Curse of the Crimson Throne

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes
A History of Ashes, Interlude

After a round of ghost stories, the party settles into an uneasy sleep in the shadow of the seven standing stones. Soon after drifting off Ionas finds himself striding through a dense fog, unable to see more than twenty paces in front of himself. He hears footsteps up ahead and freezes, trying to vanish into the shadows—but there are no shadows, only dull wisps of cloud that seem to shrink from his touch.

A figure emerges from the billowing mist, practically gliding towards him with long, confident steps. She is a young Chelish woman with sleek dark hair and a mischievous smile, clad in a practical set of leather armor. A tin brooch in shape of a pair of scales pins her gray cloak around her shoulders. His blood turns cold as steel.

“Ionas, it is good to see you,” Valria says, drawing so close her Taldane perfume tickles his nose. “I’ve been alone too long in the dark.”

She lays a hand on his chest, gently cupping her fingers around the medallion beneath his shirt. “You carry a great prize with you, greater than anyone can imagine. Use it. In Korvosa, this simple trinket can get you everything you’ve ever wanted and more. Blood was spilled to put this treasure in your hands, Ionas. Don’t let that have been for naught.”

Valria kisses him, her lips searing to the touch. As she pulls back, her eyes flare briefly with emerald light. “I cannot stay, but I will watch for your return. Farewell and be safe!”

She takes three steps backward, vanishing into the fog on the third. The mist clears, leaving Slim standing in the circle of stones, surrounded by the sleeping forms of his companions, their horses, and Vendra’s snoring camel.

Roughing It
A History of Ashes, Part 1

The Sleepers Awaken

Sleeping under the protective canopy of a copse of trees, the adventurers each have interesting dreams. Slim is chased by shadows until he catches one and turns it into a cloak. Ashla sees a skull rise off the floor of a ruined temple. Arlynn glimpses dark towers and awakes with the eerie feeling that she is missing her sword. Egan dreams of walking along the river bank with his father and awakens refreshed and connected to nature. Zandu’s dreams leave him with inspiration for his book.

After waking, the party agrees that they need to leave Korvosa for a while, but they still have some business to conclude in the city. Ashla sends an animal messenger to summon Majenko and Reno. Zandu and Egan, meanwhile, decide to slip back into the city. The druid simply flies over, while Zandu disguises himself to pass through the gates.

Heads, Walls, Spikes

Inside Korvosa, the talk of the town is all about the Gray Maidens’ assault on the Arkona Palace the night before. Word is that Lady Vimanda Arkona warned the Queen that her cousin Lord Glorio Arkona was some sort of shapeshifting fiend. Now his head is said to be on display outside the Longacre Building in North Point. Zandu goes to investigate, while Egan fetches the party’s horses from the stables in East Shore.

Zandu observes four heads mounted on the wall outside the Longacre Building: a tiger, a boar, a snake, and an orangutan with an eye patch. A sign below the heads identify them as Glorio and his conspirators. The crowd seems unsure of how to react or what to believe, but it does seem that Queen Ileosa has earned back a certain measure of respect for bringing down these monsters.

Zandu next seeks out Kyra at Twitcher’s Tavern in The Shingles. The halfling is glad to see he made it out of the palace alive. She says that it’s pretty clear where at least some of the Bekyars’ slaves were going: the Gray Maidens found human remains in the palace kitchens. Zandu convinces Kyra that she needs to skip town with the rest of them and urges her to get her mother out, too, but the halfling says Yamyra is too stubborn to leave.

After Zandu reunites with Egan, who procured a wagon in the meantime, they are confronted by a Gray Maiden and a Korvosan Guard—Remmy and Grau in semi-disguise. They are escorted to a secret briefing with Cressida at the warehouse they cleared out a few weeks back.

The two adventurers bring the Field Marshal up to speed on events in the palace and she relates Vimanda’s version. Cressida warns them that while officially the party are still regarded as heroes of the city, unofficially the Queen has put the word out that they are to be killed.

Cressida is delighted that the Seneschal is alive and already outside the city walls. She urges them to get him as far from Korvosa as possible for the time being. She adds that it may be up to the party to devise a means of defeating whatever fell power is at the Queen’s command.

Cressida also asks that they take Remmy with them, for the young woman’s own safety. Grau explains that while she is getting better, the guardswoman is refusing to wear anything other than her Gray Maiden armor—which makes her hard to conceal.

For the trip out of the city, Zandu disguises himself as a merchant and then uses his magic hat to make Remmy look like his assistant. She’s pleased with the getup and cocks the hat at a raking angle.

“Pretty cunning, don’t you think?” she brags.

Together, Zandu, Egan and Remmy drive their wagon out of the city gates after a cursory inspection by the guards. Once they are safely out of sight of the city walls, they make for the copse of trees where the rest of the party is holed up.

Wolf Pact

Having reunited, the party agrees with Vencarlo’s suggestion that they make for the village Harse. The fencing master has friends there who can offer them shelter and a chance to regroup. Neolandis is reluctant to share what he has learned until they reach the safe haven.

Before setting out, the adventurers reaffirm their commitment to their cause and take the name the Crimson Blades as the title for their company. Irabeth also introduces the group to her divine-bonded mount, a pure white horse named “Princess.”

With the Seneschal in disguise, the party begins the journey north. On the second day, they find themselves being stalked by a wolf pack. Egan is able to communicate with the beasts. He learns that the pack was driven from the Howlwood and is hungry for food. The gnomes negotiates an agreement, paying the wolves with meat in exchange for protection. Egan also deduces that they were driven out of their woods by goblins.

Last Goblin Standing

As the Crimson Blades approach the the Howlwood, Egan communes with nature, learning that the forest contains both a band of goblins and a human woman. The party enters the woods cautiously, weapons at the ready. Carefully scouting ahead, they are able to get the drop on the goblins mid-ambush.

The little green menaces had blocked the forest trail with several fallen trees, trapping a human merchant and her camel. The woman is none other than former perfume maker and would-be plague curer Vendra Loaggri. She is caught in a standoff with the goblins, warning them that the vial in her hand is a terrible magic potion that will destroy them if they get any closer.

With the goblins thus distracted, Slim, Egan, and a flying Zandu move in to devastate them with a surprise attack. Arlynn, Ashla, and a mounted Irabeth bring up the rear, while Kyra and Remmy stay with the wagon to protect their guests.

Zandu and Egan destroy the goblin chief, but a goblin named Magrak seizes Vendra’s “magic drink” and rallies the tribe. However, once he drinks the potion and splutteringly declares it poison, the rest of the goblins break and run, where they are cut down. Magrak is kept alive, interrogated, and sent back with the perfume-soaked heads of his fellows.

The party then turns to Vendra, who says that their testimony helped exonerate her of the charge of knowingly peddling a false cure. But nonetheless, her reputation in Korvosa has been destroyed. She is trying to rebuild her business far away from that city and asks if she can travel with the adventurers for awhile. They agree to let her accompany them as they continue north to Harse.

Runelord’s Relic

The next evening, they make camp upon a lonely hill ringed with standing stones covered in ancient Thassilonian runes. The runes describe it as marking the boundary between the domains of the Runelord Sorshen and the Runelord Karzoug. Neolandis identifies it at as the site of the Battle of Seven Stones, a turning point in the wars between the Chelaxian colonists and the Shoanti natives.

Investigating the stones, Arlynn uncovers an exposed part of the stone that reacts with Slim’s medallion to cause its emerald to glow—but only when facing south. Neolandis says that the medallion may be one of the fabled Eyes of Sorshen. After a little back and forth, he says the item could be what has permitted the party to make use of the teleport circles—they’ve certainly never used them without its presence.

The Seneschal warns that the medallion is a key that could open many locks beneath the city that were meant to be kept forever shut. He urges Slim to keep it out of the hands of the Ambassador and is shocked to learn that the rogue had worn it in his presence.

“If I weren’t the most wanted man in Korvosa, I’d take the damned thing and hide it myself,” Neolandis growls.

“The safest hiding place is on your person,” Slim insists.

As twilight gathers, the adventurers share a few ghost stories before bed. Arlynn tells tales of vengeful lion spirits that stalk the savannas of Garund, while Kyra shares a disturbing story of a ghost ship haunting the waters off of Varisia, and Irabeth recounts the story of the haunted castle of Scarwall in Belkzen. But Zandu manages to tell the most blood-curdling story of the night, sending everyone but the paladins to bed shivering with fright.

Slim proceeds to have a strange dream.

At the Crossroads

Harse is a farming village that sits on the junction where the Sarwin River splits off from the Falcon River that flows down from the Mindspin Mountains, making it an important crossroads for both east-west and north-south travel. The party takes the ferry across the river and quietly questions the ferryman about whether he’s seen any strange travelers.

He says they’re first people he’s seen in a while to come up from the city; the last bunch were refugees fleeing the plague there. They agree that the city is a bit of a mess and the man worries that the lack of guards on the road will encourage bandits or Shoanti raiders.

After crossing the river, they ride north a little ways beyond the village proper to their destination, the Blackbird Ranch. It is managed by Jasan Adriel, an old adventuring partner of Vencarlo’s. They run into their old friend Trinia Sabor, the falsely accused artist, as well as Slim’s cousin Vittora. The two gals have been lying low in the countryside—though that didn’t stop them from exploring some nearby Shoanti cairns. They quit playing adventurer after stumbling into a nest of ettercaps and barely making it out. Still, they’re excited to see the Crimson Blades and seem antsy to get out of town.

After a hearty meal with Jasan’s family, Vencarlo summons the rancher, Neolandis, and the party down to the basement, where they try some of the Adriels’ home brew—and Neolandis tells his story.

The Seneschal’s Account

“Ileosa has always been a spoiled brat. She is vain, greedy, and manipulative. Right from the start I knew her only interest in King Eodred was his crown. The King wouldn’t hear it, of course. Ileosa can be tremendously charming when she wants something, though once you’ve served her purpose she’ll drop you like a sack of bricks. She doted on the King throughout their brief courtship, but as soon as the marriage was sealed she had nothing but scorn for him. It’s always the same act with her. She still has that foolish girl Sabina hanging off her every word.

“Even so, Ileosa is—or at least was—cowardly and indecisive. She clearly longed for her husband’s death but just as clearly lacked the fortitude to hasten it. So she whiled away her time reading in the library, dallying with her handmaiden and ‘borrowing’ the treasury key to look through Korvosa’s holdings.

“But a few months ago, something in her seemed to harden. She became more forceful, ruthless, and interested in taking a role in official business. Not too long after that, the King’s health began to fail. Given his age and… lifestyle, this was not unexpected. But also around that time the King’s brother Venster went missing. I know you haven’t heard of him. Venster was a bastard and an embarrassment, so his entire existence was kept a secret known only to a very few.

“All of this aroused my suspicions, but I foolishly gave Ileosa the benefit of the doubt. She responded by sending Red Mantis assassins after me the night of the King’s death. Through a mixture of good fortune and knowledge of the Castle grounds, I managed to elude them and made my way to Salvator’s to lie low and recover.

“When I was well enough to move about on my own, I began a quiet investigation of the situation, interview key people, poring through records at Endrin Academy, and piecing together information from rumors. All of it to try to determine what caused Queen Ileosa’s sudden shift from a petulant spoiled noble to a scheming murderous tyrant. The more I learned, the more my fears grew, but until the Queen’s most recent display I had still held out hope.

“You see, as Seneschal I took great interest in the history of Castle Korvosa, particularly several old and obscure legends about the chambers below the Castle. Chambers, it was whispered, that were old even when the Shoanti dwelt here and that once housed something of great power or evil. Clearly these myths have more truth to them than we’d dare imagine.

“In my investigations, I came across a document from the early days of Korvosa recording one of the many failed negotiations between the Chelaxian settlers and the Shoanti. In it, a Sklar-Quah chieftain makes reference to an item called ’Midnight’s Teeth’ that was kept within the Grand Mastaba upon which Castle Korvosa now sits.

“The Chelaxian scribe seemed to think these teeth were a sacred relic the barbarians wanted to keep from the settlers. But in my reading of text, it seems as if the Shoanti were trying to warn the settlers away from a great danger sealed below. I fear that whatever these Midnight’s Teeth are, they have taken hold of the Queen and filled her with a malevolent power.

“The Shoanti would know more about what these “teeth” are and how they can be defeated, but I’ve heard that my friend Thousand Bones and his delegation have left the city after some sort of dispute over a dead Shoanti boy. Finding him and convincing him to help will be difficult, but we have few other options."

Dark Wings, Dark Words

The Crimson Blades agree that they need more information on the artifact granting the Queen these terrible powers and what it will take to stop her. After some discussion, they agree to split up. Neolandis and Vencarlo, accompanied by Trinia and Vittora, will take refuge in the dwarven city of Janderhoff with a few of Vencarlo’s old contacts. The Crimson Blades will travel north into the Cinderlands to seek out Thousand Bones.

Jasan also presents Slim with a letter addressed to him that arrived the day before. The rogue reads it in private and immediately burns it, warning that they will need to leave Blackbird Ranch at dawn.

Mazes and Monsters
Escape from Old Korvosa, Part 5

Riddle Me This!

