrugs. “And your Gray Maiden wasn’t the only strange thing in the Shingles when the collapse happened, though I’m a mite fuzzy on the details.”

“Pour me another while you try to remember,” Nox says, slapping down enough coin for three refills. “And keep the change.”

The bartender palms the coins and then slides another beer across. “It’s coming back to me now. Folk say that there was this giant spider things scrambling through the Shingles, clutching this floppy hat in one claw. It was last seen near the Marbledome, too.”

“A giant spider,” Nox repeats slowly. He takes a long sip from his ale before asking “Any idea what kind of spider it was?”

“No kind anybody round here’s seen before,” the bartender says, peering around the dimly lit room. “Big black thing the size of a horse, maybe bigger. Even a tunnel terror would be scared of this thing, from what I’ve heard.”

“Anything else prowling around the Shingles that I should know about?” Nox asks.

“Plenty of things you should know about,” the red head chuckles, “But if you’re asking about anything new, well, some folk say that there’s a great black dragon roosting in the castle that comes out at night to patrol the skies. Haven’t seen it myself and I wonder how such a thing could stay hidden even in the castle, but that’s the word on the gutters.”

“Does this dragon have any particular patrol route it favors?” the fighter asks.

“Hard to say from rumors,” the bartender admits, “but the closer you are to the castle, the better chance you’ve got to see it.”

Nox downs the rest of his ale and then locks his visor back into place. “Thanks for the drink, and the news, but I must be off.”

“Stay safe out there, m’lord Adjudicator,” the bartender calls after him.

Itsy Bigsy Spider

Outside, Nox complains. “What the hell is a big hairy spider doing chasing after Remmy?”

“And you know we’re going to have to fight it,” invisible Kyra groans. “I hate big hairy things.”

“And yet you’re with Zandu,” Nox smirks.

“I know, trust me, I know.,” Kyra says. “But when my boy gets all halfing-shaped…” She lets out a breathy sigh.

“Don’t go weak at the knees, lovebird,” Nox chides her, “we’ve got to catch that thing before it gets to Remmy.”

They trek across the rooftops, following a zigzagging path up Citadel Hills into the ritzy heights district where paths through the Shingles are few and far between. As they approach the Marbledome, they can see that the top two stories of the back corner of the building have collapsed. A crew of dwarven engineers working under gaslight are surveying the wreckage while the theater manager vents his fury at them and anyone else in reach.

Most of the Shingles connections to the building have been broken by the crash, so Nox and Kyra are forced to access the building by going hand over hand along a stray rope. As they dangle out in the open, Nox catches the attention of the dwarf foreman and the theater manager.

“What it blazes are ye doin’, ye darft fool!” the dwarf shouts. “The whole structure’s unstable!”

“Get away from my building!” the theater owner howls. Grabs a piece of rubble from the street and chucks it ineffectually in Nox’s direction. “You rotten miscreants caused this mess—I won’t let you finish the job!”

“Have either of you seen a Gray Maiden or a giant spider crawling on the rooftops?” Nox calls down to them.

The entire building trembles with a sudden shutter, nearly dislodging Nox from the rope. The enormous rubble pile shudders and then eight black legs force their way out. The giant spider create rises out the dust and detritus, a floppy hat clutched in one of its antennae. It shakes itself off and then begins scrambling up the side of the building and off over the rooftops.

“Never mind!” Nox calls out, hauling himself after the creature. The fighter climbs around a collapsed roof, stares down an angry drunk, and gets briefly held up by a guard dog. Kyra suffers an unlucky fall from the collapsed roof but otherwise catches up.

While the guard dog distracts Nox, the spider creature arrives at the dilapidated roof of a mansion and zeroes in on an old pigeon coop at one end of the house. It skitters over to the small shack and tears it open with its claws, causing Remmy to spring out of the wreckage and hack at it with her longsword. The Gray Maiden looks a bit worse for wear, her armor scuffed and spattered with blood. The spider blasts Remmy with a beam of cold magic from one of its eyes.

Nox finally calms down the guard dog and quickly runs to help, while Kyra calls to him to set up a flank.

“Nox! You’re a sight for sore eye!” Remmy says, craning her head to peer at him between the spider construct’s spindly legs.

