Curse of the Crimson Throne

The Case of the Missing Maiden
Crown of Fangs, Interlude

A Few Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Threads of Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I don’t think so,” Nox says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News of the Weird

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It collapsed?” Nox asks, startled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Itsy Bigsy Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picking Up the Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evil Unmasked
Crown of Fangs, Part 3

Blackjack’s Back

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

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

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

“And is a woman!” another remarks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the Right Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The second one,” Ashla hollers back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time For Some Thrilling Heroics

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

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

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

“Treachery!” the masked fighter shouts.

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

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

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

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

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

“I did!” threatens Nox.

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

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

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

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

The Magic Bird

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

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

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

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

A chuckle runs through the gathered onlookers.

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

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

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

Fear Cuts Deeper Than Swords

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

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

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

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

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

It Ends in Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Man Who Would Be King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Someone like you,” Arlynn says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad News Comes in Threes

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

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

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

“I’m going after her,” Nox declares.

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

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

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

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

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

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home is Where the Hate is
Crown of Fangs, Part 2

Sail the Friendly Seas

After thwarting the Bekyar slaving raid on Harse and raising Arlynn from the dead, the adventurers try to find a place for the rescued children to stay. The village’s Mayor and blacksmith, a brawny middle-aged woman named Vidria assures them that the children will be looked after. They’ll stay in the temple of Erastil for a day or two until foster families are located.

Arlynn questions one young boy of eight, an orphan she recognizes, who explains that he snuck out past curfew and was snatched off the street by the “mean lady” (Shivkah).

The villagers are tremendously grateful to the adventurers for saving their community. Vidria offers them free horse shoes for their mounts and they find that they have free room and board at every inn in town. The Crimson Blades repay the kindness by providing the village with the rations from the Scorpion’s Kiss.

Once the children are being looked after, and with Arlynn on the mend, they begin sailing the Scorpion’s Kiss down the river, floating Treebeard along after them. As the only remotely qualified sailor in the bunch, Kyra runs around the deck trying to instruct them in the ship’s operations.

“Raise the mizzen-thingy! Unfurl the sails! Avast the other thing!” she calls out. “Damn it, I haven’t done any of this since dad died.”

Due as much to the current of the Falcon River as anything else, they sail southwest, arriving at the industrial center of Pallin’s Cove near sunset. Built on a rock spur of land at the estuary of the Falcon River, the town bristles with siege weapons, the manufacture of which also seems to be its main industry.

As they approach the city, Kyra uses her ring of invisibility while the rest of the party don hats of disguise to pose as Bekyars. Disgusted with the thought of pretending to be a slaver, Arlynn stays below decks.

They are challenged by a patrol skiff, whose captain hails them. “You’re back right quick. It was just the other day you went up the river.”

“Our business was concluded sooner than expected,” Zandu tells him. “Will there be any trouble passing through Pallin’s Cove?”

“No, no, of course not,” the skiff captain says, visibly unnerved by the sight of the slaver ship. “Will you be dropping anchor here? There’s a storm coming in.”

“Storms do not concern us,” Zandu tells him, “and we have business elsewhere.”

The skiff captain is visibly relieved as the black ship glides on past the town and out onto the open sea.

In the ship’s cabin, Ashla and Kyra review the Bekyars’ maps, noting several hidden camps along the Mushfens west of Korvosan territory. The half-elf also notices a secluded cove between the Falcon river estuary and Korvosa where they could berth for the night. Kyra figures they’ll be able to reach it by midnight.

Rather than risk sailing into the city, the adventurers decide to leaving the ship there and then teleport into Korvosa after scrying Nox at an appointed time and location. Egan sends a sea gull off with a message to the old Chelaxian embassy.

Meanwhile, the storm blows in out of the west.

Raiders of Goblin Cove

Kyra struggles to keep the ship on course as the storm batters it, so Water-Egan summons up a hurricane to divert the storm. It is challenging to find the hidden cove in the dark, but Water-Egan senses the tide lapping against the shoreline and guide the black ship smoothly into the calmer waters.

Finding no dock, they drop anchor and send Owl-Egan to scout out the shore. The druid spies a simple ramada and stone fireplace, but no permanent structures. He does spy small footprints, about the size of a halfling’s, in the wet sand. Scanning the shoreline with a spyglass, Arlynn spots figures moving along the hills ringing the bay. She passes the glass to Zandu, whose gnoll eyes are about to make out a band of goblins, weighed down with crude sacks, trudging up the hillside away from the cove.

Zandu decides to investigate in person, casting fly on himself, grabbing Kyra, and handing the bull’s eye lantern to Arlynn. As he swoops down on the fleeing goblins, Zandu lets out a dragon’s breath of crackling electricity, frying the lead goblin. As the sorcerer lets out an intimidating roar, the goblins shriek in terror. “AAAH! HAIRY DRAGON!”

Zandu demands to speak with their leader. One after another the goblins point at the goblin behind them, until everyone’s grubby fingers are pointed at the last goblin in the line. He drops his cargo resignedly.

“Where is your chief?!" Zandu demands. "I wish to speak to him!”

“You want big chief?” the goblin spokesman asks meekly. “Him that way.”

“How far is he?” the sorcerer inquiries. “How many suns? How many Moon rises?”

“About an hour actually,” the Goblin replies flatly.

“Oh. Lead on then,” Zandu says.

The goblins lead him to the caves where their tribe resides. After a brief exchange with a goblin guard, Zandu and invisible Kyra are led inside and taken before the chief, who is seated on a throne made of squirrel skulls. Chief Poog also wears a shirt of chain mail and in place of a crown, wears a live frog. The goblin spokesman, Glabrick, introduces Zandu as a “Hairy Dragon” who swooped down upon the raiding party.

Poog looks at him skeptical. “Why you no have have wings?”

“Don’t need them,” Zandu replies, starting to levitate.

Zandu then demands that the chieftain pledge his tribe’s loyalty and also offer the gnoll sorcerer the first picks of their raiders’ haul. Glabrick upends the sacks of loot, revealing that most of it is junk taken from slaver’s waste pile. Zandu then demands choice pieces from the tribe’s treasure hoard, obtaining a keen Orcish longsword, maps of the coastline of Korvosa, and a set of small-sized masterwork hide armor that looks as if it was made from a dragon wyrmling.

Zandu gives this last item to Glabrick, who he places in charge of guarding the ship when the party leaves. Having taken the goblins under his “protection,” the sorcerer grabs his new emissary and flies back to the vessel, with Glabrick shrieking in terror all the way.

Egan points at the goblin. “What.”

Zandu introduces the goblin to the rest of the party and instruct him to not let anyone but the party aboard the ship. They then leave Glabrick aboard the ship with Reno and Badger and make camp on the shore. Treebeard begins the long trek to towards Korvosa. The party also sends an animal messenger to inform Nox of their exploits and instruct him to go to a location the next morning where they can conveniently teleport in secret.

After waking the following morning, Egan scrys Nox’s location to determine if he is at a safe place to teleport into Korvosa.

Light in Dark Places

Back in Korvosa, Nox is still nursing his wounds in the empty embassy, with no one but his hireling Marl for company. He sends the mercenary out to fetch Theandra Darklight of the Three Rings tavern, one of Ambassador Amprei’s contacts in the city.

Theandra has the look of a woman who was beautiful and athletic in her youth but who has grown matronly with age. She carries a few scars and is missing the last few fingers on her left hand. Marl announces her and after a pointed look from Nox, steps outside.

Nox cuts to the chase, noting that the Ambassador vouched for her and asks for her assistance. He presents her with the assassin’s note and asks what she can tell from it. Theandra inspects the document and says that the paper is of high quality, the sort used by the Korvosan government and the better merchant houses in the city. Nox is not surprised, but asks her to keep digging for more information.

He also asks about the nobility’s opinion of the Queen and whether they could be swayed to oppose her. Theandra says that while House Endrin has been vocal in its opposition to the Queen, the Great Houses have stayed neutral, save for House Arkona which nominally supports the Queen in exchange for being given free reign of Old Korvosa. Theandra thinks the Great Houses wouldn’t be unhappy to see the Queen go, but they won’t act themselves until they’re sure that they’re backing the winning side.

Nox also asks if she could arrange for some trustworthy servants to help get the embassy back into shape. Theandra assures him that she’ll send some girls over. Nox thanks her and says that he’ll be visiting her at the Three Rings Tavern later in the week.

On her way out, Theandra remarks on a very persistent sea gull that has landed on his windowsill. Once she is gone, Nox retrieves the party’s message from the bird.


After reading the message, Nox decides to head down to the embassy basement at the appointed time to wait for them. After a few minutes, the rest of the Crimson Blades apparate into the basement. Irabeth grumbles at returning to site of her former imprisonment.

Nox and the others swap stories about their respective journeys back to the city. Arlynn heals the fighter of the lingering wounds he’d suffered during the ambush days before. Nox brings them up to speed a bit about goings on in the city and his own current position in the embassy as an alleged Adjudicator of the Empress of Cheliax come inspect the colony.

Nox recommends that they try to preserve this cover as long as possible, since it will allow them to move openly in the city. The others explain how they’ve acquired hats of disguise to help them stay incognito.

Zandu, meanwhile, feels a psychic tug from Zellara’s Harrow Deck. He gets out the deck and the ghostly fortune teller manifests, saying that she can sense that their final clash with the Queen is fast approaching. She wishes to give them some final insight into the future which could aid them in the coming battles.

The Harrow reading begins. During the Choosing, the Crimson Blades draw the following cards:

  • Nox: The Tyrant
  • Ashla: The Empty Throne
  • Egan: The Unicorn
  • Arlynn: The Theatre
  • Zandu: The Liar

Nox laughs at his choice of card. “Does this always happen to you guys? The irony?”

The chosen cards are then shuffled back into the deck and Zellara lays out the spread.

The Past The Present The Future
The Tangled Bryar The Brass Dwarf The Avalanche
The Foreign Trader The Survivor The Waxworks
The Theatre The Vision The Twins

Zellara interprets the spread. The Tangled Briar ordinarily represents a dark secret from the past casting a shadow over the present, but it is misaligned, suggesting that the dark deeds of ancient days offer hope for the future. The Theatre is also misaligned, suggesting that a prophecy long foretold is just for show. The Survivor represents rebirth, or the rediscovery of that which was thought lost forever but rediscovered once more. Ordinarily the Avalanche would represent disaster, but the card is an opposite match, suggesting that the calamity will be averted, although not without consequences. The Waxworks is the card of torture, imprisonment, and physical entropy.

The dark deeds of the past are likely to be the actions of both Kazavon and Mandraivus, still cancelling one another out centuries later. False prophecy could be the failed destruction of Kazavon.

The Survivor clearly represents the Crimson Blades, who have returned to the city after many ordeals, have recovered the long lost Serithtial in the process.

Peering into the future, the party can avert the disaster befalling Korvosa, for a price. Should they fail, the torment of the Wax Works will swallow all.

After the reading, the party plans their actions for the day. Zandu, Kyra, and Laori will teleport to Kaer Maga to purchase supplies and sell goods, while the rest of the party will don disguises as Nox’s entourage and proceed with him to the Gray District to contact the resistance.

Rebel Huddle

This is most of the Crimson Blades’ first time out and about in Korvosa since they escaped the Arkona mansion months ago. The city has changed for the worse. Patrol of Gray Maidens seem to be present on every street, while the citizens on the street appear cowed into submission. New statues of Queen Ileosa have popped up everywhere, with more and larger statues still being built by labor gangs overseen by harsh Gray Maiden task masters. Agents of the Temple of Asmodeus are also out and about, urging citizens to donate vials of their blood as a means for the Queen’s forces to identify and protect loyal subjects.

Unnerved by these developments, the party makes their way to the Gray District, where the tombstone-lined pathways are even quieter than usual. They travel to the fortified Grand Cathedral of Pharasma at the center of the enormous cemetery. After being challenged by the guards at the cathedral entrance, the party talks their way inside where they are met by Bishop Keppira d’Bear. She leads them down into the catacombs below the cathedral, leaving them in a large, empty chamber.

Moments later, the party is reunited with Cressida, Neolandis, Vencarlo and Grau. They are also accompanied by Chammady’s After the reunion, they ask for updates on what the Crimson Blades have been up to. In turn, Cressida explains how Arlynn and Zandu’s followers have helped the resistance survive and grow.

The adventurers ask about the strength of the resistance and Cressida states that she has about 150 volunteers on board, including many former Guardsmen, though they have had to scrounge for weapons and supplies. She says that the Gray Maidens are the main military strength in the city at the moment, The Guard is a shadow of its former self, with demoralized rank and file being led by regime toadies and other bad apples. Nox asks about Corporal Bendis’ reliability and is told that Bendis is honest, but too set in his ways to abandon the guard. Arlynn asks after Verik Vancaskerkin, learning that he has joined the rebels.

Cressida says the resistance is almost ready to make their move against the Queen, including revealing that Neolandus still lives and that a result, Korvosa’s government has a legal option beyond open rebellion to depose Ileosa. Cressida hopes that this information will rally the noble houses, arbiters, and magistrates, but she also fears that doing so will spur Ileosa to step up the violence to even greater levels than before.

That’s why, before the rebels can take to the streets and seek out the support of the city, she needs the party to weaken the regime by hitting key targets and gathering intelligence from the castle. Cressida has heard numerous rumors about what has been going on inside it: that the Gray Maidens are mind-controlled, that devils and a dragon dwell within its walls, that the Red Mantis are now secretly in control of it, and that Ileosa has herself transformed into a monster. If even some of those rumors are true, it could dramatically undermine Ileosa’s rule if proof were to get out.

In addition, there are a few problems outside the castle that Cressida would like the adventurers to investigate. Chief among them is a new “hero of the people” who has been fighting rebels in the streets. Cressida says the rebels are false and she suspects the hero, who calls himself Trifaccia, is false as well. She asks the party to find out who or what he is.

The adventurers also bring up the idea of trying to reach out to Sabina Merrin, the commander of the Gray Maidens, who they suspect might not be happy with the direction the Queen is taking the city. Vencarlo and Grau concur that she would not willingly be going along with the Queen’s atrocities. Arlynn recalls Sabina’s concern over Remmy and suggest that the former Gray Maiden reach out to her contacts in the Order to get a message to Sabina in order to draw her out. Remmy is willing to try, and the party decides to send one of Zandu’s cousins to shadow her as backup.

There are several other smaller tasks that Cressida raises. Ishani Dhatri, Abadarian priest and vocal opponent of his church’s public endorsement of Ileosa, has vanished. He was last seen approaching the castle.

The Queen has been trying to bolster her forces by hiring mercenaries, which could give her a decisive advantage. The corrupt official Grask has been her main source for hiring mercenaries; Cressida wants him captured. Arlynn decides to send Chammady and her Sworn Swords to grab the guy. Nox suggests snatching him by the Three Rings Tavern.

The resistance also has a spy problem. The Queen’s forces managed to identify and eliminate the main rebel cell in the Midlands. Cressida has traced this and other leaks back to a group of minor nobles who are sympathetic to resistance. She asks if the adventurers can spare someone to help ferret out the spy problem. The party decides to send Irabeth to interview the nobles with her zone of truth while some of Zandu’s cousins investigate more surreptitiously.