With Slim’s plan trapping Ashla, Zandu, Irabeth, and Rat-Egan in a room with the Lady of the Labyrinth, they immediately try to get the sphinx talking. Ashla and Zandu tease out the information that it is bound by oath and ancient magic to serve the master of the Vivified Labyrinth, a rakshasa named Bahor. The sphinx seems unhappy to be serving such a creature, but cannot betray her master. However, Ashla and Zandu are able to infer that “Bahor” is likely Glorio Arkona.

Meanwhile, Slim and Arlynn try to rush back to the teleport room to catch up with the rest of the party. Slim is incensed that the rest of the party abandoned his plan after he teleported through.

“Everyone hated your plan,” Arlynn explains.

Unfortunately, getting back to the teleport orbs requires activating the Labyrinth. This disrupts Ashla’s efforts to deescalate the encounter with the sphinx, as the half-elf and Rat-Egan are suddenly sealed off in a rotating chamber while Zandu and Irabeth are isolated with the monster.

The sphinx summons a deadly darkness and then attacks, but Irabeth keeps its attention long enough for Arlynn and Slim to materialize in the room. Slim frees Vencarlo and presents him with Blackjack’s rapier, which the fencing master uses to join the fight. Though the Lady of the Labyrinth seems resistant to magic, the collective fury of the adventurers eventually brings her low.

Once the sphinx is slain, Vencarlo urges the party to rescue Neolandis, who he claims is not in the Labyrinth at all but rather in a secret chamber just outside it. Though still wary, the adventurers agree to have the fencing master lead them of the maze and to an illusory wall around a corner by the main entrance.

A Dance of Devils

Arlynn kicks in the door (after Slim unlocks it), revealing a well-equipped torture chamber. Tied to a rack on the far side of the room is a heavy-set man with graying hair and a square jaw, being ministered to by a beautiful, multi-armed fiend known as a Beatific One.

“Helms down, shields up, Iomedae eternal!” Arlynn shouts, charging inside.

“My dear, you’re wearing far too much clothing for my tastes,” Zandu declares, blasting her with lightning bolt.

Ashla moves up the side of the room past several iron cages, whispering “Please do not try and grab me.”

The Beatific One responds to this incursion by summoning two additional Vudrani fiends, these ones twisted dervishes armed with daggers. Ashla, Arlynn, and Slim all cross swords with the six-armed fiend—simultaneously—while Vencarlo attempts to free Neolandis. Egan and Zandu hang back, trying to pelt the evil outsiders with spells while dodging the dervishes’ blades.

Ashla loses her sword to the Beatific One, but returns the favor by disarming it and stealing its longsword. As the tide turns, the creature casts an enchanting ribbon of dancing colors that enthralls Irabeth and Neolandis. Vencarlo nicks the half-orc with a thrown dagger, jolting her from her stupor. Bellowing a battle cry in Orcish, she proceeds to cleave the Beatific One in half.

The party confers with Neolandis briefly and he urges them to get out of the city before the Queen has them all killed. They need to regroup at a place of safety.

The Fall of House Arkona

Emerging from the labyrinth, the party is confronted by Glorio, who flys down to catch them on one of the rickety rope bridges ringing the cavern. The Lord Arkona refuses to let them leave, given what they’ve learned about him. He strikes them with a lightning bolt, but before he can unleash his full power he is disrupted by a commotion above.

Vimanda bursts into the cavern at the head of a phalanx of Gray Maidens, who she commands to slay the Rakshasa impostor. The Maidens let fly with a volley of arrows and Glorio turns to face this new threat. The adventurers take this opportunity to flee downstairs to the waiting barge.

The Watcher in the Water

However, their aquatic escape is interrupted by the arrival of an enormous reefclaw. It grabs Slim, then Irabeth, then Arlynn and Slim again, dragging each into the salty water. Egan wildshapes into a water elemental to help the stranded swimmers. Ashla loses her shortsword in the fray.

Zandu, out of spells, turns to his rod of wonder in desperation. But as the fight drags on, he is able to do little more than create grass. Finally, he grips the scepter in both hands.

“Please, I beg you, in the name of all that is holy and magical, do something useful.”

He raises the rod once more—only this time, a lightning bolt springs for from it and smites the monster.

Across the River and Into the Woods

As the barge emerges onto the darkened river, the party douses their lights, while behind them the Arkona Palace blazes brightly against the night sky. Water-Egan guides them across the river and right under the nose of a warship, finally landing them on the far shore.

The gnome then takes the soggy, exhausted adventurers to a copse of trees to rest for the night. As the others bed down. Arlynn wonders how she can make use of her royal voucher.

Dance, Magic, Dance!
Escape from Old Korvosa, Part 4

The Maze That Moves

Having rested up from their battle with the rakshasa, the party tracks down the secret door that Lord Glorio Arkona told them about. They follow a twisting tunnel for a hundred feet, finally reaching a set of double doors that swing noiselessly open when touch. Investigating the long chamber within, they find it divided in the middle by a well-worn crease running floor to ceiling. At the very far end of the chamber is a lever. Slim determines that the lever activates a mechanical system to rotate the room. With one tug, the chamber swiftly but smoothly turns 90 degrees, connecting to another room beyond where another lever waits in a corner.

The party ignores the lever to instead investigate a door. Slim carefully creaks it open and peers into the following room, inadvertently activating a symbol of pain inscribed on the floor. A wave of agony slams into them, leaving several of them distracted by lingering aches. Slim manages to disable the symbol and the party surveys the room. A hallway leads off to the left while a closed door stands to the left.

After Zandu determines there is no magic beyond the door, they enter and discover a small room with three chests. Each is inscribed with what appears to be a Vudrani riddle but which Slim guesses is instead a threat. After detecting and disabling the poison trap on the first chest and determining that the third likely releases a poison gas, they decide to open the middle chest, whose inscription reads “Life within but Death without.” Inside they find a very ornery cobra, which gets caught on Arlynn’s spiked gauntlets and finished off by a magic missile from Zandu. After retrieving a stash of potions from the chest and stowing away the poison gas chest, they turn their attentions to the hallway.

Slim ventures down it, wearing a Red Mantis helmet set to Darkvision. He notices a frightful mural of people—including himself—being devoured by jungle predators. Rounding the corner into the room beyond, he accidentally sets off a symbol of slumber and keels over. When he doesn’t return, Arlynn investigates and is soon snoozing on the floor as well. It is up to Ashla to drag them away from the symbol and then toss a tarp over it, her elvish blood protecting her from the magical slumber.

After waiting for their companions to wake and for the symbol to deactivate, Slim returns to disarm the symbol from beneath the tarp. Zandu then carefully investigates the next room and after sensing a magical aura within it, leads a blindfolded Slim to its location, where he once again tries to disable it and successfully deactivates another symbol.

Finding nowhere else to go, the adventurers return to the chamber with the second lever, which Slim casually activates—triggering the symbol of insanity placed upon it.

The Madness of Super Blood Explosion

Lunacy grips the psyches of Arlynn, Ashla, Slim and Zandu—only Cat-Egan and Irabeth are unaffected.

Slim lashes out with his rapier of human bane, skewering Zandu. Irabeth immediately grabs the rogue and wrestles him to the ground, where she keeps him pinned as he begins babbling in a string of tongues. Zandu keeps switching between moments of lucidity and futilely pummeling on Irabeth’s plate mail. Ashla yammers a stream of nonsense, intermittently cutting herself with her swords. Arlynn lashes out against those around her and against herself. Down on the floor, Cat-Egan tries not to be trampled while futilely attempting to dispel magic on the lever.

Slim continues to babble and struggle as Irabeth holds him down, causing her to start cursing in Orcish. “Sharamûl tarbûrz! Brishzel ak dahâmabizub farkh sharat-ûr!”

Their freak out is interrupted by the arrival of Vimanda Arkona. After mutually inspecting each other’s fingers, Vimanda explains that she was trapped in the Labyrinth for weeks by a rakshasa posing as her cousin Glorio. She had journeyed to Korvosa from Westcrown in Cheliax to quietly investigate Glorio’s recent erratic behavior. Vimanda claims that the symbols were placed by the “beast of the Labyrinth” and she says that there is a cleansing fountain elsewhere that can cure the party of their ailments. Irabeth ties up Slim, while Zandu, Ashla, and Arlynn are able to bind themselves up during brief moments of lucidity. Vimanda dispels magic on the lever and then, working with Egan, reorients the Labyrinth so that she and Irabeth can drag the party to the cleansing pool.

Upon being restored to sanity, Arlynn detects evil on Vimanda while Slim immediately seizes her hand to inspect it. He finds nothing wrong with her anatomy but removing a strange magic ring. Vimanda says it is a ring of mind shielding she stole from the false Glorio’s study and has been wearing to protect herself from the rakshasa’s mind reading powers. She demands to have it back and Slim grudgingly obliges.

Vimanda insists that the party head back upstairs to confront Glorio, saying that she can disable some of the Labyrinth’s threats once he is gone. After some debate, the adventurers agree to leave the maze, though they are far from convinced that the Arkona maiden is who seems.

He Said, She Said, We Left

Vimanda leads the party back up the chasm, over the bones of the fungal guardian splayed out on the rope bridge. In the mushroom garden itself, Zandu detects the presence of the other two guardians, but they don’t attack the party due to Vimanda’s presence. The sorcerer, meanwhile, disguises himself as the slain rakshasa.

Slim recites the code phrase before opening the trap door under the jade elephant skeleton and the Arkona maiden leads them upstairs to Glorio’s room. She then hangs towards the back while Arlynn kicks down the door to confront him. Slim takes the opportunity to slip into the shadows.

The party presents Glorio with Vimanda’s accusations, while he chastises them for letting the rakshasa out of the Labyrinth alive. Arlynn is unable to detect an evil aura from either of them and each refuses to back down from accusing the other (with Vimanda notably keeping out of sight of Glorio, despite Irabeth’s efforts to pull her forward).

The party questions Glorio about the rakshasa-themed motifs of the Labyrinth and he explains that his family built their fortune on trade with the Impossible Kingdoms of Vudra and have grown fond of its culture. Vimanda instead claims that the family’s trade empire succeeded only thanks to a secret alliance with a rakshasa that dwelt below the palace but which has since assumed Glorio’s form and brought more of its kind to Korvosa. Ashla questions Glorio about his butler Carnochan, while Zandu brings up the dead rakshasa, but neither gets a conclusive answer from either Arkona.

Arlynn decides to try a different test, asking first Vimanda and then Glorio to take hold of her sword, which had been infused by her divine bond. Neither of the two flinched or showed signs of injury from handling the sword, but the flames flickered as if struck by a gust of wind each time the two Arkonas took the blade—confirming their evil natures.

Lurking in the shadows, Slim makes his own calculation about which side to back and stabs Vimanda in the back with his rapier of human bane, noting that the blade did not strike her as hard as it should have. Glorio takes this opportunity to wish the adventurers luck and slams the door to his chambers shut, inadvertently trapping Rat-Egan who had snuck inside.

Outside, Vimanda flies out over the enclosed garden. She lambasts the party for attacking her, warning that Glorio will not let any of them escape alive knowing what they know. Slim reveals that she is not human and demands to know her true name. Vimanda insists that she is who she claims to be, but admits that she is secretly a tiefling, revealing a set of shrunken vestigial wings on her back.

Glorio, meanwhile, peers down at Rat-Egan. “Go on, little druid, and join your friends.”

Egan squirms out under the door and with his return, the party decides to give up the confrontation entirely and return to the original rescue operation. As they begin descending the stairs, a frustrated Vimanda blasts a hole in a window and flies out of the palace.

It’s a Trap! Again!

After returning to the Vivified Labyrinth, the party explores the chamber that Vimanda emerged from. It is a long hallway lined with eerily life-like preserved tiger heads. Slim finds a bypass switch to temporarily disable the trap, while Ashla discovers a secret door at the very end of the otherwise dead-ended hall. The party races down the hall and into the next chamber, a circular room dominated by a fountain featuring a statue of an enormous snake with dozens of arms grasping swords.

Not pausing to investigate, the adventurers continue on into the next room, another long hall lined by pairs of iron maidens decorated with images of weeping women. Zandu wanders into the hall far enough to set off its trap, which Slim realizes is on a delay. The party makes another made dash across the room, with Slim vaulting over most of the party to reach the far door. Behind them, the time-delayed trap in the snake fountain room goes off.

Slim opens the door to the fourth room, which is lined with a wasp mosaic. Zandu flys into the center of the room and holds there, while the others race past him into an adjacent hall. Moments later, the wasp room begins to undulate with thousands of tiny needles jabbing out of the walls, ceiling, and floor. Zandu, floating in the center, is unharmed.

Once the needles subside, Zandu and Arlynn investigate the nearby meditation room, which contains an enchanted black pillar that can restore spells.

Let’s Split Up to Cover More Ground

The adventurers then continue up the hallway to another strange room with four glowing orbs—black, white, green, and gold—tucked into niches in the walls. At the far end are two levers. Zandu determines that the orbs have conjuration magic on them, as does the western lever, which is locked into the “down” position. Slim warily raises the western lever to the upright position, but nothing appears to happen. He then tries the eastern lever, which rotates the Labyrinth another 90 degrees, revealing two heretofore undiscovered rooms—one empty and abandoned save for a hidden lever (which simply rotates the Labyrinth), and one holding only rubble and bones.