“You’re weren’t exactly easy to find,” he replies.

“That was the idea,” Remmy says, hacking at the monster. “This thing won’t stop following me, even after I dropped a building on it.”

“That was you?” Nox asks, looking for a weak spot. “You’ll have to tell me the whole story once we kill this thing.”

The two fighters tear into the creature with their blades, rending open gashes in its chitinous exterior which ooze out a pale gray fluid. To their dismay, the fluid rapidly begins to harden around edges of the wounds and darken into a new layer of chitin. They step up their attacks, trying to tear it apart before it can put itself back together. Kyra takes aim at its eyes with her dagger, but the blade misses by half an inch.

The spider construct casts its baleful gaze towards Nox and one of its eyes glows an eerie red. The warrior feels his skin start to tighten and flexes his muscles to shake off the effect before it can take hold. In his hand, his sword burns bright with every strike against the creature, letting him know that while it may be a construct it is imbued with evil.

Under the storm of blows from the two warriors, the spider retreats down the side of the building. Its eyes begin to glow an eerie yellow, but Nox puts out that fire with a thrust from his sun blade, burying it deep between the spider’s eye cluster. Its legs curl up in a final death spasm and it tumbles from the side of the building, taking Nox’s sword with it. Kyra, also hanging from the side of the building, snatches the floppy hat from its grasp as it tumbles by. The construct crashes down to the ground in front of the mansion, its legs thrust up in the air.

Picking Up the Pieces

Nox clambers down the side of the building, noting that the words “KORVOSA REFORMATORIUM” are stenciled in rusty metal over the entrance. By the time he reaches the ground, a dozen people have gathered outside to gawk at the spider corpse. An old aristocrat with an enormous powdered wig and a monocle towers over the rest of the group, a trivial feat given that the others are all goblins dressed as butlers, servants, and cooks.

“What in the Nine Hells is this thing,” the old man says, gesturing at the body. “And what were you doing on the Reformatorium roof?”

“Sorry about that,” Nox shrugs, “just clearing out a bad infestation.”

“Infestation?” the old aristocrat stutters. He turns to one of the goblin butlers, a plump creature with pencil thin mustache and monocle. “Gribbet, did we have any infestation on the roof?”

“No, sir,” the goblin intones, its nose thrust in the air, “that’s why we have the dog,”

“Not your roof,” Nox says, “the Marbledome. Cleared out a whole test over there, but this one gave us a chase.”

“Well, whatever it is, I want it gone by morning,” the aristocrat says. “It will drive away our clientele.”

One of the goblin cooks creeps towards the glowing sword and Nox swats him away.

“Lay one finger on that sword and you’ll lose your head,” the fighter warns. He pulls the sword from the spider and then checks the wound to be sure it isn’t healing.

“Get them back inside, Gribbet,” the aristocrat says, polishing his monocle, “there’s nothing more to see here.”

The head goblin butler ushers the others inside, bows, and departs. Kyra and a disguised Remmy emerge from behind the building.

“More of your exterminators?” the aristocrat says skeptically.

“My associates,” Nox nods. “Don’t worry, citizen, we’ll take care of this mess.”

“You’d better,” the old man warns, before returning to the building. A few moments later, he can be seen peering out from behind the curtains in the front room window.

“What the hell is this place?” Nox says, cleaning the gunk off his sword.

“The old Reformatorium,” Kyra grumbles. “Used to be where Korvosa’s noble families sent their arsehole delinquent kids to get scared straight, but in the last few months the new headmaster turned it into an academy for these goblin servants that are all the rage. I hate those green grubby bastards, taking good jobs from halflings. How the hell can you train a goblin not to set fire to everything in sight, anyway?”

“I’m more worried about getting rid of this thing,” Remmy says, nodding at the hulking spider corpse. The Gray Maiden has disguised herself as a roguish young woman in leather armor with short pink hair poking out from under a stylish cap.

“Just drag it into the alley and leave it,” Kyra shrugs.

“No, we need at least a piece of it for someone else to identify,” Nox says. “If it is what I think it is, this thing could help discredit the queen.”

“Well, your not fitting that into a bag of holding,” the halfling says.

