Midday of 17 Erastus, 4708
A Decent Proposal
Ashla, who turned down the invitation to the meeting with Headmaster Ornelos, goes to see Vencarlo Orisini. The former fencing instructor is set up in the house across from the burned out ruins of his Academy—the same house where the party fought several Red Mantis Assassins months ago.
She informs Vencarlo that she has tracked down who has been killing Gray Maidens. She explains that it was a tiefling using undead servants to abduct the women for sacrifices in some sort of ritual. She shares her suspicion that the tiefling was only part of a larger plan, but assures him that the party has a lead on the greater threat.
Ashla then notes that if she is to operate as Blackjack, she will need access to the circles of the nobility as well as the common people. The simplest means to access high society is to marry into it, and to that end she offers her hand to Vencarlo.
The fencing instructor is surprised by this turn of events. He notes that he had sworn off falling in love with his students, in order to avoid losing any more fingers. But he recognizes that Ashla has long since surpassed him as a fencing master, and there is already an affection between them.
He accepts her offer and then leads her town into the vault below the ruined fencing academy, where there is a training course, an armory, a small library, a scry-proofed bedroom, and multiple access points to the Korvosan sewers.
Only You Can Prevent House Fires
After setting a date with Vencarlo for the marriage several months hence, Ashla heads out to go on patrol. She comes across a group of street urchins in old Korvosa playing a game involving running across a plank propped over a pool of sewage that has spilled out of a blocked up sewer drain.
As she starts to turn away in disgust, Ashla notices an unattended cooking fire in a nearby house that is starting to get out of control. She directs the urchins to put it out and tells them to be more aware of their surroundings.
Back at the Acadamae, the rest of the Crimson Blades are taken on a tour of the campus grounds by the bored graduate student Jandar Lilswin. He takes them on a circle around the facility, pointing out the Hall of Wards, their ultimate objective in the breaching festival. They must enter from the eastern doors and exit from the western doors before sunset that day.
He explains that only one person, Dayson Fordyce, has ever won the tournament, and that was 150 years ago. No competitor since has come out of the Hall of Wards alive. Jandar then shows them the other halls they will be competing in during the earlier part of the festival, as well as the student and faculty housing.
The adventurers pause outside the Hall of Seeing, whose entry doors are decorated with illustrations from Harrow Deck cards. Jandar explains that the cards show the past and future of whoever last touched the door. The Crimson Blades decide to take turns seeing their fortunes.
Nox’s fortune reveals the Unicorn (past) and the Teamster (future). Jandar reads this as saying that Nox has experienced goodwill and purity in his past, while his future is building towards some grand accomplishment—either for good or for ill.
Flint’s cards are the Mountain Man (past) and the Cricket (future). Jandar says that Flint has faced tremendous tumult and uncertainty, but is on the path for good fortune and opportunity.
Arlynn’s fortune reveals the Desert (past) and the Rakshasa (future). Jandar notes that Arlynn is coming from a place of wisdom, but also isolation, while in her future she faces deceit and betrayal.
Egan’s cards are the Demon’s Lantern (past) and the Idiot (future). Jandar interprets this as Egan having been led astray towards danger in the past, while in the future he will either make a terrible mistake or be the victim of someone else’s foolishness.
AAAA! for Effort
After reading their futures, Jandar circles them back to Ornelos Hall, the administration center and their starting point. Before they can bid their farewells, they hear a scream come from inside and they rush to investigate, with Arlynn dragging Jandar along.
The screaming seemed to come from a summoning room just inside, where a young women in a student’s robes lies bleeding out on the floor while a towering fiendish creature with many-colored eyes looms over her, its clawed feet casually stretching beyond the chamber’s binding circle.
Identifying the monster as some sort of advanced retriever construct from the outer planes, the Crimson Blades make short work of it while Jandar gapes in shock. After being revived, the young woman, Seska, explains that she had stolen a scroll to summon the creature in order to impress a boy in her class, but it was beyond her ability to control it.
Headmaster Ornelos arrives with a thunderclap and demands to know what is going on. He threatens Seska with years of indentured servitude to pay off the costs of the scroll and damages to the school property. However, Arlynn persuades him to be lenient and the old wizard ultimately leaves the student with just a warning. The headmaster then pays the party a reward for their timely intervention and wishes them luck at the tournament tomorrow.