Returning to the room with the two levers, Slim looks more closely at the glowing orbs, guessing that they might be teleportation devices. He suggests splitting the party up into three groups, each touching a different orb. The others are more skeptical, but as soon as they acquiesce to splitting up, Slim touches the black orb and vanishes. Arlynn hurriedly follows him, while the others decide to stick together and touch the green orb.

Slim and Arlynn appear back in the meditation chamber, beside the black pillar.

“Well that didn’t take us very far,” Slim says.

Ashla, Irabeth, Zandu, and Cat-Egan materialize in a completely new room, one stained with blood and dominated by a large green throne on which lounges a fiendish-looking sphinx. To either side of the throne are statues of tiger-headed men holding manacles. Shackled to the statue on the left is a battered and bruised Vencarlo Orisini.

“I see you got my message,” he calls out cheerily.

Cat's Cradle
Escape from Old Korvosa, Part 3

Fight! Fight! Fight!

After spending a comfortable night in Kyra’s Smalltown home, the party emerges to go pay a visit to Lord Glorio Arkona. Not far from the ruins of the Sticky Mermaid, however, they are confronted by the druid Qoro. Still furious at Egan Silentall for helping oust him from leadership of the Brackwater Druid Circle, the half-orc challenges the gnome to a solo duel according to ancient druid law.

“What makes you think he’ll accept?” Ashla snorts.

“If he’s his father’s son he will,” Qoro grits back.

The two druids square off while Slim quietly takes a position up on a nearby rooftop. They trade flame strikes, with the half-orc pausing to offer Egan the chance to concede. The gnome instead simply asks what he wants.

Somewhat flustered, Qoro says that he wants to defeat Egan in order to take back his rightful place as leader of the Circle. The others note that Faunra is leading the Circle, but he dismisses her as a naive figurehead. Qoro also demands information on Egan’s shady associates in Korvosa.

“Daaad!” a voice calls out, as Qoro’s son Akko and his new Dwarvish daughter-in-law Thenra step. into view. Akko gives his father an exasperated look. “What the hell are you doing? …Are you trying to fight that gnome?”

The truth soon comes out. Qoro had been trying to set up a nature preserve within Korvosa, but to fund it he had accepted an underhanded job from the Goldlager Inn in Magnimar to put their Korvosan rivals out of business. When Akko took the bribe money and eloped with Thenra, the whole scheme fell apart and Qoro was left to trying to recover and then repay the money. But the quarantine of Old Korvosa has sent his contact running.

Slim is able to connect him to another Magnimar underworld figure who can get the money back to the Goldlager. Egan asks how Qoro knows his father and the half-orc explains that he was first inducted into the druids by Madrick Silentall. In fact, the gnome was in the city to meet with him when Content Not Found: gaedren framed him for a crime that led to his execution. Qoro says that Madrick’s amulet subsequently fell into the possession of a local noble that Zandu and Slim identify as Glorio Arkona.

Egan tells Qoro that there will always be a place for him in the Circle and they go their separate ways.

It’s Complicated

The party is welcomed back to the Arkona Palace and Carnochan quickly escorts them up to see Lord Glorio, who is lounging in the bath. He hails them for having removed the Emperor and his gnome henchman, promising that his men will be able to restore order to the district. As recompense, Glorio gifts the party a ring of evasion.

Egan takes the opportunity to ask if Glorio ever knew a gnome named Madrick. Glorio seems mystified by the idea and also denies having any dealings with the druid circle. The party then inquires about Neolandis and Vencarlo. Glorio admits that the two men are his “guests” and says he would gladly hand them over, but notes that there are a few “complications.”

He claims to have stashed Neolandis in the safest place in the palace, the Vivified Labyrinth. It’s a strange, movable dungeon built by some of Glorio’s less enlightened ancestors. But then Vencarlo broke into the complex, attempting to “free” Neolandis, and both men ended up running deeper into the Labyrinth.

To make matters even worse, Glorio’s cousin Vimanda Arkona turned up but was outed as the rakshasa by Carnochan, who spotted the fiend’s telltale inverted anatomy. Glorio and his guards managed to drive the creature into the labyrinth just a few days ago. As a result, he is not eager to venture down there to retrieve his guests, but he invites the party to do so and encourages them to kill the rakshasa along the way. Slim insists on extracting a promise that he will not interfere with them once they return with the “guests.”

Glorio scoffs at the idea that he would go back on his word. “What sort of brigand do you take me for?”

“A man of your status does attract certain rumors,” Slim notes.

You Must Be This Tall to Enter the Labyrinth

After an agreement is reached, Slim and Zandu then confer with Kyra. Since her services as a guide are concluded and the risks below are great, they offer her the opportunity to return to the mainland to look after her mother and continue her work in the Cerulean Society. After some consideration, she agrees that she should head back across the river.

Before she goes, Kyra tugs Zandu down to her level so she can kiss him on the cheek. She urges him to come back in one piece, since “I still have to help you finish that book.”

Arlynn also gives Kyra message to pass on to her own followers in mainland Korvosa, instructing them to assist Cressida.

Once the goodbyes are concluded, Carnochan leads the party to the hidden trap door in the Arkona’s artificial jungle garden, revealing a spiral staircase that leads deep into the earth.

Bad Mushrooms

The party steps out of the staircase onto a ledge curving around the interior of a deep cavern. The ledge has been cultivated into a garden of all manner of strangely colored fungi, lichens, and molds, which have been shaped into all manner of symmetrical patterns normally not seen in nature. Zandu soon detects the presence of three large invisible beings. One of them approaches the party head on, while the other two glide across the chasm to attack from the flanks and rear. The creatures are revealed to be the skeletons of janni, animated by a malevolent fungus that coats their remains.

The evil mold releases spores that poison Slim, Ashla, and Zandu. The skeletons then engage with massive scimitars, but through steel and spell the party is ultimately able to bring the mushroom zombies down. After tending to their wounds as best they can, the six of them continue down a series of winding rope bridges (stepping over the corpse of one of the fallen fungal guardians), until they reach the bottom-most ledge of the chasm.

The Smuggler’s Cave

There they find a single wooden pier extending out into a gently sloshing pool of sea water, a shallow-draft barge docked beside it. Though the cave appears to be self-contained, a little detective work on Slim’s part reveals an illusory wall that obscures the cave’s connection to an old smuggling tunnel. But Slim’s investigations also discovered traces that the cave is home to more than boats, finding evidence that some large aquatic creature frequents the area.

Confident that they have found an escape route, the party then considers two doors they have come across, unmentioned in Glorio’s description. After checking for traps, they choose to enter the large bronze double doors at the very bottom of the chasm.

Endangered Species Hacked

Inside, they find a strange, temple-like space lined with statues of a tiger-headed man, the largest of which holds in each hand the flag of Korvosa and the banner of House Arkona. At the feet of the large statue is an actual tiger-headed man, who is feeding something to two enormous cobras.

Zandu draws upon his deep study of the planes to identify the creature. “Hey, evil outsider!”

“Is their anything useful you can do?” Ashla asks, swords at the ready.

“More intruders, my pets,” the rakshasa says to his snakes. “I’m sure Senshiir will give them long and painful deaths.”

While the cobras surge forward to attack the party, the fiend turns invisible and remains that way for about twenty-five seconds. During that time, the adventurers bring down the cobras but not before Ashla and Zandu are stricken by their venom.

As the poison saps their strength, the rakshasa reappears—only for Slim to get the drop on him. As the other warriors close in, the vile outsider lets loose with a barrage of lightning bolts. Zandu, meanwhile, falls unconscious from the poison and featherfalls sixty feet to the ground, where Egan works to revive him.

The rakshasa, meanwhile, is quickly surrounded by sword-wielding adventurers able to overcome his supernaturally resilient hide. A revived Zandu, meanwhile, is able to give the rakshasa a taste of its own medicine, overcoming the creature’s innate resistance to magic. The fiend finally slips out of the group and towards the exit, but turns to fling more lightning bolts. After healing herself from the brink of death, Irabeth charges him and cuts him in half.

Afterwards, the party inspects the fake temple, with Irabeth noting in disgust that it is not dedicated to any god but rather the worship of the rakshasa itself. At Arlynn’s encouragement (and with magical bolstering from Zandu and Arlynn), the half-orc cleaves the main statue in two. The party then smashes the other eight statues.

Badly battered by their experience, the adventurers decide to rest in the ruined temple, with Egan sealing the door shut with stone shape. Both Slim and Arlynn want to have a conversation with Lord Glorio as soon as their expedition into the Labyrinth is complete.

Of Shadows and Pain
Escape from Old Korvosa, Interlude

The Rogue

The past couple of hours chatting with Laori had been a strange, but oddly refreshing experience for Ionas. Their mutual stories of life in Riddleport made for some interesting insights on both their lives, and he could sense a common thread between them. Even stranger, he has found it impossible not to have a grin on his face when in her presence, despite the variety of topics.

With most of the party long past turned in for the evening, he decides to take a chance and make an inquiry of this perplexing elven maiden, " This might sound strange, and maybe naive, but in the campfires of the caravan I’ve heard a few stories that feature the Midnight Lord growing up. One story comes to mind, regarding a young beautiful woman making a deal with a servant of Zon-Kuthon to gain control over Shadows. Her goal of becoming powerful enough to extract vengeance on a corrupt lord who had killed her family. She mastered the darkness and became one with it, as the servant had promised her, and after a long and bloody campaign of vengeance against the lord’s house she finally cornered him.

“After toying with him and antagonizing him for several days, she finally ended his life. With the lord’s last desperate gasps, he asked for mercy on his daughter, pointing and his eyes fixated on a closet not too far away. As he perished, the young woman walked over to the closet, expecting to find a maiden cowering and sobbing. Instead she found a tall mirror, and she had gazed at her reflection, one she hadn’t seen in a long time. She looked more like a ghost than a person, much of her former beauty stripped away and faded, her once shining blue eyes had turned dull, giving off a yellowish hue instead.

“It was then she understood, that the family she once knew was really an illusion, and that her real family was that of the lord who she spent many years bringing about his demise. Consumed with agony and pain, she became consumed with darkness, and now stalks the halls of the ruined mansion, somewhere between life and death, a monster of her own creation, in the Midnight Lord’s image.”

He took a pause for a moment, to gauge Laori’s reaction. “Do you think this story has at least some truth to it?”

The Priestess

The candlelight flickers within the deep black ovals of Laori’s elven eyes, like twinkling yellow stars in the night sky, while her shapely (if pointy) silhouette is cast in large relief on the wall behind her. She has been listening to Slim’s account with rapt attention, her perpetual bounciness confined to simply running the links of her spiked chain through her fingers like prayer beads.

“You tell the sweetest stories, Slim,” she grins. “I hadn’t heard that one before, but it could totally be true. I mean, there’s poetic license and stuff, but it has all the right elements.”

She ticks them off on her fingers. “Anguish, shadows, bargains, absent parents who abandon their children to fend for themselves without any explanation, and even a happy ending!”

The elf maiden leans forward and speaks in a conspiratorial stage whisper. “My turn for a story. Wanna know how ZK became the lord of shadows?”

Without waiting for a response, she jumps right in. " So, it’s like this. After ZK comes back from the space between spaces, he makes a bargain with the god Abadar. The Midnight Lord promises to seal himself up on the Plane of Shadow for as long as the sun hangs in the sky, if in return he could take one perfect item from the First Vault once the banishment is finished. And the city god is totally down with this."

Laori’s hooked chain mail jingles as she leans even closer. “So for millennia ZK waits in his totally awesome palace of Xovaikain on the Plane of Shadow, until Earthfall strikes the sun from the sky. Then the Midnight Lord visits Abadar and collects his present from the Vault: the very first shadow, ever.”

With a jingle of her hooked chain mail, Laori extends her arm out in front of the candle, curling her fingers into an odd shape. “It looked kind of like Mr. Duckie here.”

The far wall of Salvator’s bedroom is now graced with the vague outline of a waterfowl. The duck silhouette bobs along the wall as Laori continues to narrate. “And ZK, being all wise and minty fresh, takes the first shadow back to Xovaikain, dum dee dum dum.”

The elf priestess holds up her other hand. “Once there, he uses it to create even more shadows to play with, like Mrs. Duckie. Here, watch them kiss.”

The two duck shadows awkwardly mash their beaks together, but Laori soon has them fighting one another. It is around the time the third duck shows up that Slim notices that Laori has stopped using her hands.

She leans back and nods at the ongoing shadow play. “Neat, huh?”

The Rogue

Ionas was quite pleased with Laori’s reaction to his tale, his wry smile growing just a bit longer as he nodded and took his turn to listen. So it could be true… he thought to himself before turning his full attention to her story. He made a few mental notes as he listened. The first shadow, what a strange prize to ask for. What was the Midnight Lord planning…

Ionas turned his attention to Laori’s shadow puppet show. The story drew him, ever so deeper as theories and hypothetical raced through his mind. Suddenly, his mind stopped in its tracks as he noticed the third duck and Laori’s lack of direct manipulation.

“Well now, that’s some trick you’ve learned here,” Ionas said, looking at it quite perceptively, " Although that is a poor choice of words on my part, if my eyes aren’t deceiving me." While not a trained in the magical arts like Zandu or Egan, Ionas has faked enough magic auras and minor spells to know the difference between a simple cantrip and something truly supernatural. Embolden by this, he looks much more directly at her, his eyes almost yearning for a particular answer.