As they prepare to depart, Cressida asks that they not meet at the cathedral again, to avoid placing Bishop D’Bear and her people at risk. She promises to stay in touch.

Upon returning to the embassy, Nox also donates 300gp to repair the rusty, worn-out armor and weapons of Corporal Bendis and his squad, winning some extra goodwill.

Once Zandu and his group return from Kaer Maga with supplies, the party decides that their next move will be to unmask the false hero Trifaccia. Ashla suggests that they find a suitable regime target to strike at, which should provoke him into appearing. Zandu concurs, and wants to add an extra note of chaos to the proceedings to smear the Cerulean Society as well.


The next morning, the party puts their plan to lure out Trifaccia into motion. Zandu, in gnoll-form but dressed in a blue Cerulean Society uniform, links up with invisible Kyra and several of his followers, also disguised as Cerulean Society goons. The trio melts a hole through the wall of Martin’s Metal Menagerie, a weapons shop whose owner is vocal supporter of the regime, while simultaneously igniting its front door. Zandu and company loot the store while loudly declaring that they’re working for the Society on behalf of the resistance. Outside, Ashla-as-Blackjack waits in the shadows while Nox and incognito Arlynn and Egan wait for Trifaccia to arrive.

Unfortunately, the false hero does not appear. Instead, a few moments later two a patrol of Gray Maidens arrives on horseback. While the rogues melt into the shadows with their loot, Zandu creates a diversion by swooping over the street, cackling wildly and issuing threats. The Gray Maidens start loosing arrows while their commander unleashes scorching rays at the sorcerer, who fires back with lightning bolts that slay one Maiden and badly wound the commander. Nox leaps in to “aid” the Maidens, firing arrows in the general direction of Zandu.

As more reinforcements arrive, Zandu teleports himself and the arrows he’s been collecting back to the embassy. Arlynn, posing as a priest of Iomedae, cares for the Gray Maiden leader. Nox’s “heroism,” meanwhile, left an impression on the Maidens and the townsfolk.


After their failure at the weapons shop, the party regroups and concocts a different plan to draw out Trifaccia. A couple of days later, Arlynn, Laori-disguised-as-Zandu and Irabeth set up a tent in the Midlands District to feed the people as the Crimson Blades, saviors of the city. Pigeon-Egan quietly keeps an eye on the scene while Zandu and Kyra lurk in a nearby alley, ready to create more mayhem.

About 45 minutes after the tent is raised using the rod of splendor, a gang of Varisian toughs show up and start flinging insults at Arlynn and the others.

“You think you can just stroll back into town and throw yourselves big party? If you were really interested in helping Korvosa, you wouldn’t have abandoned us! You’re not heroes, just posers!”

“There is no need for trouble,” Arlynn says. “We are all looking after the future of Korvosa. Come, let me get you a drink.”

“I wish you’d go to hell!” one of them heckles.

Arlynn feels a strange prickling sensation over her skin, which she will later recall as similar to the feeling she always gets just as Zandu casts teleport, but the power of the goddess swells within her and the sensation subsides.

“What was that?” the paladin asks sharply, as the rowdies start to close in around her.

“Look at her,” one of them sneers, "as soon as one of us common folk get close her hand goes to her shiny sword. Think you’re hot stuff in that polished armor, eh? I wish you looked more like the ungrateful pig you really are!”

Arlynn feels as if an invisible vise is trying to compress and contort her into an unnatural shape, but Iomedae’s blessing is still upon her. She shakes off the spell and lunges forward, grabbing hold of the last speaker. The paladin casts zone of truth and sets about questioning him.

“What did you do? Who is casting those spells? Tell me who sent you!”

“I wish you’d just up and die!” he spits at her.

A searing pain lances through her, almost sending Arlynn to her knees and she realizes that but for the grace of Iomedae the fell magic would have slain her. Nox steps into the tent and tries to assist with dispersing the rowdies.

It is then that mocking laughter rings out across the ten. A figure in a hooded cloak, where a strange golden three-faced mask appears standing on some crates in the back of the tent. The Varisian thugs panic.

“It’s Trifaccia! Run!”

Nox grabs hold of the thug Arlynn was interrogating as he tries to slip by.

“Greetings, heroes of yesterday!” Trifaccia introduces himself to the party. He thanks them for their past service, but chides them for disturbing the peace, noting that even the judgment of the gods appears to have struck Arlynn. He challenges one of them to a duel on the condition that if they loose all of them must leave the city forever. It is at this point that the true hero of Korvosa, Blackjack, shows up to accept the challenge.

The Black Ship
Crown of Fangs, Part 1

Putting Affairs in Order

Having acquired the powerful sword Serithtial, the Crimson Blades have returned to Kaer Maga to prepare for their return to Korvosa. Zandu and Egan use magic transport their mounts and animal companions from the Sklar-Quah camp. Egan also takes this opportunity to collect his dragonhide breastplate from the Shoanti crafters.

In the city, Arlynn cares for the poor of the Bottoms while Nox reaches out to his contact with Amprei. Ashla seeks out the enchanters of the Tarheel Promenade to improve the spells on her swords and armor.

Once everyone has regrouped, they discuss their options for entering the city. Ashla is in favor of simply tuning invisible and flying over. But Nox believes he can present himself as a noble envoy from Cheliax, since he was not seen associating with the party during his time in Korvosa. He hopes to create an official cover that the others can take advantage of once they infiltrate the city.

In the end, it is decided that they will split up.

Egan wind walks the party and their mounts to the Blackbird Ranch on the outskirts of Harse, while Zandu waits in Kaer Maga with Nox before teleporting the freshly minted noble south to Harse and then rejoining the others at the ranch.

A Night in Harse

Nox rides into Harse on his newly purchased steed and stops at the village’s nicest inn, the Fighting Rooster, whose sign depicts the aforementioned fowl poised like a boxer. Inside, Nox calls for the best room in the inn and for their finest wine. He signs the guestbook with a flourish as Lord Aquilos Nox.

He chats with the innkeeper, a flashy man with a silk eye-patch, explaining that he is an envoy from the Empress of Cheliax on a mission to Korvosa to ensure that matters are put to right there. The innkeeper tells him that there are rebels in the city, but that he expects the Queen to bring them to heel soon.

A Hug for Laori

Hours before, the bulk of the party traveled to the Blackbird Ranh north of Harse, where they stabled their horses in the abandoned barn. They searched the ranch house, while while abandoned had been visited by at least one person within the past week. The Crimson Blades decide to keep a low profile and settle into the basement for the night.

Egan also takes this opportunity to awaken another tree, which they dub Treebeard.

Laori has been unusually quiet these past few days, a haunted look about her dark eyes. Whatever answers to her crisis of faith that she sought out in Kaer Maga were clearly not to her liking. She hunkers down in a corner of the basement, sitting with her knees pressed against her chest.

“Laori, you look like you need a hug,” Zandu says. He scoops her up into a warm, fuzzy embrace. By the time he lets go, her mood has improved appreciably.

“I know I said I’d bake you guys something once we got out of Scarwall,” the priestess says, “but I’ve been feeling so down I forgot to give it to you.”

She reaches into her pack and produces a surprisingly moist chocolate cake.

“I’m glad to have awesome friends like you, and I am with you to the end, or as least as long you can tolerate me.” Laori says.

“Tolerate you? Laori, don’t be silly," Arlynn proclaims. "We tolerate Zandu; we love having you around.”

“You’re one of us,” Ashla says.

“I’m really one of the Crimson Blades?" Laori asks, eyes widening. "Awesome! The last gang I was in had Sial in it.”

“Yeah, he was so grumpy,” Egan says.

“And into weird stuff too,” Zandu adds.

“Oh, its not weird,” Laori clarifies.

“Oh, well I thought with all the chains hanging up in the nu—“ Zandu starts.

“Zandu! Don’t be crude!” Arlynn stammers out. Composing herself, she says to Laori “I know things are confusing for you right now, but if you find that ZK is no longer a god you wish to follow, Iomedae will always have a place for you.”

“Arlynn, I’ll have to think on things,” Laori says, “but thank you for all your advice.”

“Take all the time you need,” the paladin says. “When Aroden disappeared, many of his faithful were also lost before the light of the inheritor guided them. So it shall be with you too Laori; you’ll find your way.”

With the elf maiden considerably cheered up and everyone full of cake, the party prepares for bed. Remmy and Kyra are left as the only two non-spellcasters who can stand watch. They determine the order of their shifts in the traditional Korvosan fashion, a game of Boulder, Parchment, Sheers. After a heated match, Remmy wins first watch.

The adventurers decide to rest for 12 hours to give the two women time to get a proper night’s sleep. After an uneventful night in the creepy abandoned basement, the party rises 4 hours later than usual. As Kyra scrapes together breakfast, they gather to decide their course of action for entering the city.

Their deliberations, however, are cut short by the bellow of a war horn coming from the direction of Harse…


Nox, meanwhile, rose at first, light, donned his noble’s outfit, and rides off at first light towards Korvosa. It is a bright and cheery summer day and he makes good time.

Several hours south of Harse, Nox arrives at a stone bridge across a fast-flowing tributary of the Falcon River. The clatter of hooves on the cobblestone is interrupted by the gentle thrum of a crossbow from the bushes up ahead. A bolt grazes Nox in the side, while two armed ruffians leap out from the bushes behind him. The ambushers rush him from behind, with one of them striking and wounding his horse.

Despite being caught without his armor, Nox wheels his stallion around and draws his sun blade. He can tell from their gear that these “bandits” are hired sellswords.

“You have no idea who you are dealing with!” Nox bellows. “I am a sworn representative of the Empress of Cheliax! Tell me who sent you and I’ll spare your lives.”

The ferocity of his challenge gives one of the ambushers pause. His companion gives him a queer look.

“C’mon, Marl, don’t just stand there!”

“Don’t use our real names, Wirt!” the shaken sellsword replies.

“Gentlemen, get your act together,” says the head sellsword, who emerges from the bushes on the other side of the river with rapier and buckler in hand. “You’re supposed to be professionals.”

Wirt hacks into Nox’s stallion, but the nobleman deftly leaps off the dying horse as it falls. Using its body to help shield him from the two sellswords to his rear, Nox retrieves his shield.

“This is your last chance!” he warns. “Aid me and be rewarded, or side against me and perish!”

“I’m not with them,” the sellsword Marl says, turning to face off against Wirt.

The lead ambusher gets in several solid cuts through Nox’s now-ruined noble’s outfits. The warrior responds by charging the man with his shield and forcing the leader off the bridge into the river.

“Die, fool!” Nox shouts. “Die and be forgotten!”

With Marl switching sides and his boss flailing in the river, Wirt turns tail and run. Marl apologizes for his role in the ambush, insisting that he didn’t know he’d be attacking a representative of the Empress. Nox, quietly relieved that the tide of battle had turned, goes to fish out the lead sellsword. But the man manages to swim to shore and flee into the forest. Nox and Marl take off after him. After a lengthy chase, Nox catches up with the sellsword and cuts “Not-Slim’s” head clean off. While looting the body, Nox retrieves a piece of fine paper with his description on it.

Afterwards, Nox questions Marl, who says the sellsword leader recruited him and Wirt in Korvosa for a contract to take out a lone nobleman riding south from Harse. He doesn’t know who the leader’s employer was. Nox recruits Marl as a bodyguard for 75gp a day, plus expenses. Marl also reveals that they took a cart up from the city, which Wirt thankfully hasn’t absconded with. Nox grimly recovers the chain barding from his late horse. Packing it and the loot up in the cart, they head south, with Nox now wearing his plate mail.

The Scorpion’s Kiss

Meanwhile, a few hours north, Egan wildshapes into a bird to investigate the horn blowing, while the rest of the party scrambles into their gear. Approaching the town of Harse, the gnome druid can hear the temple bells ringing a warning. A great black ship has sailed up the Falcon River, flying the baleful flag of the Bekyar Nation.

As Bird-Egan watches, raiders leap over the sides of the ship and run across the water into the town, twirling nets and bolas over their heads. A hulking brute of a man directs the raiders from the ship, while a woman with the air of a priestess surveys the scene from the quarterdeck towards the stern. Surrounding the woman on all sides are eight dead-eyed children shackled ti her waist.

Egan relays this information back to the Crimson Blades, who decide to approach by air and attack the ship directly. Egan wildshapes into a roc and carries Arlynn and Ashla, while Zandu casts fly on himself, an invisible Kyra perched on his shoulders. Irabeth, Laori and Remmy are dispatched into Harse itself to defend the townsfolk.

As they approach the ship, the party spies some dark shapes lurking in the rigging in the shadow of the black sails. Based on her knowledge of Bekyar tactics, Arlynn also judges this to be a very brazen raid. Not only are they striking in the heart of Korvosan territory, but they also appear to be personally directed by the Whip Hand herself, the woman on the quarterdeck.

Zandu dives down first, passing an alchemist’s fire to Kyra, who tosses it at the rigging, igniting the sails and tar-covered ropes. This provokes the creatures in the rigging to launch themselves into the sky. They are lanky fiends with mouths full of teeth and great bat-like wings. The monsters fan out to either side of the ship and start circling towards Roc-Egan.

The druid swoops straight for the ship, depositing Arlynn and Ashla on the main deck. The hulking Bekyar captain jabs a finger at Roc-Egan.

“Bring down that bird!” he commands his men.

A Bekyar at the forecastle wheels around a ballista to fire a harpoon at the giant fowl. But the shot goes wide and Roc-Egan successfully avoids getting caught up in the harpoon’s chain.

Death on Deck

The Bekyar captain hacks at Arlynn, but the paladin replies by lopping off his head. Undeterred, harpoon-wielding Bekyar crewmen close in around her. Ashla, meanwhile, charges up onto the quarter deck to confront the Whip Hand. Afraid that the Bekyar woman might harm the child captives, the ranger grabs hold of her in a grapple.

Kyra takes this opportunity to leap off Zandu’s back onto the main deck. Scraps of burning sailcloth drift on the breeze as the hungry flames lick their way down the rigging towards the hull.

The two fiends floating over the river turn and point at Arlynn. Dealy bolts of necrotic energy lance from their clawed fingers and strike the paladin, leeching away her life force. Roc-Egan attacks one of the winged monsters while the other continues to throw death bolts at Arlynn as she fends off attacks from the slavers.

The Whip Hand threatens to kill the children by channeling negative energy, but her attempt is thwarted when a terrified fish leaps out of the river and hits her in the head. It is then followed by the even bigger fish pursuing it, which knocks the Whip Hand prone. Ashla urges the orphans to join her in finishing off the evil priestess.

Elsewhere, things are not looking so bright. Zandu tries to keep the other fiend busy by attacking it with his claws, but the creature successfully casts a spell that paralyzes the sorcerer, Kyra, and Arlynn. The Bekyar ballista, meanwhile, manages to successfully spear Roc-Egan with a harpoon, even as the druid finishes off the second fiend.

While most of the Bekyars rush to the quarter deck in a last ditch effort to save their leader, one pauses by the helpless paladin.