Dead Man’s Letter
Following his meeting with the Queen, Nox returns to the townhouse to prepare for his date with Cressida, only to find a message from Freya asking him to visit her at the three Rings Tavern. With a groan, he activates his boots of speed and dashes off to the rendezvous.
Freya explains she got a coded message from Ambassador Amprei asking her to meet him at the Acadamae during the Breaching Festival. She isn’t sure what to do—it seems like a trap, but the letter also appears genuine. Nox suggests she go through with the meeting. He and the others will be there, and hopefully they can ferret out what is going on.
Business Before Pleasure
His business with Freya concluded, Nox then dashes over to East Shore to see Cressida at her family home. The Kroft estate is more fortified than other nobles’ mansions, with a fairly plain and functional exterior. Inside, the walls are decorated with old portraits of previous heads of the family, trophies and relics from campaigns gone by, and various martial heirlooms.
Nox finds Cressida in the dining room, dressed in her brilliant crimson field marshal’s uniform, poring over a map of Varisia that is spread across the table. Glancing up, she becons him over to lay out her plans for defending Korvosa’s borders. A fleet from Magnimar is blockading Korvosa’s lakeside port of Melfesh with the clear intent of pressuring the town to open its doors to them. To the east, forces from Molthune are laying siege to Fort Thorn in the Bloodsworn Vale.
The fort is being resupplied by wizards from the Acadamae, who teleport in provisions and reinforcements each morning. Cressida believes it will hold for now. To deal with the Magnimar fleet, she and Neolandis have sent Korvosa’s own fleet to blockade Magnimar itself until they withdraw. Nox suggests recruiting the druid circle to muck up the Magnimarans’ long supply chain as well.
Cressida note that the Korvosan fleet will take almost a week to reach Magnimar. By then she hopes that it can deliver the city’s demands on behalf of a new monarch, to signal that the political vacuum in the city has been filled.
Dinner at the Field Marshal’s Table
At this point, Cressida seems to realize that this is meant to be a romantic dinner and rolls up the map. After helping Nox out of his armor, they sit down to a hearty meal and swap stories about their history. Cressida tells of her experience in the Guard, including fighting against evil fey in the Bloodsworn Vale campaign.
She also talks of her family, who rose from simple crofters to nobility after her ancestor saved the Chelaxian Emperor’s son. To remind them of their farming roots, the Krofts continue to keep a vegetable garden on their property, although Cressida admits she never had much of a green thumb and has left its care to a gardener. Nox also learns that she is fond of horses, particularly war horses, and breeds them on her family’s ranch near Harse.
She is the head of her household, having lost her mother and a younger brother when she was quite young and her father shortly after she entered the Guard. Nox commiserates on the loss of family and shares his own stories about his adventures with the Crimson Blades.
He notices that there is a sadness in Cressida’s eyes that slowly vanishes over the course of the evening, as the two hit it off well. After a few hours, Nox reluctantly admits that he needs to return to the townhouse to prepare for tomorrow’s Breaching Festival. Cressida shares his reluctance to part, and wishes him luck. She promises to attend the vote of the Great Houses the next morning.
As he leaves, Nox promises to give her a gift in the morning as well, though he insists it will be a surprise.
Meanwhile, Flint and Arlynn make an expedition to the castle across the river see Kyra. they arrange for money to be bet on them for the Breaching Festival. When they ask if Kyra would be willing to participate, she emphatically turns them down. She explains that the Cerulean Society has had an open invitation to participate in the contest, but every year they participate, their contestant doesn’t make it out alive.
Kyra wishes them luck and is confident they can overcome the challenges of the Hall of Wards, but not so confident that she’s willing to participate, much less set foot on the Acadamae grounds.
The Prodigal Daughter
After returning to the townhouse, Arlynn is visited by her sister Keris, who is unhappy about the paladin’s partnership with the Master of Whips. While Arlynn insists that it is for the greater good, Keris says that the Master of Whips cannot be trusted. She wants vengeance for their family—but Arlynn reminds her that their mother would have wanted them to free the slaves. This gets Keris to back down and instead ask about her own role in the plan.
