Curse of the Crimson Throne

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

An Unexpected Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gossiping with the Gals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sic Semper Tyrann-erk!

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

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

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

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

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

But she does not fall.

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

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

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

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

Whispers from Old Korvosa

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

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

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

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

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

Into the Dying City

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

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

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

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

Bad Vibrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save the Last Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salvator’s Secret

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

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

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

Always Trust an Elf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are lembas?” Egan asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Knight
Seven Days to the Grave, Interlude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daughter of Urgathoa
Seven Days to the Grave, Part 12

Release the Daemon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urgathoa’s Chosen

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

“She has gorgeous hair!” Ashla blurts out.

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

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

Die, little paladin.”

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

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

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

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

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

Wrath of the Pallid Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Praise be to Iomedae!” Arlynn calls out.

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

Breaking the Plague

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twilight of the Pallid Princess
Seven Days to the Grave, Interlude

Setting the Scene

It’s a cool spring night in Korvosa, but the cramped upper level of the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden is no place to enjoy it. The faint sweet odor of the censer drug still clings to the air in the windowless rooms. The twenty-three freed “patients,” mostly Varisians, huddle together in the hospice lab, murmuring to one another in low voices or trying to sleep on the hard wooden floor. They steer clear of the empty patient beds with the leather straps—five of which are currently occupied by two Gray Maidens and three Queen’s Physicians, bound and gagged. Ishani stays with them, to care for those still recovering and comfort the rest. The three remaining Sable Company marines take shifts watching over things with the hyppogriffs on the rooftop.

The party is gathered in Davaulus’ office, which Zandu has done his best to render spotless through ample use of prestidigitation. There’s a heaviness to the air in the room, as if the doctor’s baleful presence still lingers—or perhaps it is coming from whatever evil that was hastily sealed up below. Perched atop the halls of the Pallid Princess and with a major armed standoff taking place outside, it is difficult to get to sleep.

The Green Knight

Irabeth steps back into warm glow of the office, shutting the worried murmurs behind the door with a click.

‘’Their wounds may have healed, but the Varisians are still frightened,’’ she reports. ‘’Enough that even my presence puts them at ease.’’

She unbuckles her greatsword and gently leans it against the wall. ’’I’ve been to three cities in my life, and this is the first where a half-orc is a welcome sight to strangers. That alone tells you how bad things are.’’

Her stomach growls like a wildcat, causing her ears to turn red. She quickly marches over to Davaulus’ work table and begins poking through his effects, occasionally picking up a beaker of some dubious substance and giving it an inquisitive sniff. Every so often she stops her investigation to adjust her armor. The plate mail she peeled off a Gray Maiden is just a little too tight in the shoulders and hips for her broad frame.

Finally, she digs up a moldy piece of bread from under a pile of dusty papers and gobbles it up in a few quick bites. As she licks her gauntleted fingers, her gaze lands on one of the red pin-studded anatomy posters on the wall tracking the progression of Blood Veil through the body.

Irabeth sneers and tears it down, pins and all. ‘’I still cannot fathom what perverse ambition might drive civilized creatures to do this to their fellows.’’

She starts shuffling the scattered papers into neat stacks on the table. ‘’In Lastwall, things are simple: us against the orcs. They look like monsters, act like monsters, and are treated like monsters.’’

Satisfied with her sorting, she moves on to arrange the beakers and flasks in order by height. ‘’Then I get taken here, where villainy hides behind a veneer of civilization and the human evil on display shocks the conscience in ways orcs could only dream of.’’

Irabeth peels the tag off one jar of clear liquid, revealing the skull and crossbones logo underneath. She lets out a snort and puts it at the head of the row. ’’It’s wheels within wheels within smaller, more confusing wheels, all of them grinding up anyone caught in their path, like your poor friend Remmy.’’

She pauses mid-sort to look at her reflection in a glass bottle, the sickly green fluid inside matching her skin tone. ‘’I suppose things aren’t really so simple in Lastwall, either.’’