“You don’t want to do that,” Ashla warns.

The slaver rams his harpoon through Arlynn’s heart, killing her instantly. As her paralyzed body hits the burning deck, the slaver gives Ashla a mischievous shrug and then flees the ship. After the ranger cuts down a few of his companions, the surviving Bekyars likewise retreat, scrambling across the river into the forest beyond. The last remaining fiend also teleports away.

Raising the Black Flag

Egan is able to quench the shipboard fire and they tow it to the dock, where they meet up with their companions and the villagers. Irabeth is deeply distraught at the sight of Arlynn’s body, but Laori insists the problem can be swiftly fixed. They will have to wait until dusk to do so, however, so that the lingering necrotic effects of the fiend’s magic can fade.

The body is taken to the temple of Erastil in the center of town, where it is laid in state as Irabeth stands vigil until the appointed hour. When the time comes, Laori calls upon the power of Zon-Kuthon to restore the paladin to life

Egan and Zandu, meanwhile, work with some of the locals to repair the damage to the Scorpion’s Kiss, having hatched a plan to use the ship to gain entry to Korvosa. The sorcerer also teleports back to Kaer Maga to pick up several more hats of disguise to aid the party in their plot.

Knocking on Korvosa’s Gate

It takes two days of travel for Nox and Marl to reach Korvosa, with the nobleman still uncomfortably nursing nasty wounds from the fight. They arrive at the North Bridge gate, where Nox presents himself to the Gray Maidens as the new liaison from Cheliax.

The faceless soldiers quickly summon Magistrate Petronicus, who assures him that the queen is bringing matters under control and offers to provide an escort to protect him from rebel agents. He offers Nox the abandoned Chelaxian embassy as a residence.

Petronicus also suggests that Nox contribute a small amount of blood to aid with scrying efforts should he be abducted by rebels. Nox turns down the blood drive, and requests an escort from the Korvosan Guard. He also asks for an audience with the Queen within a week and expresses the Empress’ concern over the instability in the city.

The squad of Korvosan Guards that arrives to escort Nox appear bedraggled, poorly equipped, and despondent. Nox chats with their commander, a long-faced man named Corporal Bendis, who shares information about the state of the Guard and the city.

He learns that the Guard is in a poor state, with its diminished membership including a number of questionable elements. Nox requests a permanent detachment of the guard to secure the ambassador’s residence until he can obtain more assistance from Cheliax. Bendis promises to assign the right sort to guard the embassy.

Your Lordship
Crown of Fangs, Interlude

A Social Call

After stepping out to make a social call, Nox makes his way to Kaer Maga’s Tallow District to hire a no-nonsense sellspell to send a message to Freya asking her to meet him at the Smiling Asp in one hour. He uses the ring she nicked as the conduit.

He seats himself at a booth in the restaurant, with a clear view of the entrance, and orders an ale. Freya slides into the seat opposite him a short while later, already cradling an ale of her own.

“You’re late,” he says.

“You’re early,” she replies. “I didn’t expect you back from that haunted castle for another few days—if ever.”

Nox says that his crazy companions created enough of a mess to get what they were looking for. He explains that he convinced them to give him the medallion early.

“Have you got the papers?” he demands.

“Perhaps,” she says. “Have you got the medallion?”

“Right here,” he says, laying it on the table. “A show of good faith.”

She inspects the medallion to verify its quality, then retrieves a slightly crumpled roll of parchment from inside her bodice and passes it to him.

“Signed and sealed by the Empress herself,” she explains, “House Nox has been restored to the official rolls of the peerage and your title as Lord of the House is conferred.”

Nox inspects the parchment, then stows it.

“You’re still here,” Freya notes. “I would have thought that you’d be trotting back your adventuring friends as soon as you’d gotten the paper.”

“Not just yet,” Nox says. “Tell me, what is the Ambassador’s standing in Korvosa?”

She seems mildly disappointed by his line of questioning, but explains that the ambassador has been ejected from the city but remains close by. It is a temporary state of affairs, as the queen is not likely to last long—if the Crimson Blades do not eject her, the Empire will not long tolerate her impudence.

Nox says that he is interested in taking the throne, but needs help from Amprei. Freya reminds him that the price of such aid is high. Nox says that he would be able to give the ambassador a chartered front company, with free reign to traffic cargo through the city. Freya says that the ambassador has cut ties to the “cargo haulers” that he is referring to, and may ask for something more specific.

Nox says he needs documents representing himself as a liaison from Cheliax and offers Freya a chance to produce them on her own, but she demurs, saying she is oathbound not to disobey the ambassador. Nox suggests that this would be in his interests, but she explains that she and her brother owe him their lives. It is her way as an Ulfen not to break this oath. But she promises to convey the message. Nox gives her two days. He rises to leave and she expresses mild disappointment that he wouldn’t share another ale with her, but he says he must decline for another time. She promises to hold him to that.

As he his about to leave the tavern, Nox checks to be sure he still has his papers, finding them still there along with an extra note in Freya sharp handwriting that reads “Ye of little faith.”

A New Deal

Later that day, a hooded stranger pelts Nox with a stone. Once he is drawn out of the Common House, Freya sidles up to him to let him know that Amprei has accepted the deal. All he wants in return is free access to the vaults below the castle and perhaps Nox’s assistance in obtaining what he is searching for. Nox agrees to help, so long as it doesn’t contradict his plans for Korvosa.

Nox also apologizes for attempting to suborn her earlier, but she brushes it off. “It is forgotten, you are ignorant of our ways.”

He cocks an eyebrow at this and her blue eyes twinkle.

Nox also offers to bring Freya along to serve as a liaison between him and Amprei’s contacts. She says she’d already planned on shadowing him and wonders if her presence might not be welcomed by the party. Nox wonders what he’ll say about this, but she assures him that he’ll think of something. “You’re a charming man. Kingly, even.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” Nox says, tossing her a platinum piece.

He also asks if she’d be up for a little work on the side and she admits she’s free to moonlight so long as it isn’t betraying Amprei’s trust.

The Turned Worm
Skeletons of Scarwall, Part 15

Wandering the Winding Tunnels

Having arrived at the very bottom of the Star Tower, Crimson Blades open the heavy stone door and step out into a natural tunnel. The walls of this cave look moist, yet are strangely dry to the touch, covered with a sheen of glittering mineral deposits.

With Earth-Egan in the lead, the adventures slowly walk down the winding cave tunnel, the cool, damp air sticking in their lungs. Ashla checks the ceiling warily for any hazards, but only finds stalactites. The half-elf ranger discovers something of greater interest on the ground, however: faint footprints, the most recent only a week old, of giant-sized humanoids with strange, four-toed feet.

She alerts the party that they might have company soon. Nox suspects the giants are the so-called Children of Rovagug they were warned about.

The party comes to a fork in the twisting path. Ashla suggests they investigate the right-most fork first, sensing that it might dead-end first. The tunnel gradually slopes downward, while Ashla discovers more sets of the four-toed giant footprints, almost all of them going in the opposite direction.

Dead End Drop

The corridor ends at a fifteen-foot-wide shaft that plummets into the darkness. A faint warm breeze flows up from the pit, carrying with it strange mineral scents. What appear to be a series of three-foot-wide handholds run down along the closest side of the shaft.

“Do we investigate further?” Arlynn asks the others.

“I’d want to know how deep it goes, first,” Nox says.

“Cast light on a rock and toss it down,” Ashla suggests.

They throw the lighted stone down the chasm and it falls, falls, falls until the light itself is no more than a pinprick. Ashla can hear a faint clatter as the rock hits the ground, then silence. Curious about what could lie below, Earth-Egan glides down the side of the hole, which drops down into a sizable cavern with half a dozen tunnel exits winding off in different directions.

The party decides to investigate the left fork before venturing deeper into the cave. Ashla notices that most of the strange tracks are heading in that direction. The further down the left corridor they go, the fouler and damper the air gets. Finally, they round a corner to step into an immense cavern.

The Children of Rovagug

The rank odor of decay, filth, and wet fur clings to the cool chamber with a palpable tenacity. A wide rocky shelf sits in the southern portion of the cavern, and upon this shelf are four crude, domed hovels, each nearly twenty feet tall and built from crude stone blocks mortared together with a nasty mix of mud, hair, and other assorted debris. Beyond, a silent lake of black waters stretches into the distance. Far out in the water, a single point of light glows just above the surface, a bright star whose radiance illuminates a few stony islands about seventy feet out in the lake.

The denizens of the stone igloos turn to face the intruders. The five deformed giants are covered with shaggy, black fur matted with filth and debris covers. Their arms split into two forearms at both elbows, each ending in a massive four-fingered claw. They let out terrifying screeches from the vertical, fang-filled maws that split their heads from what would be crown to chin on any normal creature. Their horrid appearance is matched only by their stench, a rancid combination of wet fur and decay.

Nox charges into the fray, knocking one of the creatures back into its stone hut. It crashes into the ill-mortared walls and the whole structure comes tumbling down. Nox avoids the worst of it, while the aberration is knocked to the ground by the cascade of stones.

Arlynn and Ashla are hot on the fighter’s heels, veering left to attack another four-armed abomination by the the tunnel entrance. The creature’s claws scrape against Arlynn’s armor, but in manages to grab hold of the paladin and squeeze. Earth-Egan glides into the wall and attacks the creature with his fists.

Remmy rushes into the chamber to assist Nox, but another of the split-faced horrors steps forward to slap the two fighters to the ground. Irabeth advances into the cave to help Arlynn with her foe, while Kyra hangs back at the tunnel entrance. Zandu steps into the chamber just far enough to haste everyone, then retreats back to Kyra’s position.

Laori steps inside and casts a spell, calling out “Oh great and cuddly ZK, send your adorable servants to aid us!”

A pair of shadows soon materialize to do the elf priestess’ bidding.

Strength of Arms

The prone aberration scrambles to its feet and claws at the sprawled form of Nox, to no avail. Across from him, Remmy is less fortunate, suffering a vicious claw attack. Nox fights back, cutting the nearest creature’s legs out from under it.

Kyra stealthily creeps into the cavern and throws her returning dagger at the abomination grappling Arlynn, but is not able to find a weak spot in its otherworldly anatomy.

Arlynn, meanwhile, punches her captor in its freakish face and then kicks off from it with both feet, knocking the monster backwards and freeing herself from its grasp. With a twirl of her twin blades, Ashla slices the aberration to ribbons, but is bashed against the far wall by its friend. Zandu races out to the shoreline of the black lake to line up a blast of electricity from his draconic breath, striking two of the creatures.

Although the four-armed aberrations batter the Crimson Blades around like bowling pins, the adventurers are able to wear through their defenses and drop them one by one.

As the party begins to converge on the last misshapen giant, the faint white glow from across the subterranean lake is blotted out by an enormous shape rising from the water.

The Abominable Slug-Man

The woken giant is a disgusting creature that is part immense worm and part humanoid, stretching over 80 feet of sickly pale flesh infested with rot and pustules. Dozens of spiky legs twitch along the length of his body, while his upper torso, bloated and pallid, is still vaguely human. The monstrosity blinks and surveys the battle, then takes a deep breath and spews out a terrible gout of acid that splatters across the cavern. All but Kyra and Earth-Egan, safely out of range, are coated in in the foul, stinging muck. Many of the adventurers are stricken with terrible nausea from coming into contact with the rancid bile. With an earth-rattling roar, the foul creature slithers onto shore.

“This must be the great evil that Zandu saw,” Arlynn murmurs, peering up from the cavern floor onto which she had been unceremoniously tossed moments before.

“You think?” Nox says, clapping his armored elbow to his face in a vain effort to staunch the odor.

“Yeb, debinitely him,” Zandu says, pinching his snout with a free hand.

Undaunted by the vomit dripping from her armor and the cave walls alike, Arlynn rises to her feet and retreats back towards the rest of her companions to share the righteous fury of her goddess with her friends through an aura of justice. As she moves, however, the creature reaches out to rake her with his huge clawed hand, crunching through her armor. At its foul touch, a wave of pain starts to well through the paladin’s body, but her holy symbol of Iomedae glows brightly and the agony quickly subsides.

Still repulsed by the foul stench, Nox, Ashla and Remmy climb to their feet. The last of the four-armed aberrations, meanwhile, knocks Irabeth ten feet through the air to crash into Laori and send them both tumbling to the ground. The giant then scuttles behind a clump of stalactites to stay clear of its gargantuan slug of an ally.

Serithtial Calls

As the stomach juices trickle off of him, Zandu retreats to the tunnel to catch his breath beside Kyra.

“You don’t look too good,” the halfling says, gingerly patting an acid-free patch on his leg.

“It’ll wash off,” Zandu shrugs.

In the cavern beyond, the great abomination lets out another roar. Kyra steps half-way out of cover to throw her returning dagger at it’s head, but the leathery hide proves too much for the small blade to pierce.

“Any chance you could magic that thing away?” she asks.

They watch as the monster simply shrugs of a bolt of called lightning from Earth-Egan.

“Probably not,” the sorcerer admits.

Out in the cavern, Arlynn shouts “I think we’re going to need a bigger sword!”

Zandu’s gaze turns towards faint light shining across the lake and starts to grin.

“Be careful,” Kyra says, reading his expression. She gives him a quick slap on the bottom. “I like you in one piece, even if it’s gnoll-shaped.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” the sorcerer says, casting fly on himself and swooping out into the cave.

Legendary Foe

The great abomination stretches out one terrible clawed hand, reaching across 20 feet to seize hold of Arlynn. As the claws dig into her flesh, a new wave of agony overcomes her, leeching at her strength even as it spills her blood.

Recovering from his initial nausea, Nox charges forward but is attacked by the lone surviving four-armed giant aberration, which grabs hold of him. Ashla closes in to hack at the slug-man’s slimy flank with her swords. After failing to harm the creature with his call lightning, Earth-Egan begins gliding through the cavern wall towards the shining light in the lake.

Remmy follows after Nox and slashes at the four-armed freak, while Laori slides out from beneath the apologetic Irabeth and rises to her feet. She commands her summoned shadows, but they appear reluctant to attack the creature. Arlynn realizes that the monstrosity must be imbued with the power of Zon-Kuthon, which is why the shades don’t wish to harm it. The elf priestess stamps her foot in frustration before sprinting toward the fray with her spiked chain twirling. Irabeth uses her celestial full plate to fly into the air and attack the creature head on. Every now and then, Kyra’s returning dagger zips out from the cavern entrance, but is unable to cut through the creature’s hide.

The monster is undaunted by the adventurers gathering to confront it. While squeezing Arlynn in one massive hand, the vile thing slashes at Ashla and Nox with its free claw, inflicting the same wracking pains in them as well. Arlynn calls upon Iomedae’s grace to heal herself and the others, but the goddess’ blessing cannot keep pace with the harm the gargantuan monster is dispensing with each lacerating touch.

“I know why you have come!” the abomination spits out. “But the sword is mine, and no other’s!”

Arlynn squirms free of the creature’s grip, falling 20 feet to cave floor with a loud clank. The monster responds by raking the paladin with its claws as she lies on the ground.