“One last story, about Riddleport this time,” he said in a soft, hushed tone. His eyes firmly fixed upon her, he continued, " Many decades ago, Riddleport was in control of a particularly mean Overlord by the name of Valak Salendor. He controlled everything with an iron fist, and it was extremely difficult to do my kind of work without his blessing. The only man in Riddleport other than the Overlord who knew what was going on in the city at any given time was this skinny little wretch named ‘Snitch’. Now Snitch was as skittish as they come, always looking over his shoulder and shaking all the time; but it was always Snitch that gave people what they wanted to know. He was clever, always staying in the shadows, capable of remaining unseen as he observed what his marks before he would slip away. Salendor was on to him though, and finally he grew tired of Snitch and decided to deal with him in a creative fashion. When they caught old ’Snitch, they took him to a hall far below the city. There, they threw Snitch into a deep pit, a horrid place called The Edge of the Abyss. The victims would slide down for countless meters, to a point no light would ever touch. There was no sound either that could be heard in that place, although anyone at the top could here what was going on. It was said that the darkness of the pit also housed foul shadow creatures that would strike upon you, careful not to do any serious harm but constantly keep you on edge, so that it would destroy your mind long before you starve. Snitch was no different. His screams could be heard clear as day, and for 2 weeks they tortured him. The end of the 2nd week is when he stopped screaming. Satisfied that they had broken him, Salendor became satisfied that he had closed off that final leak that threatened his reign."

Ionas took a sip of wine that they had poured earlier in the evening. His glanced at the candlelight as he continued, “And that’s when the disappearances started. Men loyal to Salendor would go missing, always near the most dimly lit parts of the city, never to be heard from again. At first it was at random and rare, but it soon became frequent and almost like clock-work. No matter how many torches they had or men, they would all vanish. No blood, no body parts or signs of struggle, just gone. That’s when everyone suspected Snitch wasn’t really dead, nor was he still stuck in the Abyss. What’s more, people started seeing shades of him everywhere, always watching, ever silent. Many tried to follow him, even going so far as to willingly get themselves thrown into the pit in order to gain the power he had seemed to have. Some say a few were successful, but many others failed miserably.”

Taking another sip, his eyes moved back to Laori, " Not wanting to appear weak, Salendor organized a big banquet for all the big time bosses on his payroll, declaring that it would be by sunrise the next morning the threat that had plagued them would be dealt with permanently. He was calling him out, and Snitch would have to be obliged to show. It was a trap of course, but Snitch had other plans in mind. Around twilight, the candles in the grand hall started to dim and the shadows on the wall grew more distinct. Music was still filling the halls as Salendor’s men danced and drank with other guests and escorts brought in for the occasion. It was around this time that the minstrels started playing a tune with a much faster tempo as the crowd grew more rambunctious. Indeed, there was a strange sense of urgency of it, like war drums of a great hunt, but none of the patrons paid it any mind. The swaying of the crowd grew faster and faster, more erratic the longer it went on.

“Then suddenly the music stopped, and everyone that Salendor brought in collapsed onto the dance floor; their blood leaking out onto floor. All that were left standing were these strange figures, half cloaked in shadow and half dressed in outfits similar to the dead patrons. Their eyes had a shadowy glow to them, and with weapons drawn they gracefully danced forward towards where Salendor was sitting, encircling him. Completely surrounded, he defiantly stood up and demanded to see Snitch. Before his eyes a shadow appeared before him, in the shape of Snitch, although none of his skittish nature remained. The shade responded, ‘Snitch is dead, where you left him, but he has been reborn in the shadows. It is your very shadow that has been your undoing. The shades you see before you are merely dancing shadows of this place, always present always watching, as old as Varisia, nay, the world itself. We embraced the shadows you have condemned many to perish in, and now your shadow comes for you.’

“And with that, a shade in the appearance of Salendor appeared behind him, running a blade through his heart. As Salendor slumped over, the shades enveloped him. In the morning all in the hall were dead, yet no one could find Salendor’s body. The spot that they said he died upon had a small onyx figure of an eye left in its place. That’s when people stopped calling him Snitch, and instead Ebon Eye, the gaze of Riddleport. His cohorts were called by another name, the name that has only existed in rumor and in legends elsewhere, Shadowdancers.”

He cleared his throat and said flatly with a small smile, “I don’t think they are just rumors and legends.”

The Priestess

“Oh, I remember that!” Laori nods. “They called it the Night of the Long Shadows. Such an awesome name. Afterwards, my friends and I started calling ourselves the Long Shadows. We were the terrors of Lubbertown for a good four years. Then they grew up and moved on and my next friends didn’t want a team name at all.”

She gazes wistfully at her trio of squabbling ducks shadows, who are presently chasing each other back and forth across the wall. When she turns back to Slim, though, her smile is as bright as ever.

“Anyway, shadowdancers are totally a real thing. They can meld into the darkness or summon up shades from the Plane of Shadow. They’re pretty damn awesome, even if they aren’t duckies.”

As she speaks, one of the silhouettes on the wall fades out of view as if suddenly struck with a bright light—though the dim illumination in the room remains unchanged. A moment later, another duck reaches down into the layer of darkness along the bottom of the wall and then pulls the missing duck shadow up by its neck. The two immediately begin fighting again.

Laori blows them a kiss, which they proceed to chase—or possibly flee from. Watching the display, she continues: " There’s a lot of shadowdancers in Nidal and I think Ustalav, but you can find them almost anywhere. The Ebon Eye was definitely one of the best—even if he spurned ZK for that complete poser Norgerber." She sticks her tongue out at the mention of the once-mortal god of theft and murder.

“I used to be really afraid of the dark when I was a little elfling,” she says, tracing a finger through the dregs of her wine cup, “so the idea that this shadowy guy could be lurking anywhere in my room at night just creeped me out. I mean, you can’t exactly hit a shadow over the head or push it into an oven like you would a normal person.”

She shrugs. “Now, of course, I know that shadows are just ZK’s little cuddle buddies. You’re never alone if you’ve got a shadow!”

Laori sticks a hand in front of the candle to cast another duck silhouette on the far wall. The other ducklings flock back to it and disappear inside it. “They’re actually really friendly, too. People just misunderstand them, like I used to.”

She pulls her hand back from the candle to jab a finger at him. “And I’m so onto you, Slim. If you want pointers on becoming the next Ebon Eye, you can just ask me—no need to be coy.” She gives him a wink. “It’s not really that hard, especially since you know the Shadowtongue. That’s like half the battle right there. Plus, you’ve got those adorable dancer’s feet, which is awesome. You’ll make a fantastic shadowdancer!”

“But if you really want to get into the dance, it would be so much easier if you joined the Church of Zon-Kuthon.” She brandishes her spiked chain between her mailed hands, eyes gleaming. “I can induct you in right now if you like!”

The Rogue

So that’s what it was called… Ionas tried to hide his surprise at hearing that Laori was one of those present. I used to think old man Phen was just a senile old man, telling crazy tales only children would believe… “That’s what the stories’ all say,” he said softly, shortly after her remark about Shadowdancers and Nidal, “it is quite interesting to hear it from a more…personal perspective.”

Ionas took up his cup, much lighter now than it was, and gulped it down a little less dignified for someone enjoying pleasant conversation. He listened intently to Laori while filling up his cup with the last of the bottle they had opened. As if on cue, he leaned back in his chair as Laori pointed at him. "Well, in my line of work people can get touchy when sniffing about powers beyond them and, " he paused to take a sip from his glass, “one does not simply ask about Shadowdancers.”

Ionas tried best he could not to break out in laughter as he saw Laori become suddenly enthusiastic at the thought of Ionas becoming inducted into Zon-Kuthon’s church. His family has never been the most zealous of parishioners, even for a Varisian, and this was especially true for Ionas. With one light touch against her spiked chain, he gently nudged it slightly down, away from anything vital as he said, “You’re far too kind with your praises, and generous with your offers. I’m afraid I’m not the best when it comes to worship, but I can promise to keep ZK’s unhallowed days from now on.” He smiled, returning to his glass of wine, “I will, on the other hand, take up your generous offer of instructing me in the ways of shadow-dancing. We all have to embrace our fears of the dark, and maybe I’ll give our enemies something to fear in turn.” Taking a big gulp of his glass, he stands up and with a bit of a bow he extends his hand, “Shall we begin my instruction?”

It's All Fun and Games
Escape from Old Korvosa, Part 2

In the Shadows

As they settle in for the evening at Salvator Scream’s house, the party discusses their next move. Slim suggests reaching out to House Arkona, while Zandu asks if Kyra could try getting the Cerulean Society leaders to open up their guild hall. The halfling woman, perched on an empty shelf and toying with the ring in her hair, warns that “The Cerulean Society will sell us out.” She notes that the Society operates under a royal charter and won’t risk crossing the Crimson Throne, especially when the payoff could be so high.

She also has misgivings about the Arkonas. Although Lord Glorio Arkona has been building affordable housing and tossing out gold to the poor in Old Korvosa, his family has close ties to the Society. Kyra says that noble clients who pay their protection fees are left alone, but the Arkonas are given an especially wide berth.

On the other hand, she does note that Glorio likes to see himself as the patron and protector of Old Korvosa. And he’s never gotten along with Queen Ileosa. Slim suggests that the party offer to remove the Emperor of Old Korvosa for him, since it couldn’t hurt to get on the Arkonas’ good side. The rest of the party elects to go along with this plan.

Before going to bed, Slim has a private talk with Laori Vaus.

Bring Me the Head of Pilts Swastel

As they make their way towards the Arkona Palace, Irabeth spots three people in an alleyway, all afflicted with the Blood Veil. After convincing them that they’re not here to drive them out, Arlynn removes the disease from them. The three of them, two men and a woman, explain that they fled Old Dock to avoid being conscripted into the Emperor’s mob and came here because it is safer, even though the Arkona guards are trying to keep out anyone who’s sick. The refugees also tell the party about the Emperor’s obsession with violent games, particularly something called “blood pig.”

The Arkona Palace is a most unusual place, built in an exotic and colorful Vudrani style that contrasts sharply with the Chelaxian design of most of the other major buildings in Korvosa. The party speaks with Carnochan, the Arkonas’ one-eyed majordomo, who leads them into a nearby lounge to await an audience with Lord Glorio Arkona. Laori identifies a statue in the hallway as being Chamidu, the Vudran Goddess of Beasts, and surmising that “they probably don’t worship ZK.” Kyra is more interested in the fist-sized green gems than make up its eyes, though she keeps reminding herself that “He’s a client, he’s a client.” Zandu telepathically messages her that they may make a return trip here in a few months, after the Cerulean Society undergoes some reorganization.

A few minutes later, Lord Glorio appears and gently chastises Carnochan for failing to offer the adventurers refreshments. While the servant goes off to fetch snacks, Glorio hears out the party. The adventurers explain that they would like to use his facility as a safehouse in exchange for removing the Emperor. Glorio gives them some background on the demagogue, Pilts Swastel, the former manager of the theatre of the grotesque known as Exemplary Execrables. He notes that the petty dictator is rarely seen without his Gnome toady, Jabbyr. Slim suggests the party try to get close to the Emperor by offering to participate in one of his “games.”

Arlynn also raises the issue of the plague victims and their fear of the Arkona Guards. Glorio promises to speak to his men about being “over zealous” in protecting Fort Korvosa. Zandu supplies the noble with the formula for the Blood Veil cure, so that his men can begin manufacturing it.

After leaving the Arkona Palace, Laori recommends that they come up with a cool team name for themselves before they play Blood Pig. After some back and forth, Ashla suggests “Blood Explosion,” which Laori amends to “Super Blood Explosion.” Bound together by their new name, they then head out towards Old Dock and the Emperor’s palace on Silk Street.

Big Trouble in Little Korvosa

Kyra leads the party on a roundabout route into Old Dock, first swinging by her old neighborhood of Smalltown. They find the halfling enclave smashed and abandoned by the Emperor’s mob, as Kyra had feared. She vows vengeance against him. “I want him dead. I want his whole inner circle dead. Let’s go find this artist.”

The deeper the adventurers journey into Old Dock, the more signs of the Emperor’s mad rule they see—from smashed and vandalized homes to corpses hung up on display. They are soon confronted by a gang of thugs who sneer at Arlynn’s attempt at diplomacy.

“Why is a pretty thing like you looking for trouble in a place like this?” he asks.

“Yeah, we’re looking for trouble all right!” Slim interjects. “We’re looking for all kinds of trouble!”

Zandu tries to give the thugs an intimidating glare but instead just looks like a puppy. Arlynn says that the party wants to participate in the Emperor’s “games.” The gang leader grudgingly agrees and takes them to the “palace,” a collection of flats on the edge of burned out neighborhood. The bottom floors of the remaining buildings have been filled with junk, limiting access to a series of rope bridges leading up to the main building.

It is at this point that the gang leader notices that Egan is missing. The gnome had previously slipped away to wild shape into a rat and follow the party surreptitiously. Despite the leader’s conviction that there were originally eight of them, the adventurers persuade him to drop the matter and take them upstairs.