“We don’t need to fit all of it,” Nox says, hefting his sword.

He and Remmy cut off as many chunks as they can cram into the bag. Then they turn to survey the remaining bulk of the construct, which has started to give off an oily scent.

“What the hell do we do with this then?” Remmy asks.

“Burn it,” Nox says. “Anybody got any kindling?”

“Better,” Kyra grins, producing a bottle of alchemist’s fire. “From Zandu’s special stock. He gives the sweetest gifts, you know.”

As the flames slowly lick across the surface of the horse-sized spider, the three of them can hear the cheers of a distant crowd coming from the direction the rest of the party had traveled. The cheers are abruptly silenced by the sound of a terrifying roar.

“I think we should probably be going now,” Nox says.

Evil Unmasked
Crown of Fangs, Part 3

Blackjack’s Back

Immediately after Trifaccia issues his challenge to the Crimson Blades, a figure in a dark cloak and black mask steps out of the shadows and into the tent.

“You are merely a false hero, fighting false rebels, on behalf of a false queen who murdered her rightful king!" the figure declares, drawing her swords. "Let’s fix that!”

“By the gods, Blackjack has returned!” an onlooker gasps.

“And is a woman!” another remarks.

“And who might this pretender be?" Triffaccia snorts. "You wear the garb of Blackjack, but you do not match the tales.”

“There is only one Blackjack, and I am he!” replies Ashla.

“Very well," says Trifaccia, "if you are throwing your lot in with these rabble-rousers, you can be their champion and share their fate!”

While this is happening, Nox conks the captured ruffian over the head and together with Arlynn drag him out to a nearby alley. Nox slaps the man awake to interrogate him within the paladin’s zone of truth.

Inside the tent, Blackjack and Trifaccia duel, her twin swords against his flaming scimitar. The two are closely matched and the fight quickly begins to turn on their technical skill with the blade rather than raw power.

Drawing upon her lessons with Vencarlo, Ashla is able to twist the burning sword out of Trifaccia’s hands. The false hero dodges past her to retrieve the weapon and the fight continues.

Do the Right Thing

Back in the alleyway, Nox puts the squeeze to the ruffian, demanding to know who paid him and who he works for. Arlynn urges him to cooperate so that they can get to the bottom of the situation.

After some prodding, the thug admits that Togomor, the new seneschal, paid his gang a lot of coin to create messes and discredit the rebels, only to scatter whenever Trifaccia arrived on the scene. They were told to crash today’s event and wish bad things on the Crimson Blades and then run away when Trifaccia arrived, per usual.

The ruffian doesn’t know who Trifaccia is and where he came from, but thinks he isn’t human and might be some kind of devil. Nox demands that he admit this to the crowd and threatens to break his fingers if he refuses, but the man is more scared of the false hero than he is of the fighter.

Arlynn, however, tells the thug that deep down he knows that exposing this monster is the right thing to do for Korvosa and for himself. The ruffian shakily agrees to spill the beans.

Inside the tent, Ashla has also caught on that her opponent is more than human. His reflexes are too good, his motions to fluid, for him to be anything other than a fiend of some sort—but which breed, she cannot say. So she tries to bait him.

“I know that you are no true citizen of Korvosa!” she accuses, deflecting a blow. “You’re an evil outsider!”

“Is he an evil person from out of town, or an evil person from another plane of reality?” someone calls from the crowd.

“The second one,” Ashla hollers back.

Trifaccia deftly twists the ranger’s shortsword from her hand, then retreats up onto a table. Ashla responds by kicking over the table, but the false hero keeps his footing. He returns the favor by kicking a chair at her.

Outside, Nox hauls the ruffian over to the blue tent, where Arlynn cuts a hole in the cloth and the three of them step inside.

“Stop this duel at once!” Arlynn proclaims, “this has all been a staged!”

Turning to the ruffian, she says, “Go on now, tell them what you told us.”

“This is all a sham,” the ruffian speaks up. “Togomor pays us to make a ruckus so that Trifaccia can come in to save the day and make the rebels look bad.’

“This is preposterous!” Trifaccia says. “You rebel scum think people will take the word of a rapscallion you’ve got by the scruff of his neck?”