“Egan!” the paladin cries out as she struggles to her feet, dripping with foul liquids. “I could a healing hand about now!”

The druid turns around and glides back along the wall towards Arlynn. Earth-Egan extends a long, rocky hand out from the wall and slaps Arlynn on her shiny metal bottom to deliver the heal spell.

“Thank you, my friend,” the paladin says as the strength returns to her. The druid offers a thumbs up.

Laori sees that Ashla is likewise badly hurt and suffering from the aberration’s agonizing touch. The elf maiden sidles up to the ranger and provides a healing butt slap of her own.

“Eeeek!” Ashla cries in surprise. “What’d you do that for?”

“Everyone was doing it,” Laori says defensively. “I just wanted to be popular.”

Nox beheads the four-armed abomination grappling him and steps forward to stand side by side with Arlynn.

“Got any more of Iomedae’s wrath to share?” he asks.

“My connection to the goddess is dimming the longer we fight,” Arlynn says. “If we can’t bring this foe down quickly, our quest may be over.”

The Sword and the Gnoll

Zandu steers clear of the melee taking place in the center of the cavern, pausing at the water’s edge only to cast blink on himself for extra protection. As the battle

After casting blink on himself, Zandu floats over the lake towards the rocky outcropping the light is issuing from. As he draws near, the gnoll sorcerer can see that the source of the glow is a resplendent greatsword embedded deep in the stone. He braces himself and then tugs on the hilt. To his surprise, the blade slides easily from the rock. As he hefts it, the sword suddenly ripples in his hand, morphing into an elegant staff.

“Thank you, brave adventurer, for freeing me,” a melodious female voice speaks in the gnoll’s head.

“Do you change into any…‘other’…shapes?” Zandu asks suggestively.

Serithtial ripples a little, the head of the staff taking the form of a comely woman with her arms crossed, scowling at him.

“Just take me to the paladin!” she telepathically reprimands Zandu.

“Which one? The green one, the black one, or the guy that sometimes pretends to be one,” the gnoll zings back.

“Any of them would be better than you,” Seithtial says curtly

The Final Blow

Back on shore, the great monster belches out another gout of acid, dousing the party.

Arlynn, badly wounded, cries out “My strength is failing! May Iomedae protect us in this darkest hour!”

Nox, raising his shield to block a claw, “I’ll be damned if I’m dying here, Paladin! Death will come for me, but not today!”

The air behind Arlynn shimmers and Zandu appears in their midst. He presents the Serithtial-Staff to Arlynn with a flourish.

“Did somebody order a Holy Sword?” the gnoll quips.

From across the cavern, Kyra cries out “What the hell are you doing?! Get out of there!”

Bathed in the warm glow of Serithial, Arlynn drops her greatsword and proclaims “Iomedae’s light! I knew you wouldn’t fail us, Zandu!”

“As if you had a doubt, our sexy leading lady!” Zandu smarmly says.

Arlynn takes the holy weapon from him and turns back toward the creature, raising it aloft as it reshapes into a greatsword once more. “Now you will face the judgement of the Inheritor!!”

“Just stick it with the pointy end already!” Ashla exclaims, blocking claws with her blades.

The paladin takes a single swing with Serithtial as the glow from its blade extends into a great shaft of golden light that bisects the bloated behemoth, splitting him open and causing foul entrails to spill out before sizzling them away a moment later. By the time the cut is finishing only a smoking, bisected husk of the creature remains.

Nox wrinkles his nose. “And we thought it smelled bad on the outside . . .”

“Yes,” says Kyra, elbowing her way past to stand by Zandu. “Yes, we did.”

The mercenary sighs. “C’mon, Short Round, let’s start looting the area.”

“Just who are you calling round?” Kyra says, waving a hand over her slender, curvy physique. “That’s an offensive and pernicious stereotype about halflings.”

“My apologies,” Nox says with a smile. “I suppose next you’ll tell me you don’t have hairy feet?”

“Not a whisker,” Kyra says, slipping off a boot to reveal a delicate and hairless foot. She waggles her toes. “I shave!”

Ashla bursts out laughing.

Tales of Ancient Deeds

After looting the chamber, the party heads back up through the Star Tower. Outside, the moon still hangs high in the night sky. The Crimson Blades make their departure from Scarwall, learning from the gate guards that “King” Mardak already has designs on the orcish city of Urgir. Arlynn reminds them that Mandraivus’ tomb must be left undisturbed in order to prevent the curse from returning. The party makes camp out by the tomb, where Zellara is relieved that they’ve broken the curse and gained the sword

The following morning, Egan begins casting an awakening spell on Barky to make him a perpetual guardian of the tomb. Arlynn enters the tomb to pray and inform Mandraivus that the curse had been put to rest and Serithtial reclaimed. A sense of peace settles over the reliquary.

Arlynn also communes with Serithtial, learning the details of the first battle of Scarwall. Mandraivus and his companions had lured away Kazavon’s main army and then bribed the warlord’s seneschal, Kleestad, to show them a secret way into the fortress through the hidden quay below the rosette ballroom. Mithrodar, Kazavon’s castellan, died in the throne room when Serithtial pierced his liver, but his death bought time for the warlord to retreat into the Star Tower. It was there that Mandraivus and his surviving companions confronted the enemy and learned that he was no mere man but a terrible blue dragon. Arlynn witnesses brief glimpses of the battle through Serithtial’s eyes.

After the dragon was slain, Mandraivus and the others discovered that its essence still clung to its remains. Unable to destroy the dragon’s relics and worried that it might be restored to life, Mandraivus divided up the remains among his companions and had them each take a piece to be hidden for all time. He remained behind in Scarwall, and for a time the power his faith held the darkness rising out of faulty Star Tower at bay. But after Mandraivus was cut down, Rovagug’s foul energy mingled with the psychic wound of so many savage deaths to bring about the curse, which allowed the spirit of Mithrodar to return to power.

But before the curse could take hold, Kleestad emerged from hiding, crawling on broken legs to take Serithtial from Mandraivus’ corpse. Even as the sword burned his flesh, he claimed it as a prize for Zon-Kuthon. This cowardice and treachery angered the Midnight Lord, who struck Kleestad with a curse that sent him fleeing into the earth to live in perpetual agony as a worm. Serithtial was left in his clutches for eight hundred years, awaiting rescue. The sword has felt the stirrings of Kazavon’s soul in the young queen of Korvosa and is eager to be put to use again as a weapon of the righteous against the Kuthites. She bristles at the presence of Laori and the elf priestess keeps a safe distance from the weapon.

Crisis of Faith

Since leaving the Star Tower, Laori has seemed distant and distracted. The morning that Egan completes his awakening ritual, Laori rises to perform her ablutions but becomes more and more frantic in her self-inflicted injury.

When the party questions her, she explains that “I can’t feel Him hurting me anymore. The hurting means He loves me.” She casts a regretful look back at Scarwall in the valley below. “I should have gone with Ildervok.”

“Believe me, you made the right choice in staying,” Arlynn assures her. The paladin can sense that Laori’s evil aura has diminished.

“If ZK’s mad at you, perhaps you could atone?” Nox offers. “I bet getting the Midnight’s Teeth back would go a long way.”

“Yes!” the elf maiden says, a manic gleam in her ebony eyes. “That will make him love me again!”

“Or maybe ZK is just jealous of the friends you’ve chosen,” Arlynn says. “There are other gods who aren’t as fickle.”

“Jealousy is kind of his thing,” Laori acknowledges. “And you guys are super awesome friends. But ZK gets me. He understands how amazing pain is. Are there any other gods who do that?”

“Um . . .” Arlynn says.

“Are there any other Kuthites nearby?” Zandu asks. “Maybe you could consult with them to find out what you need to do.”

“There’s that stupid cult in Korvosa,” Laori says. “And there might be some followers in Kaer Maga. I guess I’ll check in with them when we get back.”

“About that . . .” Ashla says.

News from Korvosa

The night before, Ashla was having one of her usual dreams of wandering through a graveyard when Vencarlo Orisini emerged from behind a tombstone. He explained that he was contacting her via spell from Janderhoff and updated her on the situation in Korvosa. Cressida Kroft has left the Korvosan Guard and gone underground, where she is gathering a group of rebels to oppose the Queen. They are operating out of the Gray District, where Bishop Keppira d’Bear is hiding them. Vencarl and Neolandis Kalepopolis are preparing to join them and Vencarlo asks that the party meet up with them there soon. The time to strike against Ileosa is fast approaching Ashla informs him that they have the sword.

That morning, Ashla relays this information to the rest of the Crimson Blades

Afterwards, Nox pipes up. “Well, even more reason to get back to civilization. We need to stop in Kaer Maga first.”

“And to meet up with the Shoanti,” Arlynn picks up.

“And to get my armor,” Egan adds.

“And our pets and horses!” Ashla adds as well.

“Well great,” Nox says gruffly, “looks like we all have shit to do, so let’s get to it!”

Altering the Deal

Upon arriving back in the Common House, the party makes plans to collect their mounts and materiel from the Sklar-Quah, but before they split up Nox calls them all into his room for a private talk.

He tells them that he needs to ask for the medallion early. In return for delivering it, he will get his family’s title back, which he intends to use to leverage out the Arkonas. That would give the party a base of operations in the city—and, Arlynn notes, strike a blow against slavery given the Arkonas’ connection to the Bekyars.

But Nox warns them that his client is Ambassador Amprei. Irabeth growls that the ambassador kept her chained up below his mansion like a dog. Remmy doesn’t think Slim would have ever parted with the medallion and is loathe to see it handed over to Amprei. Nox assures her that it will only be used for intrigues in Cheliax, but Irabeth says that they know little of Amprei’s true intentions.

However, the rest of the party ultimately decides to accept the revised agreement. Begrudgingly, Remmy agrees to hand the medallion over. She takes the red-fletched arrows out of her quiver and then removes the false bottom to extract the gold disk with the green gem in its center. Nox is flabbergasted.

Ashla gives him a friendly pat on the shoulder. “We’re assholes.”

Kyra gives his thigh a friendly punch. “Welcome to the group, buddy!”

“You mean you had it on you the whole time?” Nox demands.

“A Varisian knows the safest place to keep your treasures is on your person,” Remmy says, handing him the medallion. “Kyra helped me rig up the quiver.”

“If only I could capture the look on your face,” the halfling chuckles.

“Your memory will just have to do,” Nox says, stowing the item. “Now, I have to go make a social call.”

Healing the Scars
Skeletons of Scarwall, Part 14

Princess Returns

Having returned to Kaer Maga to raise Remmy and Laori from the dead, the Crimson Blades spend several days simply resting and recovering from their recent ordeal. Zandu goes out shopping for supplies and brings Kyra along, to get the excited halfling a new cloak of resistance. Arlynn spends her free time calling upon the power of her goddess to heal the sick of the Bottoms District.

The morning of their intended return to [[Scarwall], however, Irabeth steps out on the streets of Kaer Maga in a daze. When Arlynn inquires after her, Irabeth explains that she had a strange vision last night and feels she needs to go somewhere. The half-orc wanders off into the city, with Arlynn and Egan following warily behind.

Irabeth drifts towards the great walls of Kaer Maga, where a portly gnome has set up a shop selling massive hang gliders of wood and canvas. Perched around his shop is also an enormous flow of talking crows, calling out “Fly! Fly!” The gnome tries to sell them on his “man-kites,” promising that they “fly every time or your money back!”

Arlynn and Egan politely decline, while Irabeth takes a leap of faith off of the wall and emerges moments later on the back of a resurrected Princess. Laughing with joy, she cartwheels around the sky as the crows flutter off to join her and Egan takes wing as well.

Arlynn welcomes Irabeth and her mount back when they land, glad to see that the goddess has rewarded their continued devotion.

The Impossible Happens

Zandu teleports the party back to Mandraivus’ tomb and into the middle of a violent stand-off. A group of more than 30 orcs has surrounded Barky, snarling and brandishing their weapons just a stone’s throw from the treant’s long wooden arms. Barky explains that an army of orcs arrived at the gates of Scarwall and this smaller party marched up to confront him. He has kept them at bay by throwing stones at them, but is worried about their sharp axes. He warns that the orcs have sent a runner back to their main army.

Arlynn demands to speak to the orc leader, Warboss Mardak, who accuses the party of being spies from Lastwall seeking to rile up the evil spirits in the forbidden castle. Both Arlynn and Nox challenge the orc chief to single combat. The chief responds by insisting that they fight without weapons.

Eventually, Arlynn and Zandu are able to resolve the stand-off by proposing a strange alliance with the orcs: if Mardak and his men help them break the castle’s curse and allow them to retrieve the sword, they will turn Scarwall over to him. Arlynn also conditions the agreement on the orcs not tampering with Mandraivus’ tomb, which she claims is helping to suppress the curse. Irabeth, who acquiesces to the agreement only grudgingly, also demands that the orcs provide her with any information they might have on her father’s identity.

Once the deal has been struck, Mardak returns to his army’s camp by the barbican while the party spends the night warily resting within the tomb of Mandraivus. The following day, they meet up with the suspicious orcs and begin advancing up the causeway towards the castle. Mardak sends a wave of goblins in to secure the gates. After they’ve breached the perimeter, Arlynn suggests that the orc leader join them in fighting Mithrodar—which he unfortunately accepts.

Mithrodar’s Throne Room

Joined by Mardak and his bodyguards, the party rolls up to the Great Hall of Scarwall. Zandu enlarges Nox and Earth-Egan shapes a hole in the wall for the giant to advance through while Arlyn kicks down the door.

Inside, they find that Mithrodar has assembled a mob of zombies, skeletons, and skeletal minotaurs to help protect him. Big Nox clomps forward to breach their defenses with a few swings from his enlarged sunblade. Arlynn then steps into the gap to channel positive energy, obliterating the lesser undead and leaving only the skeletal minotaurs—and Mithrodar.

The chain spirit calls on Pegg and Loute, the pantomiming ghosts, who start dancing through the hall and inflicting their maddening appearance on the party. Mithrodar cackles and then drops through the floor, despite Arlynn’s best efforts to stop him.

While the rest of the party finishes off the ghosts and minotaurs, Earth-Egan sinks through the stone floor to chase after the chain spirit.

Aware of the threat from Pegg and Loute, the Crimson Blades quickly bring them down. The minotaur skeletons put up a fight, trying to barrel over the adventurers, but eventually their bones are cleaved to pieces.

Cornering the Rat

The screams of Mardak’s orcs echo throughout the castle as the unbound chain spirit tears through them. Judging from the echoes, Nox reckons that Mithrodar has retreated to the ballroom. The Crimson Blades race towards the western wing of Scarwall, passing the bodies of a squad of orcs (which elicits only a sneer from Mardak).

The adventurers catch up with Earth-Egan just outside of the ballroom. While the others plan the attack, Zandu hangs back with Kyra, altering self into halfling form and getting flirty with her.

Earth-Egan scouts ahead warily, sensing that Mithrodar has retreated to the far end of the ballroom. Arlynn tenses herself to rush inside, but Mardak charges in first. The orc warlord swings at the chain spirit, but accomplishes little. Arlynn advances after him, attracting the attention of some spectres that swarm around her. However, the paladin is able to draw a circle of protection against evil around Mithrodar, trapping him in place.