There, a long flat roof section has been turned in a crude ballcourt, while the slanted roofs to the east have been made into makeshift bleachers crowded with more thugs. To the west, the balcony of a taller building overlooks the game field. It is there, seated on a crude mock up of the Crimson Throne, that Pilts Swastel, the Emperor of Old Korvosa, holds court. Nearby looms the ominous silhouette of the Tall Knife, tended by the gnomish executioner Jabbyr.

The Emperor is surprised to find volunteers for blood pig, but he agrees to give them five minutes with Salvator “under my supervision” if they win the match. If they don’t, well, the Tall Knife is always hungry.

Play It Through the Pain

The game of blood pig involves grabbing a squealing pig and tossing it into one of two pits containing a starving wolverine. Each pig disposed of in this fashion earns a point for the team whose wolverine is fed. The game runs until one team gets 5 points. No weapons and no magic are allowed, but otherwise violence is encouraged.

The party stumbles through the match, scoring a point early on but then falling behind. Rat-Egan lingers near the Emperor on the balcony to watch the match.

Team Super Blood Explosion tries to bull rush their opponents, the Shinglesnipes, into the wolverine pits. Poor Kyra keeps getting knocked over and kicked down, though she does manage to get in some unarmed sneak attacks against her opponents’ knees. Laori trips people, tumbling between them while laughing and singing.

Zandu gets pushed into a hole but is protected by his ring of feather fall. Slim sends one of the Shinglesnipes in after him and a furious Kyra barrels into another one, shouting “Halfling power!” She manages to knock him off balance and into the pit, where Zandu is able to climb over him and on out. Irabeth ties up several Shinglesnipes in the center of the field with a slugging match, while Asha wrestles with another near the home goal.

By the time the score reaches Shinglesnipes 3, Super Blood Explosion 1, the party is about ready to turn to plan B. Then one of the Shinglesnipes picks Kyra up and drops her into the wolverine pit.

That’s the limit for Slim, who shouts “This whole thing is turning into one big pineapple salad!”

The code phrase thus uttered, the party begins moving into position, with most of them clustering around Arlynn near the home goal while Slim moves over to Zandu near the Shinglesnipes’ goal. The sorcerer surreptitiously slips the rogue his rapier from the handy haversack. Rat-Egan quietly casts heat metal on the Emperor.

The confused Shinglesnipes continue playing the game, scoring a fourth point as the party ignores them.

Wrath of the Halfling

As heat metal starts to take effect, Rat-Egan blasts the Emperor with flame strike. His response is swift. Leaping from his smoldering chair and casting aside his crown and scepter, bellows out to his followers “Sorcery! Kill them! Off with their heads! You do not not know fear, you do not know pain, you will defend your emperor!”

Slim vaults up onto the balcony, rapier in hand, pledging “Death to tyrants!”

“Assassin, usurper, revolutionary!” the Emperor spits back. Jabbyr the gnome rushes over to defend his liege, greataxe in hand and hacks into the rogue savagely.

Out on the field, Arlynn, Ashla, Laori and Irabeth are all reclaiming their weapons. Zandu casts fly on himself and swoops down into the pits where Kyra is trying to fend off the hungry wolverine.

“Well if it isn’t my knight in flapping armor!” she calls out in delight. She grabs hold of his robes and draws her rapier from the handy haversack.

Up on the balcony, Rat-Egan casts call lightning, finally catching the Emperor’s attention. He responds by casting a spell on Slim. “You, anarchist, kill the rat!”

Having resisted the charm’s effects, Slim grins back. “With pleasure.”

The Varisian rogue vaults over the Emperor and lands behind him, then spins around to stab the fraud in the back. “I think I got him pretty well!”

With Kyra clinging to him, Zandu flys up to the balcony and blasts the Emperor with lightning bolt, which Egan follows up with call lightning. As the false Emperor totters woozily on his feet, Kyra springs up onto the wreckage of his throne, rapier held high.

“For Smalltown!” she shouts and skewers him through the eye and out the back of his skull.

Ashla calls out a warning to the Emperor’s thugs. “This is why we’re called Super Blood Explosion!”

“Show’s over, folks!” Kyra adds. “Curtain’s closed! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

The mob starts to flee as Ashla, Irabeth, and Arlynn force open the gate to the balcony stairs. The gnome Jabbyr recovers from the shock of seeing his master die and lets out a wordless cry as he charges Slim. Zandu blasts the gnome repeatedly with lightning bolt, prompting Ashla to warn him about accidentally striking Salvator in the adjacent building. It is ultimately Laori who brings down Jabbyr with a cheerful flick of her spiked chain. Slim proceeds to check the Emperor’s body to ensure that he is truly deceased.

“He’s dead, Slim,” Egan assures him.

Together, Arlynn and Laori also smash the Tall Knife, an abomination to both their deities.

Everyone’s a Critic

Once healing spells have been cast and the bodies have been secured in a bag of holding as “evidence,” the party investigates the interior of the palace. Stepping through one of the gaping holes blasted by Zandu’s lightning, they find the Emperor’s bedroom. Among the tattered knickknacks are three strange and morbid paintings by Salvator Scream. Laori is immediately fascinated by them and the party promises to come to some arrangement with her over them.

Further investigations reveal the Emperor’s gruesome trophy hall and dining room, as well as the cramped chamber where Salvator is being kept, slaving over a half-finished painting of giant demons attacking a village. The artist begs to be rescued, but the party assures him that the Emperor is dead.

“And his shitty gnome, too!” Slim adds bitterly as Arlynn pulls the corpses halfway out of the bag of holding.

Salvator thanks them but insists that they take him far away from here—of Old Korvosa if possible. When asked if he wants to take his painting, he abandons it as rubbish. “He’s right,” says a surprised and disappointed Laori. She knocks over the easel in disgust.

With Salvator in tow, Team Super Blood Explosion investigates the rest of palace, finding salvaged props from Exemplary Execrables as well as an art supply room with another eleven new slapdash Screams. Laori eagers digs through them, but her enthusiasm quickly cools and she abandons the paintings with a dismissive “Bored now.”

The party also finds a choker nest in a semi-collapsed section of the palace, which they flush out with bright light and scorching rays.

Friends of the Arts

Searching for a safe place to regroup, they take Salvator back to Kyra’s place in Smalltown, which like most of the other houses has been thoroughly burgled.

“Amateurs,” Kyra sniffs. “They only found the decoy stashes.”

With the party crammed into the living room, the only part of the apartment with a ceiling comfortable for big people, Salvator explains how he used to have vivid, macabre dreams that he would simply paint out on the canvas. But much to Laori’s disappointment, his muse abandoned him months ago, an event that seems to have left him equal parts confounded and relieved.

The party asks him about his connection to Neolandis and Salvator explains that the missing seneschal was a devoted patron of the arts, fond of attending plays and gallery openings in secret as an escape from court politics. Neolandis recognized Salvator’s talent and the two struck up an odd friendship, meeting once or twice a month in secret to discuss art, philosophy, and any topic that struck their fancy.

The night of King Eodred’s death, Salvator was startled awake by a wounded and poisoned Neolandis pounding on his door. According to the seneschal, Queen Ileosa had murdered her husband and sent assassins after him when he tried to confront her. Neolandis told the artist that the Queen had changed recently, grown “worse,” but that the less Salvator knew, the safer he’d be.

After Neolandis had recovered from his wounds and begun slipping out to investigate his suspicions about the Queen, both men realized that Salvator’s humble home was no safe place to hide for long. The artist suggested that Neolandis turn to one of his biggest patrons, House Arkona, for safety.

It was shortly after the seneschal was taken in by the Arkonas that Salvator was contacted by Vencarlo Orisini, who’d somehow ferreted out his connection to Neolandis. Once he learned what had become of the seneschal, Vencarlo was furious, raging that the Arkonas were deeply in bed with the Cerulean Society. Salvator suspects vencarlo has attempted to break into the Arkona Palace and when he learns that the fencing master is missing, he urges the party to rescue both men and then flee the city.

“It’s not safe for any of us!” he insists.

After a short debate, the party decides to return to the Arkona Palace to get their reward for offing the Emperor and then confront Glorio over the two missing people. Laori offers to escort the artist safely out of the city. Ashla asks how she will get across the river.

“Oh, I’ll walk. It’s how I got here in the first place.”

Laori asks about the three good Salvator Scream paintings that the party retrieved and after some back and forth she purchases them for 650gp, gently removing the canvas from the frame and placing them inside a special scroll case.

Be Seeing you

Laori then awkwardly asks to speak with Salvator in private. Kyra points them to the kitchen, then quietly shows Slim the peephole.

The elf priestess asks Salvator more detailed questions about the contents of his dreams, including the color blue that turns up so often in his work. She also tries to pin down the date that his muse left him. She tells him not to worry, that Zon-Kuton works in mysterious ways and his muse could return any day. Then she offers him a cookie and promises to get him safely out of the city.

When she returns, Laori bids her farewells to the party, noting that they have all been “completely awesome.” She is clearly reluctant to go, but says that she has to report to her superiors in the Church on these developments.

She opens her arms wide. “Hugs?”

Ultimately, Arlynn, Zandu, Slim, and even a grudging Irabeth give her a hug, while Egan offers a high five and Kyra simply wishes her luck (while turning down the offer of a skull in for her mantlepiece.)

Laori is confident that she will see them again, however, saying that ZK promised it to her in her dreams and he always keeps his promises. She also pledges to follow up with Slim via sending on their conversation from the night before. With that, she and Salvator depart while the rest of the party settles in for the evening.

Slim goes to the restroom to investigate the metal case he recovered from the hidden cache in Vencarlo’s home. He soon calls Ashla off into the kitchen to inspect its contents. They decide to present their findings to the party, revealing that Vencarlo appears to be the alter ego of folk hero Blackjack.

Arlynn is not surprised.

Long Live the Queen!
Escape from Old Korvosa, Part 1

An Unexpected Party

News of a cure for the Blood Veil electrifies the city, where many survivors witnessed the adventurer’s role in bringing it to an end. As spontaneous celebrations break out across Korvosa, Grau invites the group to a party that his sister-in-law Tayce and the Varisian community are throwing in their honor.

A small caravan of Varisian covered wagons has pulled up in a semi-circle in front of Tayce Soldado’s simple home. A great fire is going in the center of the space, roasting a sow on a skewer, while the nearby tables are laden with spicy Varisian foods and Korvosan delicacies. It seems like half the Varisians in Korvosa have turned out, including plenty of familiar faces. Ruan is leading a group of minstrels through a rousing tune while all around brightly dressed Varisian men and women dance in a whirling, hypnotic fashion.

Irabeth makes a beeline for the food, while casting some longing glances at the dancing. Arlynn soon gives her company as they dig into to the roast pork. Slim doesn’t share the half-orc’s hesitation and puts in a good showing with the other dancers.

Ashla runs into the little girl Kel and her soulbound doll friend Nathaly, who says that her papa is repairing her sisters. After chatting with the two girls, the Half-Elf ranger takes up a perch on the roof of Tayce’s house to watch over the party, her raccoon Badger at her side.

Zandu delivers an epic account of the party’s battle to save the city and his own work developing the Blood Veil cure, crediting the goddess Calistria with his success. Ruan and his sister Deyanira suggest this could make a good opera.

Egan has to talk Irabeth out of giving him meaty food—the half-orc is sampling every dish, especially unusual Korvosan delicacies rich in meat, and recommending the choicest ones to the party. The biggest hit is the Oliphant’s Ear, an enormous flat bread pastry fried on the back of a tower shield.

On the fringes of the festivities, Slim is accosted by two Sczarni thugs. They trade insults about each other’s dance moves, which escalates to a dance fight where each tries to outperform the others. Egan and Zandu quietly drift over to Slim’s side, while Ashla watches from the rooftop.

“Alright, so you’ve got some moves,” one of the Sczarni grudgingly admits. “But you’re dancing for the wrong team.”

They warn him that he won’t be welcome in Trail’s End again so long as he’s associated with the Cerulean Society, and invite him to switch over their side. Slim insists he’s purely a freelancer.

Faunra, still wet from her swim through the river, arrives to warn Egan that the half-orc druid Qoro is back in town and looking for him. She also thanks the party for their work against the plague and notes that the destruction of the bridges to Old Korvosa has had a harmful impact on the creatures of the Jeggare River.

Grau Soldado also thanks Arlynn and the others for all that they’ve done and says he needs to bow out early to check up on Remmy, who is being kept at the Citadel where she thinks she’s acting as a liaison between the Gray Maidens and the Guard.

Grau notes that Remmy says Sabina Merrin, the Maidens Commander, treats the girls gently and seems invested in their welfare. He finds it hard to believe that she would go along with the torture that is being done to them, based on their time training together at the Orisini Academy. Ashla asks him about the scandal that led to their falling out with Vencarlo Orisini, but Grau is reluctant to talk, saying that it is embarrassing—mostly for him.

Zandu preaches the virtues of Calistria, attracting a large audiences, including several lovely Varisian women who are interested in studying the goddess’ more esoteric teachings in private. On his way back to Zellara’s, Slim reserves a room for the sorcerer at Leftovers in East Shore.

By the time the party is done, the adventurers have received a variety of gifts and rewards from the grateful Varisians. They have also earned favors from a number of merchants and craftsmen in the city.