“He’s evil and not human,” the thug insists, “and I think he has super powers.”

“So would you say he’s a ‘super villain’?” someone from the crowd calls out.

“Yeah, that seems accurate,” the tough nods.

Time For Some Thrilling Heroics

Outside in the alleyway, Zandu has been quietly listening to the exchange. He takes “super villain” as his cue to disrupt the proceedings and, after enlarging himself, barrels through the crowd as a giant gnoll. Kyra secretly rides on his back thanks to her ring of invisibility.

“That’s enough of this!” he bellows. “The Cerulean Society will no longer tolerate this little charade!”

The sorcerer blasts the false hero with a ray of negative energy. Meanwhile, Egan—watching the fight in pigeon form—quietly casts shape wood to warp the overturned table around Trifaccia as a kind of cage.

“Treachery!” the masked fighter shouts.

“Be silent!” Zandu roars back. “The Cerulean Society has had enough of your antics, pretty boy!”

“These foul magics sully this duel,” Trifaccia calls out to Arlynn and Nox. “I demand that you remove this interloper at once, or forfeit the contest.”

Nox hands the goon over to Arlynn and then moves to shove the enlarged gnoll back out the tent door, forcing the crowd to back away.

“Stand aside citizens,” Nox barks at the onlookers.

“This bloke thinks he’s royalty!” sneers an onlooker. "Who put you in charge?!

“I did!” threatens Nox.

“Sorry, m’lord,” the onlooker replies weakly.

As the giant gnoll and the armored fighter stumbles out into the street, the crowd stays as close as they can, attention divided between the fights in and out of the tent.

“This is the strangest street brawl I’ve ever seen…” a woman remarks.

Nox and Zandu trade insults, rapidly sliding from play-acted insults to genuine hostility. Zandu calls Nox out for being a lapdog to the crown, casting fear on him. Nox stand his ground but is shaken.

The Magic Bird

Inside, Trifaccia hacks his way free of the wooden snare, but Ashla presses the attack, divesting him of his flaming scimitar for a second time. The false hero quickly recovers the blade and the fight continues. Both warriors are starting to grow weary from the fight, nicked and scratched with surface cuts (and second-degree burns).

Pigeon-Egan flutters across the tent, unsuccessfully attempting to crap on Trifaccia and casting bull’s strength on Ashla.

“See! That pigeon cast a SPELL on you!” Trifaccia exclaims. “Treachery!”

“He’s a madman,” Arlynn laughs from the sidelines, appealing to the crowd. “Proclaiming a bird can cast spells!”

A chuckle runs through the gathered onlookers.

“He’s mad as a hatter!” one man guffaws.

“Hey, I’m a hatter!” someone else whines.

“And you’re mad as he is!” the first one replies.

Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords

Back outside, Nox—though shaken—stares down Zandu and growls "Only mongrels like yourself scare children, they do not frighten men like me!”

The fighter charges Zandu, knocking him and invisible Kyra prone on the cobblestone, though still pulling his punches.

Back within the tent, Arlynn lets the ruffian go. The man is noticeably frightened given the recent events and starts to make himself scarce. Arlynn tosses him 20gp to help him skip town and start fresh somewhere else. He thanks her as he slips out of the hole in the tent wall.

Ashla and Trifaccia continue to trade blows, but despite the half-elf’s increased strength the two remain closely matched, slowly wearing each other down as their swords clash. Pidgeon-Egan quietly casts heat metal on Trifaccia’s bronze mask.

Outside, Zandu and Nox continue to trade blows, although its becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of what is being intended. After Zandu’s next fear spell is successful, forcing Nox to withdraw by magically induced terror. Once he has escaped the scene, Nox grows furious at being compelled to retreat.

It Ends in Fire

In the tent, Trifaccia overextends himself on one swing and Ashla is able to knock the sword from his hand for the third time.

Arlynn offers words of encouragement. “I believe in you Blackjack, you can defeat this fiend!”

Doing so, the paladin moves close enough to give Ashla her aura of justice.

“Enough of this!” Ashla shouts, unleashing giving a righteous flurry of blows from her longsword. Her wrathful strikes cut Trifaccia almost in half. The fiend’s body ignites into a plume of flame that streams out of the holes in his three-faced mask and burns a hole in the ceiling. His smoking gear tumbles to to the ground in an empty heap.