Nox then moves into the room, holding his sunblade aloft to weaken the spectres. The remaining spectres swarm out into the hallway to attack Ashla and Irabeth—and interrupting Halfling-Zandu and Kyra’s cozy chat. However, the rest of the party is able to defeat the angry spirits.

Within the ballroom, Nox cuts down the bound Mithrodar. The chain spirit wails and shrieks as he is defeated, and then his body twists and spirals as if caught in a vortex. A heartbeat later, he is gone. After a few moments, the walls of the castle begin to shimmer and brighten as the shadows that cling to every inch of the cursed structure fade. The sound of countless sighs whisper in the ear, and the oppressive sense of menace overlaying the structure fades.

The Last Ghost of Scarwall

A few moments later, a small luminescence forms before the party. It rapidly increases in brightness until a figure manifests before them, a confused-looking human male in early adulthood. He wears finely cut, if long-out-of-style clothing and is clearly a nobleman of some sort.

As the figure looks around and notices the adventurers, his ghostly flesh strips away, revealing raw muscle and bone below as if he were being flayed by invisible knives. However, after being reduced in such a horrible fashion, his skin reappears a moment later only to start the process all over again.

The ghost introduces himself as Count Andachi of Tamrivena and thanks them for what they have done today. He confesses that it was he who sent Kazavon into Belkzen and when the warlord went rogue, the young count waited long before attempting and then failing to stop him. Kazavon had him skinned alive for his trouble, leaving his soul bound to the foul castle.

Andachi describes Mandraivus’ defeat of Kazavon, his decision to split up the dragon’s relics, and his efforts to contain the castle’s evil which were undone by the orc attack eight hundred years ago. Andachi praises the party for breaking the castle’s curse, but senses their work is far from done.

“I have dwelt in Kazavon’s echo for too long not to feel his strength, his influence, take seed in your queen, so far away,” the ghostly count says. “Strange names that I do not know are in my head. Korvosa. Ileosa. Your own. Kazavon quickens in your home, and you must recover Serithtial if you are to cast him down as surely as you have cast down his presence here. Yet the agents of the Midnight Lord know of the threat Serithtial poses to his child. While they cannot destroy the sacred blade, nor even take it far from this place without invoking the wrath of Iomedae…they can hide it.”

“I can still feel a presence in this place, a power linked to the Midnight Lord," Count Andachi warns. "It remains in the Star Tower, once Kazavon’s inner sanctum. I see that here, in the deepest heart of Scarwall, your goal lies hidden. A fragment of Scarwall’s curse lingers there, lodged and stubborn. When the curse held sway, this way was blocked to you. Now, seek it out, and it shall lead you to your goal. And now, with my time here at an end, your time shall at last begin….”

The end of his speech coincides with the completion of one of his ghostly mutilations, except this time his form does not rejuvenate. Instead it crumples and slowly fades from view.

Arlynn, Nox, and Zandu pointedly question Laori and Sial about the ghost’s claims that Kuthites hid the sword. The two clerics claim to know nothing of this, though they acknowledge the sword is a great danger to their church and were it not for the greater need to recover Kazavon’s relics, it would be best to leave it hidden.

Into the Star Tower

The Crimson Blades rest for the remainder of the day in the western wing of the castle, secure inside Sial’s bone house. The adventurers rouse at midnight and dine on another heroes’ feast provided by Laori. Then they make their way across the courtyard to the donjon and advance into the Star Tower through the secret door on the second floor. Egan confirms that despite its obsidian-like appearance, the tower is not made of stone.

Exploring the interior, they stumble across a bloodstained bedchamber. Ashla deduces that the room is the scene of a centuries-old crime, seemingly untouched by time. A human was murdered here, slowly and painfully, but the body is nowhere to be found.

The adventurers come across two sets of stairs, one leading up and one leading down. They take the upper staircase first, which takes them to the cavernous top floor. The room stands empty, save for a footscrew lying on the floor, which they destroy.

Choose Wisely

After searching the empty upstairs, the Crimson Blades head down below onto a strange new level of the tower. The walls and floor of this chamber have a strange organic texture, appearing almost like black decaying flesh streaked with glistening swaths of blood. Four pillars carved to look like coils of entwined arteries and spinal cords support the ceiling—nails and surgical tools are embedded in these pillars at key and painful-looking positions. At the base of the stairs is a ten-foot-diameter open shaft filled with thick bluish mist. Zandu and Kyra hang back on the stairs, while the rest of the party warily explores the room.

As they approach the well of blue fog, a voice suddenly purrs inside their minds. “Welcome, travelers, to the Star Tower of Scarwall. I am Ildervok, custodian of this place for the past eight centuries. Long have I waited for a mortal to venture into the tower and take up the post of Curate. One of you must fill this role before the rest may continue.”

The adventurers look around, but cannot see the speaker. Zandu reacts by turning invisible himself, while Kyra uses her ring of invisibility.

“I sense two followers of the Midnight Lord among you,” Ildervok says. “Surely one of them will volunteer for the hallowed position of Curate.”

Sial jabs a finger at Laori. “It should be you who volunteers, Disciple Vaus, to atone for your sins. You’ve grown far too close to these heathens and have strayed from our Lord’s calling.”

“I’ve been carrying out ZK’s command to retrieve the relics of Kazavon,” Laori retorts, “while you’ve done nothing but complain and dally with your chain devil. You’re the one who should be Curate, you old sourpuss! It’d be the first useful thing you’ve done in this castle!”

“What exactly is the Curate anyway?” Ashla calls out to Ildervok, while Arlynn quietly casts discern lies.

“The Curate is the living soul of this Star Tower,” the creature intones. "The Curate lives until the End Times, or until violence necessitates a replacement, and watches over the Star Tower. The Curate is the Star Tower. It is an honor to even be considered for the role, and to be selected and reject it is to spit in the Midnight Lord’s eye.”

As the two clerics continue to trade insults, Nox steps forward. “Sial, you’re the senior cleric here. The honor and the duty really should go to you.”

The Shadowcount ignores him, glaring instead at Laori. “Impudent child! You will fall on your knees and beg to be Curate by the time I’m finished!”

Sial whips out his spiked chain while Laori grabs for hers. Nox draws his own sword.

“If it’s coming to blows, Sial,I’m standing with Laori,” the mercenary says.

“Everyone calm down!” Arlynn shouts. She casts her gaze about the room, looking for Ildervok. “If you need a Curate to sustain the Star Tower, we can go find you one. I’m sure Mardak would be happy to volunteer a goblin.”

“No, it must be one of you,” the creature chuckles. “And it looks like your Kuthite friends are about to resolve the question, one way or the other.”

Spells fly and swords flash as Sial and Asyra battle with Laori and Nox.

“If there is no other way to resolve this, then so be it,” Arlynn says, marching forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with the mercenary and the elf. She swats aside an attack from the Shadowcount. “You are outmatched, Sial. Take your place as Curate and I swear we will carry out our promise to return the Midnight’s Teeth to your church.”

Wounded and short of breath, Sial throws his spiked chain to the ground. Beside him, Asyra retracts her chains.

“Your promises are as hollow as your loyalty, paladin,” Sial sneers. He calls out to the darkness. “Ildervok, take me under your protection! I will serve as Curate.”

Ildervok congeals out of the shadows, taking shape as an enormous bat-like creature shaped of utter darkness with tiny red pinpoints for eyes.

“It is good to see such piety still exists even in the most wayward soul,” the creature smiles. He turns his malevolent gaze towards the elf maiden and extends a clawed hand black as night. "Dark Disciple Laori Vaus, you are welcome to journey with me to Xovaikain and testify against the traitor Sial in the palace of the Midnight Lord himself.

“Oh,” Laori blinks, gaping at the hand. “Wow. I, uh, don’t know what to say…”

She glances back at the Crimson Blades uncertainly.

Nox shakes his head. “Don’t do it, Laori.”

“Would she be able to return to us once her testimony is done?” Arlynn asks the nightwing. She concentrates her discern lies spell on him.

“Perhaps,” Ildervok says. The paladin can feel the lie like a slap in the face.

“Stay with us, Laori,” she urges. “After all, someone still needs to return Kazavon’s teeth to Nidal.”

Laori nods. “You’re right. I’m sorry, Mr. Ildervok, but I can’t go with you. I have to serve ZK here, on this quest, with my friends.”

“Your decision has been noted,” the creature says coolly. It reaches out with it’s claws to collect Sial and Asyra, but hesitates before departing. Its red eyes survey the Crimson Blades. “Know that you have nothing further to fear from the Midnight Lord, heroes of Korvosa. He desires that Kazavon’s spirit be removed from your petty young queen as much as anyone, for such a fate does not befit even a fragment of one of his mightiest warlords. The blade you seek has been taken by the Children of Rovagug who dwell deep below the Star Tower. If you step into the shaft of blue fog, you will be transported to those deep chambers where the weapon has languished. I trust you can see to the rest.”

With that, the creature collects Siall and Asyra in its talons. As it vanishes with the two of them, Asyra can be heard saying “Finally” in Shadowtongue

Left alone in the Star Tower, the party takes stock of the situation. Arlynn collects Sial’s abandoned spiked chain.

“I just— I wanted to thank you guys for backing me up,” Laori says to Nox and Arlynn. "I don’t know if I made a mistake or not turning down Ildervok’s offer.

“You didn’t,” Arlynn interjects.

“But now that it’s done, I’m with you all the way to the finish,” the elf concludes. “You guys are the best friends I’ve had, like, ever. Way more cool than Sial. Blech.”

Gravity Falls

While the dispute between the Kuthites rages, Halfling-Zandu and Kyra sneak across the chamber to the well of blue fog and leapt into it. They immediately began falling through the fog, with Kyra holding onto to Halfling-Zandu for dear life (and perhaps a bit more). The sorcerer’s ring of featherfall activates and they gently float through the mist for just a very short while before emerging at what seems to be the bottom of the tower.

Once the fate of Sial and Laori is determined, the rest of Crimson Blades realize that the gnoll and the halfling are missing. Guessing where they’ve gone to, the rest of the party makes their own leap into the blue fog. They emerge at the bottom of the tower as well, but not all at the same time. Laori takes significantly longer to fall through the mist than the rest of them.

The blue fog covers the ceiling of the bottom chamber, which is otherwise completely bare. Its only feature is a single stone door at one end. Once the Crimson Blades have regrouped, Zandu throws the door open with a gesture.

In the Bag
Skeletons of Scarwall, Part 13

Under the Big Top

Returning to Kaer Maga once more, the Crimson Blades apparate into their designated “landing zone” in the Common House, their arrival disrupting some sort of public meeting going on.

Black Marin glares at the adventurers for a moment before pounding onto the table set up on the stage, hammering the Freedmen assembly back into order. “All right! Any new business?”

One man gets up to complain about the refugees crowding into the district from the Korvosan lands to the south, while another questions the continued Shoanti military build up. Arlynn steps forward to assure the crowd that the Shoanti pose no threat and to pledge that she and her comrades are committed to restoring order in Korvosa.

After the meeting, Arlynn uses her newly acquired rod of splendor to erect an impressive tent filled with victuals just outside the Common House to feed the poor. She and Egan stand outside dispensing healing to those in need. A curious Laori ends up joining in at their urging, though the elf maiden keeps handing Kuthite pamphlets to everyone who arrives.

Nox’s Shopping Trip

Back in the Common House, Nox recruits Kyra and Irabeth to help him follow up on a tip about a relic of his family. Having heard that the family’s sun blade Vigil was somewhere in Kaer Maga, Slim investigates at the Downmarket. He is directed to an antiques stall operated by a Taldane man in Qadiran robes named Telmaro, who welcomes their interest but says he has not seen the sun blade. Telmaro points Nox to the half-elf antiquarian Lelur, who keeps a shop on the Tarheel Promenade district of the city.

The trio treks to the Tarheel, where they find the shop bedecked with heraldry. Inside, the elderly proprietor excitedly examines Nox’s ram shield, praising its fine craftsmanship. Nox says it was part of a matching set of Arma Solari given to his ancestor by the Church of Aroden, which impresses Irabeth.

Nox asks if Lelur has a matching sword. The half-elf retrieves the weapon and displays it, launching into another spiel about its quality and storied history. Nox glances at Irabeth to see if Lelur is telling the truth and the half-orc gives him a nod. The mercenary then steers the old man back onto the topic of purchasing the sword, leaving Kyra to do the haggling.

Zandu and the Skulls

Zandu enters the shop just as they are preparing to go check out a Vudran shawarma place. The gnoll sorcerer presents Lelur with the three dozen talking skulls obtained from the devil’s tower in Scarwall. The half-elf identifies them as representing half the peerage of Lastwall and Tamrivena from 800 years ago. The biggest find of the group is Count Andachi of Tamrivena.

Lelur recalls that the young count, harried by the orcs of Belkzen, sent an army under the command of a mercenary named Kazavon to quell the green horde only to have Kazavon grow into an even greater threat. Count Andachi ultimately raised a second army to march against Kazavon, but was defeated and slain.

Zandu nods along with the tale, then sells the enchanted remains to the half-elf. He suggests that Lelur arrange the skulls in a special corner of his shop under a silence spell so that their talking won’t be disruptive. The gnoll then tags along with Nox and the others on their way to the Vudran restaurant.

Against the Slave Lords

Once everyone has reunited at the Common House, Arlynn asks around about the disturbances to the south and learns that Bekyar slaver in a black ship are raiding up the Falcon and Jeggare Rivers unchecked by Korvosa. Arlynn consults with the rest of the Blades about the possibility of asking the Shoanti to combat the slavers. Black Marin warns that inviting the barbarians south could have unpredictable consequences.

Arlynn asks him what the Freedmen and Kaer Maga can do to help the people being preyed upon by the Bekyars. Black Marin pledges that the Freedmen will help people seek refuge in Kaer Maga, but notes they lack the resources to confront the slavers directly. Arlynn ultimately concludes that they will have to deal with the slavers once they have finished their task at Scarwall.

That night, Ashla has a vision from the Lady of Graves telling her to “beware the jeweled skull.”

Entering the Donjon

Teleporting the next morning, the party returns to Castle Scarwall and approaches the donjon, a squat, square fortress at the back of the castle that is loomed over by the adjacent Star Tower and its leering Zon-Kuthon symbol. There is no entrance to the ground floor of the donjon; instead a staircase leads up to two great double doors on the second floor. As they reach the entrance, when Sial warns them not to touch the door.

“Can’t you sense it?” the Shadowcount asks. “There are overlapping forbiddance effects on this building.”

Sial explains that the spells bar any but a follower of Zon-Kuthon from entering, but also prevent Kuthites from leaving. This is why Sial and Laori struck up their alliance with the party. When the Kuthites enter the donjon, their passage will lower the forbiddance effect for a brief window, during which the Crimson Blades can follow. When exiting, the reverse is true.