Gossiping with the Gals

The following day, Cressida summons the party to meet with her at the Citadel, which has grown increasingly dilapidated as the Guard has shrunk to a skeleton force. They encounter Remmy, who insists that she is doing better. They compliment her on her eyepatch, which she appreciates.

After the guardswoman-turned-gray maiden leaves, Cressida explains that she has kept Remmy’s presence a secret because she has no intention of letting any more of her people fall into the Queen’s clutches. She offers some background on how the standoff outside the Hospice was resolved and Ashla asks whether Marcus Endrin behaved any differently since visiting the Castle. Cressida insists that his behavior is unchanged.

The party relays their discovery that the Queen was likely behind the Blood Veil. Cressida admits that she would have found that hard to believe had they not also learned what was being done to the Gray Maidens. But the Queen is too powerful, and the Guard too weak, to be challenged directly.

Cressida explains that only the Seneschal of Castle Korvosa, with the support of the Five Great Houses, can lawfully depose a monarch. She and Marcus have agreed to call off the search for the missing seneschal, Neolandis Kalepopolis, which will force the Queen to appoint a successor who by custom is always the Commandant of Sable Company. Once Marcus is seneschal, they can begin building support for removing the queen. She asks the party to attend the appointment ceremony, where they can mingle with the nobles and remind them of the great danger the city has suffered.

The Field Marshal hasn’t forgotten what the party accomplished, either, and offers them their choice of weapons and gear that her family has accumulated through 250 years of service to Korvosa. The adventurers each select an item, all of them marked with the crest of House Croft. (Arlynn asks if she can gets hers reworked with Iomedae’s symbol).

Slim goes to meet with Kyra in Twitcher’s Tavern, where the halfling woman has taken up a perch in the back corner. He brings her up to speed on the party’s discoveries beneath the Hospice and urges her to get her mother out of the city. Kyra says she had enough trouble getting her mom to leave Smalltown, so the two rogues grudgingly agree that they’ll have to see about making Korvosa a better place. Kyra tells him that she’s gathered other Cerulean Society refugees together—officially they’re acting as a brute squad to keep the gangs in line, but unofficially they’re investigating the Society’s connections to the slavers and whatever power is behind the Guildmaster.

A task that will become dramatically easier with the arrival of more than half a dozen of Zandu’s cousins from Cheliax. The group’s unofficial leader, Skender, brings some information about the Red Mantis assassins. Zandu introduces his relatives to Kyra, who swiftly puts them to work. The sorcerer also invites her to help him with his side project, an addition to the Book of Joy, an opportunity she’s thinking over. Slim, meanwhile, returns the Cerulean Society uniform he borrowed from the wreckage of the Sticky Mermaid, figuring it might come in handy. Kyra insists it will be put to good use.

Sic Semper Tyrann-erk!

Dressed in their finest, the party assembles several days later for the Queen’s first major public appearance since the failed execution to Trinia. This time she gets things started right by having her headsman shorten the unrepentant Dr. Davaulus and order his body burned in the mass graves with his victims.

Her next act is summon forward the adventurers (and Irabeth), hailing their efforts in ending the Blood Veil, and proclaiming them the Saviors of Korvosa. The party members have a chance to get a good look at the Queen’s strange new crown, a sinister circlet of sharp horns or teeth made from an unknown dark blue substance.

Sabina Merrin presents the adventurers with their rewards, taking the time to ask if they knew anything about the missing Gray Maiden Remmy. Slim weaves a tale about Remmy’s heroic fight against Rolth, who vaporized her with a spell. Sabina is saddened by the news.

Meanwhile, Queen Ileosa has continued with her speech. She claims that the Guard and Sable Company have taken such severe losses that the Gray Maidens will have to step forward as the city’s chief protectors, with Sabina as the new General of Korvosa.

Further, the Queen announces that Sable Company is being dissolved, the remaining marines folded into the Guard. Overseeing this transition will be the new seneschal, Togomor. Ileosa then imperiously demands that Marcus Endrin turn over his badge. He responds by throwing it in her face and follows it up by denouncing her tyranny and shooting the young queen in the head with his crossbow.

But she does not fall.

With incredible speed, she regains her composure and yanks the bolt from her skull. Before the blood from the wound has time to run all the way down to her shoulder, she’s standing before Endrin. Her free hand whips out and seizes him by the throat, lifting him off the ground as she holds him up for all to see. An instant later, she buries Endrin’s own bolt between his eyes with a single powerful blow.

As Endrin’s lifeless body crumples to the ground and Ileosa imperiously shakes his blood from her hand, she cries out in a strong, clear voice—“This shall be the fate of all enemies of Korvosa! Mark well his death! It is only the first!” A moment later, Togomor steps forward, taking Ileosa’s hand and teleporting her back into the Castle.

Arlynn works with Sabina to restrain the Gray Maidens from violently dispersing the enraged crowd. Ashla questions Sabina as to whether Ileosa is even actually human, given her recovery from the crossbow bolt. Sabina insists that her mistress is human, but admits that the Queen has changed in recent months.

The party then retreats back to the Farima townhouse to discuss the developments. Zandu reveals that he detected tremendously powerful magic from the Queen’s sinister new crown. Ashla suspects that the Queen might be an undead creature given an illusion of life by the crown. Arlynn is puzzled that the Queen did not register as Evil.

Whispers from Old Korvosa

A few days after the assassination attempt, the adventurers are summoned to see Cressida at the Citadel. They find the Field Marshal within the makeshift evidence room, still in her rumpled dress uniform, several bottles of wine left empty on the table in front of her.

She tells them that the Queen is killing the city and clearly has some truly powerful magic on her side. But the Queen is too powerful to confront directly, as Marcus discovered. Cressida still doesn’t understand how this is possible; she’d thought the Queen to be just a spoiled and inexperienced noble, not a monster.

Cressida says that she received a message from Vencarlo Orisini in Old Korvosa. The fencing master claims to have discovered something important about the Queen and a pact with a devil. He urges Ashla and the others to come see him at his home right away.

It’s a slender hope, but it’s all the Field Marshal has to go on. She opens up the last remainder of the Guard’s supplies to them. Cressida also warns that the city won’t be safe for them much longer. She intends to remain at her post and mitigate what damage she can, but they will likely have to flee the city once they learn what Vencarlo has discovered.

Slim tells the others that he knows a safe way past the quarantine, though he’s not thrilled to use it.

Into the Dying City

Slim heads directly for the Chelaxian Embassy, where he is quickly ushered into a meeting with Ambassador Darvayne Gios Amprei and his hulking Ulfen bodyguard. The ambassador notes that the award ceremony has outed Slim’s presence in the city; he urges Slim to hand over the medallion and thus cease to be a target. Slim says that he wants to negotiate a handover of the artifact, but first he needs to get into Old Korvosa to retrieve it. The ambassador is willing to give him passage through the teleport circle, but warns him not to dally—agents from Slim’s pursuers could be on their way now and the longer the rogue delay the likelier he is to run into them.

While Slim clinches the deal, the party catches up with Kyra in Twitcher’s. She tells Zandu that his cousins have been successfully integrated into her crew and asks how she can help them now. The adventurers request her assistance in navigating Old Korvosa. Kyra isn’t eager to return, but she’s willing to do it for them, especially since she figures they’re working on a way to rescue the city from the Queen.

That evening, at low tide, the adventurers and Kyra arrive at the embassy and are swiftly escorted down to the vault by the Ulfen bodyguard. Zandu asks after the ambassador but is told he is otherwise occupied. Irabeth quietly growls all the way through the embassy, while Kyra just quietly cases the joint.

Down below, a thin layer of rancid water and a rotting zombie corpse await them. Together, Slim and Zandu activate the ancient Thassilonian circle, calling on Sorshen to bless their passage through her city.

Bad Vibrations

The party materializes in the sea cave with a splash. Kyra and Egan have a little trouble in the water and have to be helped up to shore. Thankfully, the zombie horde that attacked Slim and company the last time he was here seems to have moved on, so their progress to the surface is uneventful. They emerge amid the ashes of the bait shop that held the secret entrance to the smugglers’ den. The entire Reefclaw Run Market appears to have been burned down.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Slim announces.

“I have an even worse feeling,” Kyra says, nudging him in the thigh.

“Hey, the last time I was here, I almost got killed,” Slim shoots back.

“Oh yeah? Well, I used to live here,” Kyra says, crossing her arms. Slim concedes the point.

The halfling leads them cautiously through the side streets, heading west up the slope of Garrison Hill towards Fort Korvosa. The further up the hill they get, the more people they start to see, though most steer clear of them. A group of incongruously cheerful children play in the street, lopping the heads off dolls with a makeshift guillotine while singing a creepy song about an “Emperor” and his “Tall Knife.”

When questioned, the children explain that the “Emperor of Old Korvosa” controls Old Dock, beheading anyone who crosses him with his tall knife. Kyra thinks they might be talking about the Galtan guillotine that was on display at the old Exemplary Execrables Theatre in Bridgefront, which burned down at the start of the quarantine. Zandu recalls that they had a lead connecting the theatre to the Bekyar slavers. Slim gives the children some gold, to their astonishment, while Arlynn chides them to be good and stop celebrating this murderer.

The crumbling walls of the old fort separate the crest of the hill from the rest of the district. As the adventurers approach one of the gates, they are challenged by a small group of guards dressed in the black, white, and gold colors of House Arkona. The party convinces the guards that they don’t mean any trouble, with Arlynn explaining they are just there to visit their friend Vencarlo Orisini. Slim slips the squad leader a few gold to keep quiet about the whole “Vencarlo” thing and they are waved through. The inside of the Fort Korvosa ward is more lively than the rest of the city, with Arkona guards patrolling the streets and people out conducting their business.

The sun is brushing up against the horizon as they reach their destination, or what’s left of it.

Save the Last Dance

The Orisini Fencing Academy is a charred ruin that Slim quickly ascertains has been picked clean. The adventurers then approach Vencarlo’s house. Ashla knocks but gets no answer. They push open the door and investigate. They find a workroom, a bathroom, and a study with financial documents showing the Academy took a dive after the King’s death. The food in the pantry has spoiled. A fire burns cheerily in the fireplace. Slim senses that people have been here very recently.

They ascend the stairs, stepping into a training room with another fireplace. That’s when the ambush is sprung, as a Red Mantis assassin in the rafters tosses a potion into the fire. He gets a single hit on Zandu before Slim, Ashla, and Irabeth bring him down. Egan puts out the fire with create water and Zandu sets about removing the flammable liquid from the wood. Slim investigates the bedroom, discovering a hidden compartment with a small steel lockbox bearing a devilishly elaborate lock. Just as Slim unlocks it, they smell smoke coming from below.

Much of the downstairs is aflame and the fire is spreading. Egan clears a safe corridor for them to pass, but when he descends the stairs he is seized in the claws of a giant red mantis, while another assassin emerges from the shadows to shank Zandu. Both the creature and the killer move through the fire as if completely unaffected by it.

Slim vaults down the stairs to help the sorcerer, while Arlynn confronts the mantis and Egan wriggles free of its grasp. The narrow stairwell and hallway have the party largely bottled up, making it difficult for them to effectively confront their foes. Zandu goes up and down several times as the paladins try to keep him alive while the assassin tries to finish him off, until Arlynn finally hauls him bodily up the stairs. Irabeth slowly works her way down the cramped staircase and slides forward to join Slim in flanking the assassin.

“You had some fancy footwork at the party, Slim,” Irabeth calls out, “but this is my kind of dancing!”

Upstairs, Zandu positions himself approximately above the mantis and lets loose with a lightning bolt, which blasts a smoking hole in the floor and strikes the beast.

“Nice going, Zandu!” Slim shouts. “Way to think outside the floor!”

Kyra creeps over to the hole in the floor and fires her hand crossbow down at the injured insect, while Arlynn works on finishing it off. Irabeth slashes at the assassin with her greatsword, but he easily ducks aside her attacks. Trapped on the staircase, Ashla shouts down at her “Hit him! Cut him down!”

“I’m letting Slim lead!” Irabeth hollers back.

As if on cue, Slim snakes under the distracted assassin’s defenses to strike him down. As the body clatters to the floor between them, Slim smiles at Irabeth. “Let it never be said that half-orcs can’t dance.”

The paladin blushes a bright golden color, becoming suddenly fascinated with her greaves.

Salvator’s Secret

As Egan douses the last of the fire, the adventurers hear a pounding on the front door. A band of residents and Arkona guards had rushed up carrying buckets of water, fearful that the fire might spread. The party turns over one of the assassin bodies to the guards (the dead men, one Chelish and one Varisian, are unknown to anyone). As the would-be fire fighters disperse, one young man remains—Amin Jalento. He is greatly relieved to see the adventurers and asks to speak to them in private. They tromp over to the ruined building across the street where the young nobleman has been squatting since the Academy burned down.

Amin explains that after he was caught in Old Korvosa by the quarantine, Vencarlo invited him to stay at the Academy. But the fencing master was acting strangely, leaving at odd hours of the night and sometimes returning with injuries. He also had an unusual house guest over on three occasions, a skinny, nervous man who he introduced only as “a friend” but who Amin recognized as a notorious local artist named Salvator Scream. On the artist’s third and last visit, Amin heard Vencarlo shouting angrily. The Red Mantis assassins attacked just a day or two after that, setting fire to the Academy and battling with Vencarlo, who vanished into the night.