After a failed attempt to fix her helmet hair, she puts the bottle down at the end of the row and turns back to face the rest of the party. The table creaks ominously as she leans against it, but Irabeth pays it no mind.

‘’But it’s much easier to fight evil when it wears a nice black hat and flouts the law,‘’ she concludes. ’’Which is why I pray for dawn to hasten, so that we can march back down into that pit to slay the daemon, undo the plague, and bring this Lady Andaisin to justice, in Iomedae’s name!’’

She pounds her fist down on the table with a loud crunch, followed by a splosh and a crash as the glassware jumps half a foot in the air and then smashes to pieces on impact. The chemicals mix together to give off a foul scent, which Irabeth hastily covers up with the cloak from her Gray Maiden outfit.

‘’Rad azizish…’’ she groans. ’’I’m pretty sure none of that was important, right?’’

The Family Reunion

Irabeth’s loud crunch on the table briefly interrupted Slim, who had been engrossed in conversation with his distant cousin for the past couple of hours. Seeing family seemed to breath fresh life into Slim’s demeanor, much of his grim countenance seemed to be gone, giving glimpse to the man he used to be.

‘’I still can’t believe you happened to be in Korvosa, Vittora,’’ Slim said brightly in Varisian, a small grin on his face, ‘’last I heard you were in Magnimar, or was it Riddleport? You always did seem to have a way of drifting about.’’

Vittora snapped back playfully, her voice melodic and bright, ‘’I should say the same to you, Ionas, last I heard you were in Egorian with the ’Scales, planning on bring back something special to Papa Tils to shut your brothers up for good, wasn’t it? You’re awfully far away now from the ‘City of Thorns’. Tell me, did you fight with Valria again, or was it another quarrel that brought you here? I bet you got your little heart broken again, didn’t you?’’

She playfully nudged his shoulder, yet Slim grew silent, the grin on his face vanished and he turned away from her. ‘’So it was Valria then? You always did have a soft spot for her. Don’t worry little Ionas, I’ll help you get back on her good graces, I still know all her little secrets, she’ll be eating out of your hand in no time.’’

The pain rushed back to him, playing back freshly with all the horrors he had witnessed to today adding volume to the hatred that festered in his heart. Barely holding back his emotions, he covered his face with his left hand and quietly said, ‘’Not this time, Vittora, I won’t be going back there, it’s all behind me now.’’

Vittora, however, did not pick up on the subtle change, and believing he was being overly dramatic she pressed him further, ‘’You were always such a child in such matters, Ionas, surely it can’t be all that bad? There’s nothing you could of done that can’t be undone—’’

‘’I can’t,’’ he interrupted flatly, speaking in the common tongue now.

’’Don’t be such a child,’’ Vittora shot back, with her hands at her hips now, ‘’I know you’ve cared for her all this time, you’d hate yourself if you didn’t—’’

’’She’s dead Vittora!‘’ Slim shouted at her as he spun around, his fist slamming near her head against the wall behind her. His face twisted in pain as he continued, ’’They all are! All for some Gods forsaken trinket in some bastard’s Vaneo!’’

It was after this proclamation that he realized the room grew silent, in which he turned his back to both her and the rest of the party. Vittora’s hands clasped around her mouth, tears streaming down her face.

Slim regained his composure and said quietly, ’’I’m sorry I yelled at you, you don’t deserve that. Valria wouldn’t of wanted that. It was good to see you again, and I promise we’ll talk more once this ordeal is over. ’’ He took out a small envelope and handed it to her, ‘’Only open this if we don’t return tomorrow. Korvosa isn’t safe, so be on your guard. Promise me.’’

Vittora nodded, wiping the tears from her eyes, and croaked, ‘’I promise. ’Keep your blades wit-sharp, the path sure as the night, and your heart with the road.’’’ She smiled faintly as she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. Slim walked over to the rest of the party, and crouched down on the floor, his back against the wall as he hung his head in silence.