After the deed is done, Ashla addresses the cheering crowd as Blackjack, “Let it be known that Blackjack protects the people of Korvosa, and not individual rulers who gain the throne with treachery and murder.”

With those words, Blackjack flings her cape and stealths back into the shadows. The crowd cheers her departure, shouting Blackjack’s triumphant return. Arlynn turns to the crowd to assess any of the wounded or shaken, taking care to talk up the return of Blackjack as a positive thing. Zandu teleports back to the embassy. An invisible Kyra also whispers praise of Nox’s role, trying to do damage control with the crowd and help prevent a disastrous confrontation later this evening.

The sound of tramping feet heralds the arrival of the Gray Maidens, so the adventurers and the onlookers quickly make themselves scarce.

On the return back to the embassy, the adventurers discuss the creature they fought. Recalling an encounter she witnessed during her youth in Kaer Maga, Ashla believes “Trifaccia” was an Efreet.

Arriving at the embassy, they stumble across a tense confrontation between Zandu and Nox

The Man Who Would Be King

“Don’t ever cross me again!” Nox shouts into Gnoll Zandu’s face, pinning him to the wall, “You will not make a fool of me in public again!”

“And what about making a fool of me?” Zandu glares back, his yellow eyes narrowing. “You knocking me around and tripping me, keeping me from getting at that impostor!”

“That was a distraction so you can wing some spells at him without intending to interfere!” Nox exclaims, the frustration clearing showing on his face. “I thought that was clear to you!”

“The fight was the distraction!” Zandu barks back, “Apparently you have been hiding something from us. Isn’t that right, everyone?”

Nox briefly looks back to see the party surrounding the two of them and he lets Zandu go. Kyra comes around from behind him to stand beside Zandu.

“Something you’d like to tell us?” Arlynn asks.

“Look, once we take down the Queen, there’s going to be chaos, a power vacuum,” Nox explains. “Someone needs to step into that vacuum, keep things from spiraling out of control.”

“Someone like you,” Arlynn says.

""Exactly," he nods. “That’s why I can’t be seen getting pushed around by a crazy gnoll—people need to trust that I can protect them.”

“So you want us to help you in your play for the throne,” Arlynn says. “Why should we? When you’re king, what would you do for the city?”

“I’d restore order,” he says. “We need to come together and rebuild, so that people can get along with their lives.”

“And where will the rest of us be during this rebuilding?” Zandu asks. “That’s what I need to know before I help you out.”

“There will be a place for you, don’t worry,” Nox assures him.

“All this politicking is new to me,” Irabeth confesses. “In Lastwall, our Watcher-Lord is appointed based on merit, without all this scheming. But if I understand Nox correctly, he wants to keep his distance from us in public until the time is right to launch a general uprising against the Queen. Is that correct?”

“Basically,” Nox nods. “I have to be seen standing up for the people, but I can’t openly oppose the Queen until we’re ready to make our move because we’d lose the embassy as cover. We just need to hold steady for a couple more days, until the Hellknights arrive—I’ve sent them message that I’m pretty sure they can’t refuse.”

Arlynn folds her arms. “Well, if you truly have the interests of the people at heart, I will support your claim.”

One by one, the rest of the adventurers agree to help put Aquilos Nox on the Crimson Throne.

Bad News Comes in Threes

They are interrupted by the arrival of Arlynn’s follower Chammady, who reports that her mission to capture the corrupt official Grask was a success—though it took two tries to get ahold of him. Without Grask’s connections, the Queen will have a harder time hiring mercenaries.

Irabeth says that her mission to find the spy among their allies in the gentry was also a success. Using zone of truth, she has cleared all but one of the nobles of treason. By process of elimination, the spy appears to be Arlynn’s brother Jerem Farima.

As the paladin processes this news, the party learns that Remmy’s mission to get a message to Sabina also fell through—worse, the one-eyed maiden has gone missing after a scuffle with her former sisters in arms.

“I’m going after her,” Nox declares.

“And I need to speak with Jerem,” Arlynn grimaces.