After Kyra has checked the donjon’s heavy double doors for traps, Sial throws them open and steps inside, with the rest of the adventurers hustling after him. They find themselves in an eerie foyer, with a basin of water at one end—a dagger lying at the bottom of it. Laori explains that the design of the foyer suggests that the donjon must be some kind of temple to ZK. Kuthite priests would cut themselves and wash the wound in the water as a ritual of purification upon entering. But Laori and Sial both sense that the site has been profaned and is no longer sacred to the Midnight Lord.

The donjon interior is utterly dark, causing Nox to activate his sunblade and Zandu to cast light on Arlynn. The Crimson Blades begin prowling the abandoned halls of the donjon, wary of any danger. As they explore the corridors, they run up against the slick black walls of the Star Tower jutting into the donjon at an angle. They come to the conclusion that the donjon was built around the Star Tower.

Symbol of Pain

Arlynn and Kyra get slightly ahead of the party, investigating a door to a side room. After the halfling picks the lock, the paladin throws the door open. Beyond they find a small chapel to Zon-Kuthon, with a grisly statue of the Midnight Lord staring back at them from the far end of the chamber. A strange glyph is inscribed on the statue’s forehead and it flares with a bright red light as their gaze falls upon it. A wave of overwhelming agony ripples out from the statue, washing over not only Arlynn and Kyra, but the rest of the Crimson Blades nearby.

Despite the pain, Arlynn spies something lurking behind the statue. While Kyra struggles to try to disable the glyph, Arlynn advances into the room and challenges the shadowy figure to show itself, while the rest of the adventurers hasten to assist her. The creature lurking behind the statue is an undead being dressed in the tattered finery of a priest of Zon-Juthon, its teeth filed to points. The mummified cleric casts another harmful spell but is swiftly brought down by the collective fury of the Crimson Blades.

The adventurers retreat beyond the reach of the symbol of pain until its effect burns out and then return to search the chamber. The back wall of the chapel is in fact part of the Star Tower, where Ashla notices a secret door. After Kyra unlocks it, they peer inside, seeing what appears to be a meeting room with doors leading off to left and right.

The party decides to leave the Star Tower for now and continue scouring the donjon, where they expect to encounter another lord of Scarwall.

Five Unlucky Ghosts

On the opposite side of the donjon’s second floor, the Crimson Blades step into what appears to be a small lounge and library. While Nox lingers to investigate, the rest of the adventurers continue down the hall, finding a series of five priestly cells holding the tattered remains of their occupants.

Back in the lounge, five sinister shades ooze out of the dark corners of the room towards Nox, surrounding him only to be repulsed by the brilliant natural light of his sunblade. Nox calls a warning to the others and although some of the shades manage to flee to the relative darkness of the hallway, the adventures make short work of them, with Nox dispatching three of the shadows personally.

Heartened by their easy victory and the discovery of hidden treasure in the library coyly stashed within a book titled On Vaults and Treasure Chests, the Crimson Blades descend to the ground floor of the donjon.

Into the Shrine of Midnight

The bottom of the temple-keep proves to be dominated by a massive shrine to Zon-Kuthon. After Earth-Egan scouts out the chamber, the party warily enters, on the lookout for danger.

This vast chamber is floored in gray slate and supported by thick pillars of obsidian. Torches mounted on the pillars burn, yet their flames are strangely dim, barely lighting the cathedral-like space. The pillars themselves are decorated with skulls and bones—tiny white pinpoints of light seem to dance in the eye sockets of each skull. To the northwest, a tall statue of a skull-headed man dressed in dark robes stands behind a black marble altar, on which lie heaped mounds of ashes, bits of bone, and a single skull, its teeth and eye sockets set with glittering gemstones. Jagged, barbed chains dangle from the statue’s eye sockets. Thick black curtains hang from the walls of the chamber.

The vast chamber is supported by thick pillars of obsidian. Torches mounted on the pillars burn, yet their flames are strangely dim, barely lighting the cathedral-like space. The pillars themselves are decorated with skulls and bones—tiny white pinpoints of light seem to dance in the eye sockets of each skull. At the far end of the chamber, a tall statue of a skull-headed man dressed in dark robes stands behind a black marble altar, on which lie heaped mounds of ashes, bits of bone, and a single skull, its teeth and eye sockets set with glittering gemstones. Jagged, barbed chains dangle from the statue’s eye sockets.

Ashla spies the skull on the altar and recalls her vision from the other night. The rest of the party, however, remains more suspicious of the two statues, recalling their experience in the chapel upstairs. But after thoroughly searching the shrine and finding no other threats, the adventurers circle back to the skull.

Drawing closer, Arlynn suddenly recognizes the jeweld skull as some sort of powerful undead creature. She tip-toes back to the others to quietly inform them of her discovery.

The Bag Man Cometh

The Crimson Blades are leery of confronting the creature within the shrine, but they suspect that it could be another lord of Scarwall which they need to defeat to break the curse. Zandu suggests that he could try to use mage hand to snatch hold of the skull and drop it into a bag of holding. He speculates that might be enough to break the creature’s connection to Mithrodar.

While most of the adventurers look at Zandu askance, Arlynn notes that if the plan works they could take the creature out onto the hallowed ground of Mandraivus’ tomb and kill it there. They decide to give the plan a try.

The rest of the party retreats to a safe distance while Arlynn creeps back over to the altar and holds out the bag of holding. Sweat trickling down his fuzzy head, Zandu carefully summons forth a mage hand and then swipes at the skull.

Its two enormous ruby eyes flare with red light as the sorcerer’s telekinetic fingers close around it. The skull tugs against his mental grip as an unnatural breeze stirs up the debris on the altar. But with surprising deftness, Zandu stuffs the enraged undead into the bag of holding in Arlynn’s hands.

The paladin claps the bag shut and the party races from the donjon, scarcely able to believe their good fortune.

Swords Against Death

Using magic to speed their escape from the castle, the Crimson Blades carry the bag with the increasingly irate undead out to the tomb of Mandraivus and Ionas. Arlynn and Egan suggest opening the bag into a contraption of shaped tone into which holy water could be poured, by the idea is dropped. Instead, the adventurers close ranks into a tight circle, into which Arlynn releases the bag.

A frightful, piercing wail issues forth from the bag, slamming into the party like a cyclone. While most of them are able to brace against the keening howl, Zandu can feel the spirit blessing the Sklar-Quah ancestors imbued him with burning away as it wards off the deadly cry. But others are not so lucky.

Kyra claps her hands over her ears and turns deathly pale, her face twisted in agony. A wave of pain also washes over Arlynn through the shield other link between them. The halfling collapses to the ground and the amulet around her neck flares with white light before crumpling into dust. She still breathes, but faintly.

Remmy and Laori also grasp at their ears in futility, before falling over stone dead.

Zandu grabs Kyra and rushes her away from the bag of holding.

The jeweled skull rises out of the bag, aglow with deathly crimson light. As it starts to spit out another spell, Nox strikes it with his sunblade, cleaving the skull in two.

Zandu pours a healing potion down Kyra’s throat and nurses the halfling back to wakefulness. She is so traumatized, she doesn’t even take part in the looting.

Arlynn and Egan, meanwhile, check on Remmy and Laori. The paladin asks Sial if he can raise their fallen companions and the Shadowcount grudgingly agrees, though only if he is paid for the privilege. Sorting through the jeweled remains of the skull, Egan also finds a massive diamond that would be suitable as a casting component for a raise dead spell.

They Live!

After storing the bodies of their friends in the bag of holding to protect against rot, the Crimson Blades eat a cold meal and spend a grim night barricaded in Mandraivus’ tomb.

Zandu makes sure to bed down by Kyra, but the halfling isn’t interested in sleeping in her custom bed and instead huddles up against him.

The following morning, the adventurers teleport back to Kaer Maga, where they secure the remaining spell components. Then, in a private room in the Common House, Sial grudgingly calls upon the dark power of Zon-Kuthon to restore life to the two dead women.

Remmy and Laori draw breath again, still frail after their ordeal. The party decides to spend some time in the city while they recover.

Devil's Tower
Skeletons of Scarwall, Part 12

Top of the Morning

Secure in the bone house that rises through the ballroom’s shattered skylight, the Crimson Blades enjoy their first undisturbed night in Scarwall for quite some time. On watch duty, Aquilos Nox, Remmy, and Kyra all notice that the castle seems more subdued and less threatening, with virtually no spectral manifestations all night long.

After all the precautions they had taken, it’s a surprise and a relief when Laori stretches contentedly as she rises from her trance, apparently none the worse for wear. She carefully shakes out and folds up Zandu’s orange cloak of resistance before retrieving her ceremonial dagger to begin her morning ablutions.

Downstairs, Kyra asks after Zandu’s health as he gets up.

“You took a long spill in the drink there,” she says, giving his scaly knee an uncertain pat. “You sure you’re okay? Not coming down with anything?”

“I’m fine,” the gnoll sorcerer insists. “Out on the lake, I was more worried about gargoyles and the big worm than the water. That stuff just shakes off.”

“You gotta admit, drowning’s a pretty nasty way to go,” Kyra says with a shiver. “That’s how my dad died. He might also have been eaten by a sea monster. So that lake’s kinda a twofer on my nightmare scale.”

“Well, don’t worry,” Zandu says, laying a clawed hand on her shoulder, “I’m steering clear of that lake from now on.”

“Thanks,” the halfling grins, wrapping her small fingers around his. “I don’t want you going anywhere—who knows what you’d come back as next time.”

“Hate to interrupt this touching moment,” Ashla intrudes, “but there’s a haunted castle that needs cleansing and we’re wasting daylight.”

“She’s right,” Nox agrees. “I say we poke our noses into that last lonely tower on the third floor.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Arlynn nods.

“I thought that was the plan all along,” Zandu says.

As the adventurers assemble by the bone house door, Remmy hangs back, nervously rubbing the bloodstained kapenia sash still tied around her left arm.

“Guys, I think I’m going to stay behind,” she says. “Two fights in a row, magic’s muddled my mind. I mean, an imp managed to put a spell on me. I used to swat those things aside when I was on the Guard, but now . . . I think what was done to me, my indoctrination, it’s left the door to my head wide open. And I don’t want to be a liability.”

“Well, if that’s your choice,” Nox shrugs. “But take it from me, sooner or later you’re going to have to face your fears. Hiding from them is no solution.”

“Will she be safe here alone?” Arlynn asks Sial.

The Shadowcount shrugs. “The door to the bone house answers only to me. Though of course, spectral creatures have proven able to breach the sanctum.”

“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” Remmy insists.

“Fine, she’s staying,” Ashla taps her foot impatiently. “Can we go kill some devils now?”

“Wait!” Laori hollers. “We haven’t had breakfast yet!”

Casing the Joint

The lonely tower rises 60 feet above the roof of the main keep of Scarwall, capped by a small cupola, where the last surviving gargoyle brute had taken refuge during the previous day’s battle. The only other entrance appears to be a single door accessible via a narrow stone causeway.

The Crimson Blades move into position on the walkway, save for Zandu, Kyra, and Sial who hang back inside the main keep. Earth-Egan earthglides inside the tower to scope it out.

The interior of the tower is completely hollow, with no stairs or ladder leading up to the opening high overhead. A shallow pool of stagnant water from past rains has formed in the center of the floor. The few furnishings include a wide bed swathed in rotten bedclothes, hanging several feet off the floor, supported at its corners by chains hanging from a series of iron support beams above. To the side a large gilt throne stands upon a short dais before a series of manacles inset into the floor. A series of alcoves climbs the wall in a spiral. Within each stands a statuette, art object, or polished skull.

Perched on top of the bed’s iron hangers, its gaze fixed on the door, is a male chain devil.

Earth-Egan quietly slips back outside and tries to alert the party.

“Does anybody speak rock?” Nox asks.

“I’ll learn it later,” Zandu says dismissively.

After failed attempts at pantomime, Earth-Egan finally gives in and uses ghost sound to warn them about the chain devil.

As the party considers this information, the druid and the ranger also spy a gargoyle lurking among the heights. Earth-Egan raises a huge stony fist to point it out. The gargoyle squawks in surprise and flees, with Nox sending several arrows after it.

A Stubborn Door

Determined not to be caught out in the open in case the gargoyle returns with friends, Arlynn prepares to kick down the door—but Nox gets there first.

“I’m the one who knocks!” he shouts, slamming into the door. The door fails to budge. Nox and Arlynn then try out their battering ram, but it, too, fails.

“Here, let me try,” Zandu offers, casting open/close on the door, but it rattles against it’s lock. The sorcerer then tries to detect magic to see if there is a spell upon it. he picks up nothing from the door, but senses several auras of illusion beyond.

“We might have invisible enemies waiting for us,” he warns, “if we can ever get past this thing.”

“Why don’t you consult a professional?” Kyra suggests in a strained voice. She elbows her way past Nox’ armored thighs, muttering “’I’m the one who knocks.’ In my line of work, you never knock when entering uninvited.”

“If you were three feet taller and ten stone heavier, you might change your mind,” Nox says, cocking an eyebrow.

“Thank the gods for small favors, then,” she says.

After a moment of inspection and jiggling the lock with her thieves’ tools, Kyra breaks the bad news. “This door was made to hold off invaders. Reinforced steel bands all around it. You could pound against that all day and get nowhere. And this lock is master-class. I can get it open—probably—but it’ll take me a while.”

“We can always cut through it,” Arlynn says, taking an experimental swing with her greatsword.

“Or,” Ashla says, “Egan can just move the wall away from the door.”

The druid stone shapes the bricks away from the door, but it still stands there determinedly. Nox gives it a shove and it teeters over with a creak to clang against the floor.

Make it Rain

The hollow tower beyond appears completely empty. Sensing something’s up, Earth-Egan uses create water to produce an artificial shower inside the chamber. The cascade of water water reveals five invisible shapes floating in the room—two small ones in each corner, 20 feet in the air, two larger ones near the center 40 feet in the air, and one large one in the very center, 50 feet in the air. The rain also reveals that there is something perched over the door.

Shield ready, Nox ventures into the room—provoking an attack from the chain devil hanging above the entrance. Arlynn responds by stepping inside and spiderwalking up the wall to confront the chain devil.

The invisible figure floating at the very top of the chamber casts chain lightning, the crackling bolt arcing across to strike all of the assembled adventurers save Zandu and Sial.


Before the smoke can clear, one of the little invisible beings in the corner reveals itself as a green-skinned imp. The tiny fiend suggests to Nox “Why don’t you just sit this one out? It’s way over your head.”

“No, you sit this one out!” the mercenary shouts back.

The imp shrugs. “I gave you a chance.”

“Oh, you’re gonna regret that,” Nox says.

Zandu creeps out onto the causeway to cast haste on the party before retreating back inside the keep. Not one to be left out of a fight, Irabeth charges into the room and activates her celestial full plate in order to fly.

The two large invisible creatures close in on Arlynn as she stands perched on the wall. One of them briefly drops its invisibility to slash at her with its claws, revealing a large skeletal body with bony wings and a scorpion’s tail. The paladin’s armor shakes off the blows, but nearby she can hear the other fiend casting a spell.

With a sharp crackling sound, a wall of ice rises up to seal off the door to the tower. The frigid barrier continues to wend its way around the causeway, sealing in Ashla and Laori while creating a hefty barricade in front of the tower.