The adventurers pool their information about Scream: he tends to paint grotesque yet fascinating images of violence and has attracted the patronage of some Korvosan nobles. He also has a following among the common people for painting the backdrops to the grisly plays at the Exemplary Execrables theater. Kyra is able to provide the party with his address at the intersection of the Old Dock and Bridgefront wards.

Always Trust an Elf

As twilight settles across the city, the party warily approaches Salvator’s ramshackle house. It’s seated along a weather-beaten boardwalk facing the Straits of St. Alika, next to an enormous sinkhole that appears to have swallowed a neighboring house. Ashla spies dark things in the water, but over Arlynn’s objections they move on to investigate the house. The shutters are tightly closed, but Zandu senses several magical auras concentrated in the south-facing room. The party splits up, with one half entering from the front door to the northwest and the other entering from the south door. In the entry room, Ashla spies the muddy tracks of a half a dozen humans, who appear to have dragged a seventh human out of the building several days ago.

In the living room to the south, the party finds a set of six polished skulls with candles affixed to their tops arranged in a semi-circle on a desk. Seated in front of the desk is an elf woman in coal-black chain mail studded with hooks, a spiked chain wrapped loosely around one arm. Her hair is dark and her eyes are a perfect pitch black. She turns to face the party and flashes them a cheerful grin.

“Hi, I’m Laori! Are you looking for Salvator, too?”

She welcomes them all inside, as Arlynn explains that they are indeed looking for Salvator because they hope he might help them find someone else. Laori explains that she’s been searching for him because of his amazing art, which she says contains many themes important to the Midnight Lord. She then eagerly tells them about her faith in Zon-Kuthon, god of pain and darkness, and passes around a pamphlet she made to recruit new cultists for “ZK.” Despite her enthusiastic illustrations, she makes no converts in the party. But her bubbly and cheerful attitude does win over Egan, Zandu, and Slim. The two paladins, sensing her evil aura, are not quite sure what to make of her. Zandu offers to strike up an alliance to find the artist, which Laori eagerly accepts.

“This is going to be so awesome!” she says, bouncing with excitement.

Laori says that she has been looking for artists touched by Zon-Kuthon, but the first six she tracked down had all committed suicide before she could reach them. So she hung onto their skulls, but speak with dead has not proven to be useful. She was delighted to discover that Salvator was still alive, but had been kidnapped by the Emperor of Old Korvosa. She says the artist is being held under heavy guard at the Emperor’s palace, a block of slums deep in the heart of Old Dock. She has been holed up in Salvator’s house for the last couple of days praying to Zon-Kuthon for aid in reaching Salvator.

“And then you guys showed up!” she cheers.

To cement the alliance, she shares a clue she discovered while searching the house: a bloodstained scrap of cloth embroidered with the Korvosan city crest. Arlynn identifies it as coming from the uniform of the missing Seneschal. With their interest in finding Salvator only intensified, the party decides to spend the night at the house before striking out in the daytime.

Slim suggests that before charging in after the Emperor, they should consider where they will take the artist afterwards. He recommends getting in touch with the Arkonas, who no doubt want the Emperor removed and might be willing to trade shelter and support for that favor. The others are a little more skeptical of the plan, but ultimately agree to give it a shot.

As the party settles in for the evening, Laori regales them with a religious jump-rope song she composed (using her spiked chain as a jump rope) and eagerly shares some lembas she baked.

“What are lembas?” Egan asks.

“Some sort of elvish pastry,” Laori says, nibbling on one. “They’re really good!”

Arlynn takes an experimental bite. “Do I detect a hint of cinnamon?”

“You do!” Laori grins. “I like making mine extra sweet and spicy.”

Laori seems almost desperate to make friends with the party, high-fiving Egan, praising Ashla’s tracking skills, and insisting to Arlynn that ZK and Iomedae have a lot in common as deities. Zandu asks why she became a follower of Zon-Kuthon rather than the elves’ favored goddess Calistria.

Laori is dismissive of Calistria and explains that she first learned of ZK when she was growing up in Riddleport. His message connected with her because the Midnight Lord understood the truth that pain and pleasure are the same thing. She made the pilgrimage to Nidal as soon as possible, where she joined the ranks of his priesthood—although the party gets the impression that her relentlessly cheery attitude was not exactly welcomed.

Getting perhaps a little too familiar, Zandu asks if he could touch her long, slender ears.

“Don’t touch my ears,” she says, clapping her hands over them protectively. “I got enough of that in Riddleport. Nobody touches my ears unless I want them to—and I don’t want you to.”

“I understand, Laori,” Slim chimes in in. “I don’t like letting people touch my scarf.”

Egan squints up at him. “You wear a scarf?”

“Ooh, can I touch it?” Laori asks, suddenly fascinated.

“Maybe later,” Slim grants, tossing one end of the brightly colored cloth over his shoulder.

First Knight
Seven Days to the Grave, Interlude

The Pantheon of the Many is one of the largest buildings in Korvosa’s wealthy South Shore district, a wide circular structure capped with an impressive dome. The interior is open and airy, filled with the jumbled murmurs of worshipers and the mingled scent of incense and sacred oils. All along the walls, small niches house shrines to a dozen of Golarion’s deities, each with their own distinctive colors, symbols, and statuary. Here and there, priests and lay pastors tend to the shrines or speak with parishioners.

The shrine to Iomedae the Inheritor is a relatively simple affair, a simple block of white marble recessed into the wall and carved with the goddess’ sword and halo symbol. On either side of the niche, richly painted wooden panels depict the Eleven Acts of Iomedae in meticulous detail. Two standing candelabra illuminate the quiet alcove.

Kneeling before the shrine are two knights of the faith, Ser Arlynn and Ser Irabeth, reciting a soldier’s prayer in unison. As they finish the final lines, both women rise to their feet. They each top six feet in height, but Irabeth is broader in the shoulders and hips, while Arlynn has the long, statuesque build common to the Bekyar people.

“It is beyond strange to find the Inheritor’s shrine sharing a roof with …other gods,” Irabeth grumbles as they walk, glaring across the chamber at the shrine of Urgathoa. “This whole city sets my head head spinning.”

“All part of its charm,” Arlynn says, pausing to help reorient a tipsy adherent of Cayden Cailean.

“No doubt,” Irabeth says. She hunches her shoulders and continues the long walk towards the exit. “But I’m used to having evil at the gates, not seated in the high castle under color of law.”

“Iomedae’s presence in Korvosa is thin on the ground,” Arlynn acknowledges. “In her absence, evil has taken root.”

“I am sure that you will strike the darkness down as fiercely as you did that vile statue,” Irabeth says earnestly. “My eyes are still dazzled from the light of the goddess as she worked through you to cleanse that profane place. It has truly been an honor to aid you in your quest.”

Our quest, Ser Irabeth,” Arlynn frowns. “There is much work still to be done.”

The half-orc shakes her head. “My place is back in Lastwall. We have too few swords to guard our borders as it is, and the hordes of Belkzen are growing bolder by the day.”

“But if Lastwall with its armies has too few guardians, then what of Korvosa?” Arlynn asks. “Were it not for the six of us, the cultists would be crafting newer, deadlier strains of Blood Veil even now. The evil that besets this city is great, and the need for heroes is greater.”

Irabeth casts her gaze down at the tile floor and her clomping metal boots. “My talents are better suited to killing orcs than unraveling conspiracies. I would add little to your cause. I might even hamper it.”

“Do not underestimate yourself, my friend,” Arlynn says, placing a kindly hand on the half-orc’s shoulder. “In a city this bereft of the Inheritor’s justice, a single dedicated person can make a tremendous difference.” She pushes open the Pantheon’s heavy wooden door and steps out into the light. “Let me show you.”

“This is the place you spoke of?” Irabeth asks, gazing up at a three story building, its beige walls contrasting with the red tile roof. Brightly colored paper banners hang from the windows, rustling lazily in the breeze. A cheery sign depicting a smiling child chasing a butterly front hangs between the flags of Korvosa and House Jalento. In gold letters, the sign reads MIDLAND ORPHANAGE.

“When I first came here,” Arlynn explains, “the brickwork was crumbling, the paint was peeling, and half the windows were boarded up.”

The senior paladin pauses under the sign, reaching up to brush her fingertips against one of the flags. “But Lord Jalento owed me a favor for saving his son during the riots, and good came of good. Now, let’s meet the children,” she adds, rapping her knuckles on the heavy red door.

They are welcomed into the foyer by the cheerful young man staffing the front desk, who tells them word has already spread of their defeat of a plague-spreading cult in the sewers. His thanks are interrupted by a squeal of glee from a young Varisian boy, who hollers down the hallway that “Ser Arlynn’s back! And she’s brought a new friend!”

Almost immediately, Arlynn is swarmed by a dozen young orphans, all shouting for attention and reaching in for hugs. Irabeth watches in bemusement, until a five year old Chelish boy approaches her cautiously.

“Are you a good orc?” he asks, halting a few feet away.

Irabeth crouches down on one knee to look the child in the eye and smile. “I’m only half an orc, but I’m all good.”

She sweeps the boy up onto her shoulders and stands up, as his shriek of surprise turns to peals of laughter. Arlynn encourages her admirers to welcome the half-orc and Irabeth proceeds to give a series of piggy back rides as the two paladins tour the facility. After reviewing the kitchens and mess hall, the classrooms, and peeking out into the play yard, Arlynn takes them upstairs to visit the activity room.

“We rescued a good two dozen of these children a few months ago from a vile little crime lord named Gaedren Lamm,” Arlynn says proudly. “My first real victory here in Korvosa. Now look at how they are flourishing.”

The activity room takes up a good quarter of the second floor, its barred windows open to let daylight stream inside. All around, youngsters play amongst themselves using worn and makeshift toys. Others sit at tables or lie of the polished wood floor, scribbling on scratch paper with charcoal sticks or gossiping among each other. A few have their noses buried in dog-eared books from the small set of shelves by the corner. The room has been painted in bright colors, with a mural running along one wall painted and signed by the orphans themselves. The kids cluster in groups largely based on age, the youngest running hither and yon under the watchful gaze of an orphanage attendant, while the older ones play or chat in their own preferred spots.

Irabeth dismounts her last passenger and surveys the room with a skeptical eye. “Some of these ‘children’ would be manning ramparts in Lastwall by now.”

Arlynn follows the half-orc’s gaze to a group of teenagers lounging in the far corner.

“The city provides for orphans until they turn 16,” she explains. “Many who have not found homes do go on to join the Guard.”

“Ser Arlynn, you’re back!” squeals a girl’s voice from the hallway.

A tall young woman with flame red hair and the build of an athlete rushes over to embrace Arlynn in a hug, somehow contorting herself to the bladed points of the paladin’s armor. The Bekyar woman carefully returns the hug.

When it’s done, the girl’s gaze flits over to Irabeth. "And you’ve brought a, uh… Another paladin of the Inheritor! "

The redhead surges forward to seize the half-orc’s hand and shakes it vigorously. “It’s an honor to meet you, Ser! Are you part of Ser Arlynn’s Circle? Are there more paladins coming to Korvosa? Do you need squires? I’ve been practicing sword work in the yard and I’ve studied the Acts every night!”

“I’m not, I mean…” Irabeth stammers, reeling under the onslaught of enthusiasm.

Arlynn steps in to steer the teenager back a few steps from the junior paladin. “Chammady, this is Ser Irabeth of Lastwall, who the goddess guided to Korvosa to help us fight the plague—and perhaps more.”

The Bekyar woman claps the redhead on her back. “Chammady is one of the most dedicated students of Iomedae that I have ever seen. If you do decide to return to Lastwall, Ser Irabeth, perhaps you could accompany Chammady to the seminary in Vigil?”

The girl turns to give Arlynn a fiery look. “But I want to stay in Korvosa, to help you fight injustice and spread the Inheritor’s holy word! I could be your squire, Ser Arlynn. I’ve been practicing my sword craft in the yard every day.”

“She hogs the stick for hours,” another girl calls out from across the activity room.

“I should never have shown you those moves,” Arlynn mutters.

" It’s good for a girl to know how to defend herself," Irabeth says. “You can never tell when danger will threaten.”

“Self-defense is one thing, recklessly seeking danger is another,” Arlynn says. She hunches over to look the teen in her eyes. “I’m proud that you want to follow my footsteps, Chammady, but—”

“But the Inheritor teaches that we must confront evil wherever it shows its face!” the redhead insists. She waves a hand at the barred window. “And there’s so much evil in this city. I’m not the only one who feels this way. We know you’re risking everything to protect Korvosa and we want to help you , too.”

Irabeth chuckles at the youth’s fervor and nods at Arlynn. “It seems that one person has made quite the impression.”

Before Arlynn can answer, the headmistress of the orphanage appears in the doorway. A kind woman in her early sixties, Aula’s normally warm expression has been replaced by a look of concern tinged with outright fear.

“Ser Arlynn, may I have a word, please?” she asks.

The senior paladin quickly strides out into the hall. “Yes, thank you.”

Aula takes the two paladins to her office at the end of the hall. It is a cramped space cluttered with papers and ledgers spilling off of a standing desk and onto every available surface. The walls are crammed with artwork of all kinds, from finger-painting to delicate oil portraits, all of it seemingly done by the orphans. Irabeth manages to snag one of the paintings with her armored elbow as she enters the room, but Arlynn catches it in time. Aula takes the painting from her as she closes the door.