Arlynn notes that Keris’ actions have been driven by a desire to protect the Farima family. The paladin says that while she is preoccupied with the Breaching Festival, it will be up to Keris to protect the family from the evil that is looming over Korvosa. Keris is doubtful that the family will welcome her back after her betrayal, but Arlynn convinces her otherwise.
Arlynn reunites her sister with the rest of the Farima clan—their father Alek and their five brothers, all of whom are overjoyed to see Keris’ return.
Plot of the book Thieves
After arranging the reunion, Arlynn steps out to go confront the Master of Whips. She demands proof that he is carrying out the manumissions that were promised, which he agrees to provide within a few days.
She also learns that he and his crew of Bekyars are planning to infiltrate the Acadamae during the breaching festival. They suspect that the Book of Golgothus is being kept either in Ornelos Hall, the Hall of Wards, or the tiefling Maketh’s room in the dormitories.
Since Arlynn and her team have the Hall of Wards taken care of, the Master intends to break into Ornelos Hall first. If it doesn’t hold the book, they will need to get into the student records there anyway to find Maketh’s room.
Odds and Ends
Nox arrives back at the townhouse in time to ask Arlynn to procure one of her father’s wagons for an errand the next morning. The fighter then commission’s Egan to use shape wood to create a high quality, 1/4 scale statue of a destrier to give to Cressida. He arranges to have it delivered by wagon early in the morning.
That night, Arlynn has a strange and vivid dream. In it, she witnesses the slain rakshasas from the Arkona household seated at a banquet table. At the side of “Glorio” is an unfamiliar creature, a fox-headed woman dressed in Vimanda Arkona’s monk’s outfit.
Another monster, this one an enormous reptilian creature with the arms of a crab and a chef’s hat on its head then walks into the room carrying an immense plate piled high with human body parts. The rakshasas eagerly partake of the profane meal.
On waking, Arlynn concludes that this was a vision from Iomedae about Vimanda’s true identity.
Indecision 4708, Day Two
The following morning, Nox and Cressida arrive at the council meeting together and make a show of being extra cozy with one another in full view of the assembled nobles. Cressida is surprised and pleased with the statue, which she’s already placed in the entry hall of her house.
She reciprocates with her own gift—the badge she first received when she joined the Korvosan Guard. She gives it to Nox as a token of her favor, which a champion should always carry with him when facing a challenge like the Breaching Festival.
The council vote remains deadlocked, but the tally has shifted: one vote for Ornelos, one vote for a return to the lord mayor system, one vote for Cressida, and two votes for Nox. After the tally is complete and the black smoke released, Nox suggested to Cressida that the next day they announce their joint ticket.
Following the vote, Nox joins up with the rest of the Crimson blades for the Breaching Festival. They also meet their competition: a brawny, grumpy dwarf called Knur of the Gilded Fist, an Acadamae graduate named Maganrad, and the Cerulean Society’s contestant, a Varisian rogue named Illia Ean. A huge crowd has gathered to watch the show. The commoners and the student body are watching from the ramparts of the Acadamae walls, while the nobles gather in brightly colored pavilions on the quad.
Headmaster Toff Ornelos opens the event with great fanfare and explains that the winner of the contest is the first participant to enter the east door of the Hall of Wards and exit from the west door before dusk. In order to be eligible to enter the Hall, however, participants must retrieve a key-light from one of the other halls first—one key-light per participant.
With the contest begun, both the Crimson Blades and Knur head for the Hall of Seeing first. They fan out through the interior, searching for the key-light. Knur sets off a trap that drives him mad and he runs shrieking from the building. Ashla sees through the mirror puzzle and retrieve’s the party’s first key-light.
The party then goes from hall to hall, tracking down and retrieving the rest of their key-lights and overcoming the traps and guardians along the way. However, their need to secure five total key-lights allows IlLia and Maganrad to get ahead of them. By the time the adventurers approach the Hall of Wards, the two other participants have already entered.
Throwing open the doors to the hall, they see only a black void awaiting them, one which they cannot dispel or illuminate with magic. After a moment’s hesitation, they step into the void.
For a brief moment they seem to fall into nothingness. Then, just as suddenly, they find themselves in a stone room, lit only by a sourceless orange glow. At one end of the room, is a freshly slain body of a man.