They are interrupted by a pounding on the door. Egan, disguising himself with one of his thousand faces, answers it, where a strange man urgently requests an audience with Lord Nox. After some back and forth, the man is allowed inside and reveals himself to be a disguised Grau Soldado.

Grau warns that a group of Korvosan soldiers has trapped a resistance cell in the Citadel Heights district. The house is surrounded and the soldiers’ captain is threatening to kill innocent hostages in the cell leader—Jerem—doesn’t turn himself in. Cressida thinks it’s a trap meant to lure out the main force of the resistance, but she hopes the Crimson Blades might be able to intervene.

“If Jerem’s in trouble, we must go at once,” Arlynn says. “I can’t let him or any innocents suffer. Who is with me?”

Most of the adventurers choose to go with the paladin, while Nox splits off to go after Remmy, accompanied by Kyra.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

As night settles over the city, the Crimson Blades rush to rescue Jerem and the other rebels, spying a column of smoke rising from the area.

Not far from Castle Korvosa, a three-storey stone house is surrounded by a platoon of Korvosan Guard led by burly sergeants clad in black leather. A large bonfire has been lit about 50 yards from the house, near the middle of a cleared-out marketplace. A short distance from the bonfire is a 15-feet-tall, makeshift black cage of wood and wicker shaped like a misshapen giant boar. The acrid smell of tar, of which the ominous cage is smeared, hangs heavily in the air.

The cage is packed tight with sobbing prisoners, mostly women and children. As one of the platoon sergeants torments with a cattle prod some women and children shut inside the cage, other prisoners are forced to pile firewood under it. The officer in charge of the platoon, a tall young aristocrat, shouts the prisoners to speed up. Inside the mansion, a few desperate men observe the scene in dismay, their heads barely visible behind the barricaded windows.

In an ominous silence broken only by the cracking of flames, the officer raises a hand. A sergeant picks up lit a lit torch from the fire and advances toward the wicker boar. Inside the tar-drenched cage, the laments of the prisoners grow into shrieks of terror. A moment after, the main doors of the mansion burst open and Jerem steps out waving a white flag.

“Stop!” he cries. “You have won! But please spare the lives of the innocents who live in this house.”

While Owl-Egan and Ashla sneak around to attempt to free the prisoners, Arlynn, Irabeth, and Laori (disguised as Human-Zandu) approach the Guard Captain in the open.

“Stop this injustice in Iomedae’s name!” Arlynn commands, “What have these innocent people done to deserve being put to the death in such a grisly manner?”

The Captain looks at Arlynn and says, “Is this all that the rebels have sent?”

“Rebels or not, why would you threaten innocent women and children? Has the Queen’s guard sunk so low as to do such heinous acts?” Arlynn responds.

Surveying the scene, she notes that while the aristocrat and the sergeants seem to be positively relishing the plan, the lower guardsmen are unhappy about it.

There is a back and forth with the Captain about innocence and justice, where he insists that he is simply carrying out the law’s punishment of death by torture for traitors. Then suddenly, the Captain’s head whips around as he spies Ashla creeping up—a feat no human could accomplish in the darkness.

The captain his sergeants swiftly drop their charade, revealing themselves to be rakshasas. Zandu also reveals himself, flying overhead, and looses magic at the fiends, but both he and Owl-Egan have trouble overcoming their damage reduction.

One of the sergeants tosses a torch onto the cage’s kindling, but Owl-Egan is able to suppress the fire with create water while Ashla hacks open the stockade so the captives can flee.

Arlynn and Irabeth cut their way through the rakshasa brutes, while Laori tries to keep up the disguise of being Zandu.

“Fear my pillar of totally arcane magic fire!” she calls out. “I’m Zandu, sorcerer extraordinaire!”

The rakshasa captain tries to use his own magic against Arlynn, but to no avail. Ashla gets into a vicious fight with one of the rakshasa brutes, struggling to overcome its damage reduction but ultimately bringing it down.

The last surviving rakshasa charges into the group of Korvosan Guards to try to kill Jerem. The guards surround the monster, but are unable to harm it until Arlynn strides purposely over and grants them her aura of justice. Imbued with this holy strength, the guardsmen cut the last rakshasa into fist-sized chunks.

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.


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.


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.


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.