The headmistress’ fingers drum nervously against the picture frame. “Arlynn, I’m not sure what to do. A band of Gray Maidens has turned up downstairs demanding that we hand over all the girls who’ve come of age for conscription into their ranks. I’ve heard some frightful things about the Gray Maidens from Sergeant Grau, but they have a royal writ. Is there anything you can do to protect the girls?”

Arlynn frowns, reaching up to rub the holy symbol of Iomedae hanging from her neck as she thinks.

Irabeth lays a hand on her sword hilt and looks to Arlynn. “A few Gray Maidens would pose little threat to the two of us, but a melee could still put the children at risk.”

“Don’t worry about us!” Chammady says, creaking open the door. “We can take care of ourselves!”

Arlynn tugs the door open all the way, causing the youth to tumble into the room. The paladin helps her up, then shakes her head in disappointment. “If you still think violence is the first answer after reading the Acts, you’re clearly not ready for the seminary.”

Eyes downcast, Chammady turns to leave but Arlynn s stops her. The Bekyar woman tugs the sword and halo symbol from her neck and presses it into the teen’s palm. “Now, go gather the other girls your age and then show Ser Irabeth the way to the back gate while I sign a few papers here with Aula.”

“Why?” Chammady asks, clutching the symbol to her chest. "What are you doing?

“You wanted to help me fight evil?” the paladin says forcefully. “The first rule is to follow my orders. Now, go with Ser Irabeth and I’ll meet you by the back gate.”

The girl hesitates for a moment, then snaps a salute and hurries out of the room. Irabeth gives Arlynn a quizzical look, but wordlessly follows after the teenager.

Ten minutes later, more than a dozen teenage girls are gathered by the back gate of the orphanage, whispering to each other and pestering Irabeth as to what is going on. The half-orc ignores them, keeping a wary eye on the building until Arlynn emerges. The senior paladin jogs over to them, a sheaf of papers clutched in one hand.

“Out the gate!” she calls. “Out the gate and away, as quick as you can.”

“It’s locked,” Chammady says, rattling the heavy wooden door.

“Good thing I brought a lockpick,” Irabeth grins, lifting a heavy, armored foot to kick down the gate.

Arlynn leans in front of her and glares over her shoulder. “Aula gave me a key.”

“That works, too,” the half-orc shrugs.

They fling open the gate and hustle the girls out into the alley behind the orphanage, deep in the shadow of the neighboring buildings. After securing the gate, Arlynn turns to face the expectant girls. She holds up the contracts.

“Listen up! As of today, you are no longer wards of the state. You are now each of you duly enlisted members of the Farima household guard. So let’s get moving to my family’s townhouse, lest the Gray Maidens think you’re still open for conscription.”

“Yes!” Chammady says, pumping her fist. The reaction from the others ranges from excitement to trepidation, but they quickly begin moving up the alley towards Citadel Hill. Arlynn hangs at the back, watching the teens proceed and casting the occasional wary glance back over her shoulder.

“Clever plan,” Irabeth says, “taking them into your service before the Maidens could lay claim to them. You saved the day without shedding any blood.”

“Only by making soldiers of them,” Arlynn sighs. “I wanted to protect these girls from a life of violence, not shepherd them into it.”

Irabeth gets a distant look in her hazel eyes as she casts her gaze on the teens. “I don’t know what these orphans’ lives were like before you showed up, but I imagine it was not too different from my own girlhood—full of anger and loneliness and self-pity, ready to lash out at the world.”

The half-orc smiles at her fellow paladin. “But you’ve given them hope for their own lives, and for their city. You haven’t drawn more children into violence, Ser Arlynn. The violence was already here. What you’ve done is recruited more peacemakers to end it.”

Arlynn allows herself a smile. “The Inheritor acts through us when we least suspect it, I suppose.”

“And through you, the goddess has cleared the scales from my eyes,” Irabeth says, stepping in front of the senior paladin and falling to one knee. “I cannot walk away while a despot tortures young women into tools of oppression. It would be my honor, Ser, if you would accept me as the first Knight of your Circle.”

“Ser Irabeth of Lastwall, the honor is mine,” Arlynn says. She holds out a hand to help the junior paladin up. “Now rise, before our charges escape from us.”

Daughter of Urgathoa
Seven Days to the Grave, Part 12

Release the Daemon!

Come morning, the battle lines outside have thinned but the stalemate between Guard and Gray Maiden continues. Rather than wait for a resolution, the party decides to venture back into the temple to confront the evil below themselves. One of the three remaining Sable Company marines, a Shoanti man named Hargev, volunteers to accompany them. The other two marines remain above with Ishani Dhatri to watch over the survivors.

In the vat room, Egan un-shapes the stone to clear the entrance to the heart of the temple. Arlynn and Irabeth open the doors, revealing a morbid chamber lit by tall, misshapen candles. A pair of huge stone doors hang ajar to the east, revealing a long hallway leading further into the dark. At the room’s center stand four large, cylindrical glass vats, each filled with a bubbling emerald fluid that tints the chamber’s light a noxious green. Within each suspension floats a malformed abomination—something part man, part angel, and part horse—things of half-formed muscle with dead, fleshless equine skulls. Three of the forms are motionless and still, but the fourth twitches now and then with life.

Beside this last vat, one of the room’s four Urgathoan priests hunkers behind an overturned table. They have been waiting for the party’s assault and battle is soon joined, with Irabeth and Hargev cornering a priest in the north while Arlynn and Ashla strike at one to the south. Egan and Zandu charge right down the center to engage the priest behind the table.

Slim, once again invisible, circles around towards the back of the room, having devised a cunning plan for using the life-hating daemon. But the priests, desperate and overwhelmed, beat him to it. Their spiritual weapons smash open the glass cylinder and the fiend bursts free, unfurling its vulture wings with a piercing cry.

The creature immediately lashes out at Irabeth and Hargev, badly wounding both and inflicting bubonic plague onto the Shoanti. The half-orc paladin finally recognizes the creature as a Leukodaemon, a terrifying plague bringer. She warns the party not to let it touch them.

As Irabeth and Slim keep the daemon occupied, the others finish off the last of the Urgathoans. They then converge on the monstrosity. Although it doles out impressive punishment, spreading bubonic plague to Ashla as well, the leukodaemon is unable to withstand the combined fury of the adventurers.

Urgathoa’s Chosen

The party ventures cautiously down a dark, sloping hallway that opens onto the inner sanctum of the temple. Several great vats of bodily fluids—the Seven Scourges of Urgathoa—ring the circular chamber while a golden statue of the Pallid Princess herself rises from a pool of crystal clear water in the chamber center. On the other side of the pool, Lady Andaisin awaits them, leaning on her ornate scythe.

“She has gorgeous hair!” Ashla blurts out.

Andaisin welcomes them and bids them to either drink from one of the seven scourges to be blessed by Urgathoa’s contagion or offer themselves to her scythe for a swift end. “Swifter, in any event, than this delightful end your lovely queen has enjoined me to create!”

Zandu attempts to seduce the high priestess, but has no more success than Rolth did. His distraction, however, lets Slim get close enough to snipe the priestess with a poisoned arrow. Lady Andaisin simply shakes it off. As Arlynn closes in on her, Urgathoa’s chosen summons swirling shadows around one hand and reaches out to tap Arlynn with a single finger.

Die, little paladin.”

A wave of necrotic energy slams into Arlynn, leeching at her life force, but Iomedae’s strength allows her to endure it (as Zellara foretold). Disappointed, Andaisin simply strides up into the air over the gold statue.

“Fall down before me, fools!” she commands from her lofty perch. All but Arlynn are unable to to do anything but obey. “Witness the power of the Pallid Princess! Your weak and sniveling goddess cannot save you, paladin!”

From his position on the ground beneath Andaisin, Slim snarks at the view up her dress, but she ignores him. Arlynn switches to a bow and begins firing at the priestess. As other members of the party begin to shake off the spell, Andaisin summons an obscuring mist to cover her as she tries to heal herself. Egan summons an air elemental to blow the mist away, but before it is gone Lady Andaisin switches to a new tactic—channeling negative energy.

Waves of necrotic power slam into the party as the mist clears, sapping their strength—but not fast enough. As Egan calls lightning, Slim, Arlynn, and Irabeth renew their flurry of arrows. It’s the rogue who finally brings Andaisin down. The high priestess falls to the floor, landing half-in and half-out of the statue’s fountain, it’s clear water darkening with her blood.

“Impossible…” Lady Andaisin gasps. “The goddess won’t abandon me…”

Wrath of the Pallid Princess

The party celebrates their hard-fought victory over the priestess, but the revelry is cut short as the vats of the Seven Scourges begin to boil and the fountain around the statue of Urgathoa turns to blood. They notice to their alarm that the golden statue itself is suddenly facing them, its sinister smile replaced with an angry snarl. Zandu, Ashla, and Egan high-tail it for the exit. As he floats past the slain Andaisin, the sorcerer observes that her lifeless body has begun to writhe and jerk. Irabeth, still enlarged, approaches the spasming body and then stands her ground, bellowing a challenge out to Urgathoa. Slim sticks close to the half-orc, while Arlynn circles around the other side of the fountain.

Lady Andaisin’s body crackles with unholy power and is lifted into the air. Her sundered flesh explodes with boils and pustules, while torrents of Urgathoa’s foul humors flood forth and congeal into a sickening new body for the unliving saint. Her scythe melds with her right arm into a gigantic curved blade of bone that she raises in triumph.

“I am REBORN!” the monstrous creature cries out. “Tremble before the champion of the Pallid Princess!”

The reborn Andaisin rends Irabeth with a terrible slash from her scythe-arm. The half-orc warns the party not to let the corpse queen touch them. Ashla tries to engage, but the scythe cuts into her, inflicting the bubonic plague, and the ranger is forced to retreat.

Arlynn, her sword still bathed in holy fire, braves the danger to close with the unliving saint, while Slim ducks beneath the swinging scythe to sneak attack. Zandu and Egan hang back to hammer her with spells. In the shifting battlefield, Arlynn is forced to wade into the foul pool of blood, which eats at her through her armor. Yet through sword and spell, Urgathoa’s unliving saint slowly weakens as she lashes out at those around her. Finally, Zandu finishes her off with a barrage of magic missiles.

Upon the priestess’ death, the holy fire around Arlynn’s sword blazes into a brilliant white light that washes over the vaulted chamber. Once the glare fades, the Seven Scourges and the fountain of blood have been transformed into pure water. Arlynn holds her sword aloft as Irabeth kneels in awe. The senior paladin then send the light beam crashing into the statue of Urgathoa, which melts into a lump of lead.

“Praise be to Iomedae!” Arlynn calls out.

While the paladins celebrate, Ashla and Slim search the room, discovering a hidden compartment with valuables—but unfortunately no documents tying the Urgathoans to the Queen.

Breaking the Plague

Gathering their spoils, the party returns to the hospice above, where they find Guardsmen on the premises evacuating the survivors. Ashla stops one of the Guards to ask what happened to resolve the standoff. The soldier says that it was a wild night, with the Guard and the Gray Maidens almost coming to blows, and then a gang of vampires running loose through the city after being stirred up by some Maidens. The standoff was ultimately resolved about half an hour ago by the arrival of Marcus Endrin and Sabina Merrin, who talked their respective sides down.

Zandu presents the party’s findings on the plague to Ishani. The Abadaran believes that with the information the party has acquired and the library taken from Rolth’s lair in the Dead Warrens, they should be able to reverse-engineer a cure in short order. Zandu volunteers to help.

Slim also comes forward with the discovery he and Vittora made, informing Ishani that the subset of Varisians immune to the plague are all at least distantly related. He offers to undergo some tests to see what could have caused this immunity and whether it could facilitate a cure.

Arlynn, meanwhile, hitches a ride on Hargev’s hippogriff to the Pantheon of the Many, where she intends to pray at the shrine of Iomedae. Irabeth makes her own way to the shrine.

Over the next three days, Zandu and alchemical experts from the faiths of Abadar, Sarenrae, and Pharasma work long hours at the Bank of Abadar to develop a cure for the blood veil. On the first day, Slim and Vittora arrive to undergo some brief testing. The priests are able to determine that the plague immunity is specific to the blood veil and is spiritual rather than biological in origin.

Zandu stumbles across a passage in Rolth’s notes that sheds light on the situation. The blood veil was based on an earlier supernatural disease, Vorel’s Phage, that was created in the Sandpoint region far to the west by the failed lich Vorel Foxglove. His Varisian wife, Kasanda Foxglove, is the ancestor of all those immune. Ishani speculates that Kasanda may be reaching from beyond the grave to protect her descendants from the effects of Vorel’s Phage and its derivatives.

A little unsettled by this news, Slim investigates Racker’s Alley, discovering the hidden coffins and treasure trove of the five vampire spawn that laired beneath the adjacent shop, Giotorri’s Toys. The rogue also finds a key to a lock box in the Abadaran Vault holding the live savings (and former gear) of the late Rodolfo Giotorri, a former thief turned shoddy toymaker.

After three days of effort, Zandu and the clerics are able to devise a cure for the blood veil. But others in the party have also gotten up to adventures in the mean time….