Kyra responds by leaping up onto the ice and scrambling over to the tower. She climbs up to an arrow slit and leans inside, dagger at the the ready.

With several swift strokes, Ashla cuts through the ice wall snaring her. Nearby, Laori bashes at ne end of her prison with her spiked chain, while Asyra steps forward to tear down the rear of the ice wall with her own chains.

Inside the tower, the other half of the party continues the fight. Earth-Egan reaches out with one stony finger to tap Nox with air walk. The mercenary uses his new-found powers to charge up and across the chamber at the green imp. He smashes it into the wall with his shield until it turns to mush.

On the other side of the tower, the chain devil tries to trip Arlynn ut the Bekyar woman keeps her footing. The paladin retaliates by cutting down the chain devil and the creature winks out of existence, revealing it to be a summoned creature. Arlynn activates the see invisibility feature of her mask of the mantis, just in time to parry attacks from the two floating bone devils.

In another corner of the room, a second imp—a brown one this time—appears to once again try to charm Nox.

“Why don’t you head back to camp, get some rest,” the fiend suggests.

Nox levels his sword at the imp. “You’re next.”

Gravity is a Harsh Mistress

From high up above, the adventurers can hear the chief devil casting another spell. Arlynn feels the press of invisible walls closing in on her, but she throws them off like a furious mime.

At ground level, Ashla steps through the hole she slashed in the ice, suffering a cold shock as she does so. The half-elf then begins cutting through the layer of ice closing off the door.

Earth-Egan launches his massive fists out of the stone wall, smooshing the second imp much to Nox’s dismay. But the druid’s wild swings jostle the wall beneath Arlynn and leaving paladin struggling to keep her feet. Sensing an opening, the bone devils try to finish the job and successfully knock her to the ground with a clatter.

Swords Against Deviltry

Outside, Zandu casts spiderwalk on himself and easily strides up onto the ice, stopping near Kyra. The halfling looks from him to the small arrow slit above.

“You’re going to tease me again, aren’t you,” she says resignedly.

Laori finishes battering her way through the ice and moves up to stand beside Ashla at the tower threshold.

Inside, another bone devil suddenly warps into existence near Nox. After this backup arrives, the chief devil above suddenly utters words of devastating foulness, syllables so unrighteous that they tear open deep psychic wounds in the party.

“Someone cast air walk on me!” Ashla calls out.

“Sorry,” Laori says, stepping into the room and up into the air, “I already cast it on myself.”

The elf maiden joins the fight against the bone devils, while Ashla moves to help Arlynn to her feet.

In the air above, the bone devils flash in and out of view as they attack Irabeth and Nox. The mercenary is briefly grappled.

Sial and Asyra stride through the passage in the ice wall, halting at the tower threshold. The Shadowcount then calls upon the dark powers of Zon-Kuthon to hold the summoned bone devil. Freed from the creature’s grasp, Nox brings it down.

Up above, the chief devil unleashes a new, terrible spell that leaves Zandu stunned and paralyzes their companions. This spell is quickly followed up by another that leeches the water from the room, leaving many of the adventurers badly wounded. Arlynn is able to channel the divine mercy of Iomedae to keep everyone alive, but their situation is clear.

“We have to kill that devil!” the paladin says.

Devil’s Downfall

Earth-Egan tries to dispel the creature’s invisibility, but it resists his magic.

Recovering from the effects of the spell, Zandu alters self in to the form of an incredibly handsome halfling and spiderclimbs through the arrow slit, past the helpless Kyra. The sorcerer uses blindsense to point him towards the chief devil’s general location. He then lets fly with his dragon’s breath attack, spewing lightning out of his pint-sized mouth.

The chief devil responds by closing in and slashing at him with terrible claws, all the while remaining invisible.

Unable to reach their main antagonist, Ashla climbs the inside of the tower wall, using the alcoves as hand holds. She tries to jump onto the floating but immobilized Irabeth, hoping to use the half-orc as a perch from which to attack the bone devil grappling Nox.

Unfortunately, another invisible bone devil is in the way. Ashla instead finds herself grappling with an invisible foe, 30 feet off the ground.

Earth-Egan dispels the paralysis on Irabeth. The half-orc, Nox, and Ashla make short work of the remaining bone devils—including Ashla’s unwilling mount. The half-elf leaps off her perch as it falls and manages to grab hold of Irabeth’s boot. The junior paladin hoists her up.

Arlynn, meanwhile, runs up the side of the tower wall towards the corner where the chief devil lurks. The fiend slashes at her, but Arlynn deflects the attack so forcefully that it throws the devil into a tailspin, sending it crashing to the floor.

“The lord of Scarwall is on the ground!” Arlynn shouts. “Keep her there!”

Emerging from the stone wall, Earth-Egan hammers the chief devil with two fists. Irabeth lands Ashla nearby, though neither can see the creature.

Devil’s Demise

Taking advantage of this confusion, the chief devil leaps back into the air and flees to the opposite corner of the chamber. Arlynn hastily calls out it’s new location. Following her directions, Nox and Irabeth rise up to hem it in, though neither is able to strike it.

In a move both courageous and foolhardy, Arlynn charges across the ceiling in her slippers of spiderwalking and then hurls herself onto the demon below, sword-first. The two of them crash to the ground, getting tangled up in the chains and metal frame of the hanging bed.

Arlynn pins the devil to the floor with her greatsword, but her triumph is cut short as the hanging bed’s surprisingly heavy mattress slams into her with a loud clank, spilling coins out of its ruptured seams.

Arlynn charges across the ceiling and crashes down onto the fiend with her sword. The two of them fall to the ground, getting tangled up in the hanging bed and its surprisingly heavy mattress.

Zandu, still shaped life a halfling, scoops Kyra into his arms and starts spiderwalking her to the floor, letting out a tremendous roar as Arlynn attacks, which shakes Kyra free from her paralysis.

“Now that’s a one-liner,” she smirks, cuddling up against him as he carries her down.

The Dead Dragon’s Treasures

Having vanquished their foes, the party sets about looting the chamber, finding a number of valuable artifacts, a mattress full of coins, and a bunch of talking skulls, one of which they recognize as coming from the same archaic province as Ser Eccholt. Ashla also finds a number of extraordinarily large dragon scales lying around. Kyra pops the gemstones off the throne and Arlynn, Zandu, and Nox have a lengthy debate as to how to remove the gold gilt.

“So, how many more of these lords of Scarwal are left?” Nox asks, nudging the now-visible devil corpse with his boot.

“I’m not sure,” Arlynn admits. “We could always go and check, I suppose. But maybe there’s another way.”

She turns to the elf priestess. “Laori, the last time you saw Mithrodar in your dreams, how many chains did he have?”

“Mithrodar came to me again last night, shook his two creepy chains, told me he’d make me his slave, yadda yadda yadda,” Laori says. “I told him to fuck off—my friends have my back. And ZK, of course.”

“Yeah!” Nox says. “Way to go, Laori!”

“So that means we only have one lord left,” Zandu muses, still halfling-shaped, as Kyra ruffles his hair curiously. “Three guesses as to where it is.”

“The donjon,” Arlynn grimaces.

“Or the Star Tower,” Nox offers.

“I think that before we go anywhere else, we need to head back to Kaer Maga and unload some of this loot,” Egan says, resuming his gnome form. He hefts a crumpled ball of gold leaf bigger than his head.

Hurricane Egan
Skeletons of Scarwall, Part 11

Into the Castle Heights

Though weary from their fight with the skeleton warrior and the nightlong vigil that preceded it, the Crimson Blades advance across the bridge that Earth-Egan had created, emerging onto the main balcony of Scarwall’s third story. The main structure of the third story, and the enormous tower looming behind it, await the adventurers, while around them stone gargoyles perch, gaping blankly ahead.

Leaving Sial and Asyra outside to guard the bridge, the rest of the party warily enters the main structure, which is divided by a long hallway running east and west. Doors sit at both ends and run along each wall. Arlynn, Zandu, Irabeth, and Laori go left, while Earth-Egan, Nox, Ashla, Kyra, and Remmy go right.

The left group discovers an abandoned torture chamber. Amid the ruined racks and rusty chains, Arlynn unearths a strange metal box. She passes it over Zandu, who fails to detect any magic on it.

“Kyra, honey,” the gnoll calls down the hall, “we’ve got something you need to look at!”

“Oh my way!” the halfling hollers back. While she scampers over to the torture chamber, the rest of her group discovers a private balcony overlooking a walkway leading to the tower.

In the torture chamber, Kyra reaches for the box but the paladin intervenes.

“Let’s examine it outside,” Arlynn suggests. “Irabeth, you and Laori keep looking around.”

The half-orc and the elf priestess continue investigating, while the three of them head out onto the main balcony.

The Trap is Sprung

Over on the private balcony, Ashla finds a set of tiny bone pipes, barely bigger than a whistle. Earth-Egan also detects strange little footprints in the dust. Ashla recognizes them as the tracks of at least three imps, maybe more. The faint scent of brimstone in the air suggests that they were here moments ago.

Out on the main balcony, Kyra delicately turns the metal case over in her hands.

“Hmm, no traps,” she frowns, “but it definitely has a hidden catch. Let me see about getting that open . . .”

As the halfling reaches for her thieves’ tools, there is a grinding sound from the hallway. Slabs of slate gray stone seal off the center of the hall.

“We’re being cut off!” Arlynn warns, rushing over to the blank wall where the door inside once stood. She runs a hand over the stone surface and then ducks back, her sword out. “It’s all an illusion!”

“Um, looks like we’ve got bigger problems,” Kyra says, dropping the box and drawing her rapier.

A trio of four-armed gargoyle brutes have risen from their perches to swoop down towards the five adventurers on the main balcony. One dives down towards the paladin, grabbing at her with four hands, but Arlynn easily ducks beneath its grasping claws. Zandu and Sial are not as fortunate, as each is seized by one of the brutes.

Just as Arlynn turns to face the new threat, a clawed hand lashes out at her through the stone wall illusion. As it scrapes against her armor, the Bekyar woman takes in the deep green color of the fingers and the thick coat of needle-like spines and realizes that she is being attacked by a Hamatula, better known as a barbed devil.

“We’re being attacked by a devil!” she calls out. “I think it’s a lord of Scarwall!”

“We’ve got devil problems, too!” Irabeth hollers back as another, bigger barbed devil steps out of the illusion. The fiend seizes hold of the half-orc with its spiny hands, raking her with its claws.

Out on the private balcony, another trio of gargoyle brutes swoops down from the tall tower to attack. The first gargoyle dives at Ashla, but she simply steps to the side and the monster careens into the wall and falls twenty feet onto the roof below. Earth-Egan takes a swipe at the creature, to no effect. The second gargoyle, however, successfully grabs hold of Ashla, while the third catches Nox in its clutches.

Imp’s Advice

In the hallway where Remmy had been keeping watch, a scrawny green imp winks into view. The Gray Maiden raises her sword, but the imp suggests a different course of action.

“You can sit this one out,” the little devil soothes, “your friends have this under control. Another sword would just get in the way. They don’t need you.”

“They don’t need me,” a glassy-eyed Remmy repeats, slouching against the door frame.

Outside, another imp appears hovering near the main balcony. This one, a small brown creature, suggests to Asyra that “Your master and his companions can take care of themselves. Just sit back and give them a chance to enjoy Zon-Kuthon’s gift of agony.”

The chain devil stops twirling her chains and relaxes her stance.

A third imp, this one a bright sickly yellow, appears on the other side of the main balcony. The fiend calls out a suggestion to Kyra.

“The big people can take care of themselves,” he says. “No reason to risk your neck, just stay where you are and you’ll be safe.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that it mind,” the halfling says, quietly pulling out a dagger.

Grabby Gargoyles

Arlynn steps backward, her greatsword pointed at the illusory wall.

“Come and face me, fiend,” the paladin challenges. She draws upon her aura of justice to grant the strength of Iomedae’s righteous fury to Kyra, Zandu, Sial and Asyra.

Completely ignoring the friendly imp’s advice, Kyra tumbles into a corner and tosses a dagger at the gargoyle grasping Zandu. Unfortunately the gnoll sorcerer is in the way.

“Oh, shit!” Kyra groans. “Sorry! I’m not mind-controlled or anything! . . . Though maybe that makes things worse.”

“It’s okay, Kyra,” Zandu calls back. “Just a flesh wound!”

While Asyra examines her nails, the gargoyle brute grasping Sial lifts him high in the air. The Shadowcount berates his bewitched bodyguard all the way up, until the gargoyle drops him.

“Don’t just stand there, you small minded fool—help me!”

He crashes down onto the roof, smashing a man-sized dent into the wooden shingles.

The same gargoyle as before makes another run at Arlynn, but once again fails to catch hold of the determined paladin. The third gargoyle, meanwhile, carries Zandu high into the air and just a little to the west, letting go of the sorcerer over the caldera lake. His smug satisfaction turns to frustration as the sorcerer gently feather falls a languid thirty feet.

Asyra suddenly shakes her head and gives a startled look around before rushing out onto Egan’s roof-bridge to help Sial, extending her chains out to grasp him.

As he slowly drifts down towards the water, Zandu casually leans back and directs a lightning bolt at his attacker.

Three Fights for the Price of One

Back on the main balcony, the hamatula takes Arlynn’s bait and steps out of the illusion to confront her—a scrawny, hunched-over figure bristling with green spines. The barbed devil slashes at Arlynn with its claws, but does little more than scuff her armor.

As the hunched figure strides past, Kyra lunges out with her rapier to try to sneak attack it, but her blade is unable to pierce its bristles, which loosen and spray back at her with the strike.

“Ow! Damn it!” the halfling cries, pulling back a sword hand full of spines.

Inside, the big hamatula strengthens its grip on Irabeth and squeezes her onto its barbs. The half-orc lets out a roar in agony.

Over on the private balcony, one gargoyle lifts off with Nox, while Ashla manages to wriggle free of her captor. The gargoyle that tumbled to the roof rises up from its fall and gets two fists full of Earth-Egan, causing it to flee into the sky. The one carrying Nox drops him onto the balcony railing. The mercenary shouts in pain, but he’s able to cling hold to the railing and not fall further.

Earth-Egan casts flame strike on two of the gargoyles and then extends a stony hand out through the balcony floor to give Nox something to stand on. He gestures back inside with another stony fist.

The Devil You Didn’t Know

Following the druid’s advice, Ashla retreats inside. She comes to stand by Remmy. She notices the Gray Maiden’s glassy-eyed stare and tries to get her attention. Remmy stares blankly off into space for a moment before blinking—or winking?—and shaking her head clear.

“What? Why am I . . . ? What’s going on?” Remmy says blearily, before fixing her gaze on the now-empty hall. “That godsdamned imp put a spell on me, didn’t he? I hate those little buggers! Do you know where he went?”

Ashla raises her hands in a shrug—swords and all.

“Watch where you point those things!” Remmy chastises her. “You’ll put someone’s eye out—and I’m out of spares!”

Sounds of clanging swords and Irabeth’s shouts of pain echo up the hallway.

“Sounds like they could use our help over there,” Remmy says, “but they’ve blocked off the corridor.”

“It’s just an illusion,” Ashla assures her. “You can step right through it.”

“All right then,” the Gray Maiden says, raising her shield. “For Korvosa!”

She marches through the illusory wall—and right into the claws of the third hamatula waiting on the other side. It snatches her in its claws and she lets out a shriek of sheer terror. Down the hall in the side room, Irabeth struggles vainly to free herself from the big devil’s clutches, while Laori lashes at it with her spiked chain.

“Why did it have to be devils?” the elf grumbles. “I’m all kitted out to fight undead!”

Over on the private balcony, Nox hoists himself up over the railing and comes to stand beside Earth-Egan, ready for any gargoyle to come swooping down.

Duel with the Devil

Out on the main balcony, Arlynn steps sideways to flank the hunched devil with Kyra.

“You’re not the only one who can count on help from little friends,” the paladin says, striking with her sword. “Prepare to meet your end, lord of Scarwall!”

Kyra also attacks but once again fails to strike true, suffering from the hamatula’s vicious barbs.

“Damn it!” the halfling grits. “Thanks Arlynn, but if it’s all the same I’m going back to chucking daggers.”

Unfriendly Arms

The same unlucky gargoyle tries for a third time to carry off Arlynn, but overshoots and manages to pick up the hunched devil instead, dropping it immediately. The gargoyle flies off in shame.

The gargoyle harassing Sial lands near the Shadowcount and claws him with four arms. Asyra responds by lashing him with all four of her chains.

The gargoyle that dropped Zandu roars at the sorcerer in Terran. “IF YOU WON’T FALL RIGHT ON YOUR OWN, I’LL DO IT MYSELF.”

The four-armed brute drops like a stone and slams into the gnoll, driving him into the caldera lake. Zandu flails about in the cold water, struggling to surface.

In the hallway, a terrified and screaming Remmy struggles vainly to free herself from the third barbed devil as it squeezes her onto its spines. Across the hall, Irabeth also strains against the clutches of the big hamatula impaling her on its barbs and calls upon Iomedae’s blessing to heal her wounds. Laori imbues her with the strength of a bull. Outside on the main balcony, the hunched hamatula reaches out with two stringy arms to lock Arlynn into a death grip.

Gale Force Gnome

Over on the rear balcony, the gargoyles dive down to attack Earth-Egan’s exposed stony hand.

The gnome druid responds by casting Control Wind to summon a hurricane-force wind that swirls around the Scarwall heights, centering the eye of the storm on the heart of the building. Caught off guard, the gargoyles struggle against the wind. The imps, meanwhile, are tossed about, their wails of surprise dopplering around the castle.

Unfortunately, Asyra and Sial are also caught out in the storm. The winds blow them across the roof, with Sial very nearly knocked off the building.

Down on the water, the waves get choppy, but the gargoyle circling above manages to stay aloft relative unaffected unaffected. Beneath the troubled water, Zandu struggles against the churning tide. Unable to fight his way to the surface, he retrieves the bottle of air from his handy haversack to avoid drowning. As he does so, the gnoll notices something big and dark and angry surging up towards him from the depths below.

Fiendish Fight

In the hallway, Ashla races towards Remmy’s screams. She steps through the stone wall illusion to emerge right beside the Gray Maiden as she struggles against the clutches of the barbed devil. The half-elf lays into the creature with steel, but her swords have trouble biting through his spines and each strike comes back with a hand full of sharp spines.

At the other end of the castle heights, Nox retreats back inside the balcony doorway. He drops his sword and shield to draw his bow.

Still gripped with supernatural terror, Remmy struggles against the third hamatula’s spiny grip, without success. Despite Laori’s support, Irabeth remains caught in the same position. The elf priestess frowns and takes another swing at the barbed devil.

“Why. Won’t. You. Hug. Me!” she shouts.

Epic Property Damage

Her sword pinned by the creature, Arlynn punches the hunched devil in the face—her fist backed up by Iomedae’s divine might. Behind her, Kyra tumbles up onto the roof of the hall overlooking the main balcony and chucks a dagger in the hamatula’s hunched back. Just beyond the main balcony, the wind howls past, peeling off shingles, boards, and other debris.

With a terrible screech, the barbed railing along the balcony is ripped free by the hurricane. The tangle of sharp metal scythes around the building, lashing the remaining gargoyles. Arlynn glimpses a three imps—brown, red, and yellow—impaled on the whirling strand of spikes before the mess tears into Sial. Carried on by the storm, the wire lashes around the great tower, catching the gargoyles by the rear balcony.

At the sight of this disaster, the hunched devil, reeling from Arlynn’s righteous left hook, releases the Bekyar woman and retreats back into the hall. The paladin slashes after it with her greatsword, but the blade goes flying through the illusory stone wall and hits something beyond with a wooden thunk.

“Stand and fight you, coward!” Arlynn bellows after the retreating hamatula, before turning around to eye the Kuthites. Shouting over the wail of the hurricane, she asks “Count Sial, how do you fare?”

“I’ve been picked up and thrown around by a bloody gargoyle and a bloody hurricane!” he snarls back, clinging to a rattling section of the rooftop as the wind sets his long, white hair whipping about his face. “I could use some of your vaunted healing powers right about now!”

The Grip Tightens

Inside the hallway, the other two barbed devils continue to squeeze Remmy and Irabeth against their deadly spines, inflicting grievous wounds on the two women.

Over on the rear balcony, the remaining gargoyles swoop out of the storm to attack Earth-Egan. The druid strikes back with stony fists, while Nox fires arrows.

Out near the main balcony, the two remaining gargoyles seek shelter from the storm. The one that had been harrying Asyra and Sial retreats down Egan’s bridge to the castle loft. The gargoyle that had failed to catch Arlynn seeks shelter in a side room on the castle heights.

Out on the storm-wracked roof, Asyra crawls across the shingles until she is close enough to catch Sial with her chains and start pulling him towards her as the wind continues to hammer at both of them.

In the chilly waters down below, Zandu decides it’s now or never. Kicking himself up to the surface, the gnoll sorcerer takes four claws to the face from the gargoyle waiting just above. He shrugs off the damage and casts fly on himself, while the great bulk of the creature beneath him surges up with frightful speed.

On the private balcony, Earth-Egan casts call lightning storm, which strikes down one of the gargoyles with one powerful bolt. The gnome druid then earth glides through the stone of the castle heights towards the main balcony.

Meanwhile, Nox stows his bow and retrieves his sword and shield.


In the hallway, Ashla continues to strike at the third hamatula, but still struggle to inflict any lasting harm to the fiend, all the while collecting more searing barbs in her hands and arms. Beside her, the mind-numbing fear finally drains away from Remmy and the Gray Maiden slashes the barbed devil with her holy cold iron longsword, cutting through its vile defenses with ease—but still picking up barbs. The young woman is now bleeding profusely from dozens of puncture wounds.

Irabeth unwittingly follows her example and lands a devastating blow with her mithral longsword, backed up by the holy might of Iomedae.

“Squeeze all you like,” she shouts, “I’ll still cut the life out of you first, fiend!”

“How is everyone doing?” Arlynn calls out. “Irabeth, are you all right?”

“Bloodied but still in the fight,” the half-orc calls back.

“I could really use some of that ol’ healing magic,” Remmy calls out weakly.

Arlynn looks over at the wounded Sial and Asyra, still struggling against the hurricane, and then turns reluctantly back towards the hall.

“Egan, get out here and help the Count!” she hollers, advancing towards the building. ’Irabeth, how far are you from the balcony door?"

“About five feet.”

Arlynn positions herself by the door and then raises her empty sword hand to channel the healing blessing of her goddess. The energy washes over her companions in the hallway, soothing their wounds.

Never Bring a Spell to a Sword Fight

Kyra swings down from the rooftop and tumbles through the illusory wall, rolling past the devils, and across the hall into the room that they had emerged from, where she springs to her feet, lobs a dagger at the third hamatula, and then ducks into the shadows. Arlynn’s missing greatsword sits embedded in the open chamber door.

In the hall, two of the devils press their captives onto their spines yet again. Remmy cries out in agony as the barbs undo Arlynn’s work. The hunched over devil, badly wounded itself from its fight with Arlynn, casts a spell that lances two scorching rays across the hall at Ashla. The half-elf is only mildly singed, thanks to her ring of fire resistance.

She drops her longsword and extends a hand to Remmy, reaching for her holy cold iron longsword.

“Mind if I borrow that?” Ashla asks.

“Sure,” the dark haired girl says woozily.

Fresh sword in hand, Ashla cuts the third hamatula badly.

Snatched from the Jaws of Death

Earth-Egan continues to glide through the castle stones until he reaches the two Kuthites. The druid takes hold of them with his huge rocky hands and shields them from the hurricane with the immovable bulk of his earth elemental body.

Out on the lake, Zandu zooms past the furious gargoyle, just ahead of the snapping jaws of the enormous tarn worm that bursts from the water beneath him. The frustrated worm bites the gargoyle and drags it under, while the sorcerer struggles through the high ind towards the castle.

In the side room off the hallway, Irabeth continues hacking away at the big barbed devil, while Laori supports her with healing magic.

A Paladin is Never Unarmed

Determined to get back into the fight, Arlynn steps through the illusion and into the hallway. She tries to retrieve her greatsword but the hunched devil grabs hold of her. The angry paladin responds by decking the fiend with her gauntleted fist, shattering its skull with her holy wrath.

“Scratch another lord of Scarwall!” Arlynn boasts.

“Yes!” Irabeth shouts from the other side of another illusory wall. She grins at the big fiend grasping her. “You hear that, you overgrown hedgehog? Your master is slain, and soon you’ll be next!”

From her position in the doorway, Kyra tumbles out to throw another knife at the third barbed devil.

“Let’s wrap this up, people,” the halfling says, “I’m kinda running low on daggers here.”

No Quarter for the Wicked

The third devil squeezes Remmy one more time, leaving her barely on her feet, and then retreats back into the doorway of its chamber. The big hamatula shifts its position to put Irabeth between it and the illusory wall covering the hallway, then presseses the half-orc against its spines again.

Ashla closes in on the retreating hamatula and catches it in the doorway, slicing it half to ribbons with her new sword.

Out on the main balcony, Earth-Egan sets Asyra and Sial down inside the eye of his hurricane. The druid then moves forward down the bridge he’d shaped to pursue the gargoyle in the loft, striking it with call lightning.

In the hall, Nox moves up to face of against the barbed devil, sword and shield ready. Remmy retrieves Ashla’s sword and hangs back, still shaky on her feat.

Outside, Zandu presses through the storm to fly up to the second floor entrance to Scarwall. He begins races through the corridors back towards the third floor, brushing past a couple of perplexed ghosts.

In the side room, Irabeth continues to press the attack against her grappler, with Laori adding her spiked chain back into the mix.

In the hall, Arlynn tugs her greatsword free from the door and cuts down the devil in the doorway. Kyra springs over the piny body and tumbles out into the hall, where she lines up a knife on the last hamatula gripping Irabeth.

“Hamatula? I Hardly Knew ’Er!”

The big barbed devil abandons his captive and tumbles out of the room, dodging the half-orc’s parting sword swing. The devil scrambles up onto the roof. Earth-Egan gives chase, gliding up onto the roof as the fiend scrambles across the shingles towards the tall tower that rises beyond. The druid calls lightning onto his foe, but the hamatula shakes off the spell handily. Despite the swirling gale, the barbed devil leaps up onto the tower wall and begins to climb.

Which is when Zandu pops out of the third floor, floating up over the rooftop to the very edge of the hurricane’s eye. The gnoll sorcerer huffs and puffs and spews lightning at the retreating devil, frying it in a crackle of blue energy.

Loose Ends and Secret Doors

While the rest of the party regroups, Nox goes hunting for one of the surviving gargoyles, tracking the wounded creature to one of the old torture chambers in the heights. With his shield and sword, the mercenary batters the brute down.

After joining with Irabeth to channel their goddess’ blessing onto the party, Arlynn investigates the remaining rooms in the tower heights. In one chamber, she uncovers a funerary urn with markings from Lastwall, but no legible writing.

Elsewhere, she notices some missing space between two rooms. Kyra determines that the secret door is not trapped and quickly unlocks it. The cramped chamber beyond holds a rolling desk, against which a simple walking stick leans. A search of the desk finds numerous rare spell components, of which several thousand gp’s worth in gems and diamond dust remains.

Goblin Trouble

Once the hurricane dies down, the adventurers head back out to consult with Zellara. The ghostly Varisian woman can sense no magical purpose behind the urn, but she identifies the walking stick as in truth a staff of conjuration, which Zandu promptly claims.

Kyra gets the mysterious metal box open and finds that it is full of buttons and levers. Nox recognizes it as the control mechanism for an elaborate torture device he’d seen in Cheliax, though no other components of the device remained in the torture chamber where box was found.

Next, the Crimson Blades investigate the traps they’d laid around the barbican at the causeway entrance. Right at the front of the barbican they find a dead goblin, slain by the swinging log trap. Laori casts speak with dead so that the adventurers can interrogate it, with Irabeth acting as a translator.

Under questioning, the dead goblin admits to being part of a scouting party sent by Mardak. The goblin says the orc army is only a few days away. The Crimson Blades share some worried looks.

Arlynn suggests that they play upon the orcs’ superstitions about Scarwall. They scatter about some bones from the castle and pose the goblin to make it seem like he was killed by ghosts. Kyra gets really into the scheme and also rigs up a fake ghost shape floating in the barbican tower window using a white sheet and some rope. After Ashla covers any sign that the party was, there, they decide on where to spend the night.

Bedtime for Laori & Friends

With the orcs so near, the party concludes that it’s not safe to camp outside. However, Zandu worries that Laori could be in danger if they rest in the castle. They ultimately return to the ballroom, where Sial sets up his bone house, the skull tower rising through the broken glass skylight.

After Kyra treats them to a surprisingly tasty turnip soup, the Crimson Blades ready for bed. Arlynn, Zandu and Egan all give Laori items to strengthen her will to resist Mithrodar if he haunts her dreams again. The elf priestess is touched by their kindness. Worried that her hooked chain mail might damage Zandu’s orange cloak of resistance, the elf maiden strips out of it for the first time they’ve known her. Beneath it, she wears some loose black jammies embroidered with smiling skulls.

“Of course,” Zandu says at the sight of the pajamas.

The adventurers arrange for Laori to bed down at the very top of the tower, where the people on watch can keep an eye on her for any trouble. For extra security, Arlynn will lie down nearby.

“You guys are like the best friends I’ve ever had who aren’t one-eyed torture gods,” Laori says as she sits down in the lotus pose to begin trancing. “I am going to bake you sooo many cookies when we get back to Korvosa.”

“There’s no need to pay us back, Laori,” Arlynn tells her, unfurling a bedroll. “You’re our friend and friends look out for each other. . . . But if you feel that you must repay us, I’d like extra chocolate on mine.”

“No almonds, either,” Nox grunts from his perch in the skull’s left eye socket.

“Done,” Laori yawns, tugging the orange cloak around herself as she closes her obsidian eyes.