The Paladin

- Arlynn favors assisting small communities and peoples over large scale operations. For example, she would rather come to the aid of a small village over a large city.
- Her thinking is mostly that the small people are overlooked, larger communities tend to have at least some type of protection
- However, she also enjoys the more personal interactions rather than large scale recognition.

- Arlynn isn’t as strong as her sister Keris, she knows that her strength comes from the ability manifest her ideals (ie Ionedae’s blessings), but in the past to have had something like a belt of giant strength could have leveled the playing field.
- Arlynn actually enjoys archery, though she would rather fight with a sword, finding the long bow has been a blast. Too bad dexterity and heavy armor don’t mix.

The Letter Carrier

Vittora shut the door behind her, and joined her fellow former captives, reassuring them that the commotion they heard earlier was had nothing to do with their current situation. Afterwards, she sat down in a less crowded part of the room, away from the anxious chatter from among the other captives. Taking a cursory glance to either side, she opens the letter Slim gave her just a few short moments before, which reads in excellent Varisian penmanship:

To my father, Ionan Tils’rahanarz,head merchant of the Tils Company of Varisia,

I hope this letter finds you in good health, with the company doing strong and my brothers and sisters happy and healthy as well. My antics I’m sure have reached the company by now, and I assure you that I realize the errors of my ways the night I left. I write this letter to ask for your forgiveness, papa, for not listening to your lessons about living an honest life on the road. In my foolishness, I ran blindly with my whims, and to Cheliax and its evils did I try to sate my lust for notoriety and fame. It was all a fools errand, and it cost me the love of my life, and all those I had thought to replace the family with. I must set this right, and I will not return until this deed is done. I cannot go back to being your ‘lucky coin’ as we once were, but the man that I am now will hopefully suffice after years of worry and anguish.

Leave all your responses with the bearer of this letter and I will attend to them when I can. This dark business of mine has brought me to Korvosa, and I ask that you do not inquire further about it, nor steer your caravan here or anywhere near this city. We have seen much death and desolation of late, and I wish no harm come to anyone in your charge. I will manage best I can, and I can assure you that my business is for the good of all those here, and when this is over I may prove myself a hero. I hope I will eventually do you proud, papa.

Keep your blades wit-sharp, the path sure as the night, and your heart with the road,

Ionas Tils’rahanarz

Near the bottom of the page, much more hastily scribbled, reads:

To Vittora,

As I knew you would also read this letter, I ask that once this ordeal is over that you leave Korvosa to somewhere safer. I fear no one with ties to our family nor the brave souls who travel with me will be safe after this is over. I will see to explaining this later in much more detail. If I do not survive the evil underneath us, seek out the halfling Kyra, my fellows will be able to direct you if they live. If not, you’ll know how to find her. She will get you out of the city and to somewhere safe, perhaps Harse, as this party has mutual friends also laying low there and could assist you. Remove this part of the letter before you send this off.


A faint smile appeared briefly on Vittora’s face before she neatly removed her part of the letter, and slipped it back into the envelope. The little wolf has grown up… Vittora thought to herself. She sighed and closed her eyes, muttering a silent prayer to Desna for Slim’s success in the morning.

Dead Men Talking
Seven Days to the Grave, Part 11

Urgathoa’s Hospitality

The party ventures beyond the Urgathoan barracks, stepping into a grand hallway lined with writhing corpses. The restless dead are trapped behind the thick glass floor and walls as a twisted kind of perpetual performance art.

After Slim checks for traps, the party explores a small pair of doors to the south which open onto a crude laboratory smeared with blood. In addition to the two diseased Chelish men strapped to operating tables, there are four zombies lurking in the chamber, apparently former experiment subjects. Slim, Irabeth, and Remmy engage the zombies from a distance while Arlynn moves in for the personal touch.

Once the walkers are brought down, Slim explores a narrow hallway leading south and finds a locked door. Deftly picking it, he peers inside to see a set of prison cells housing five terrified Varisians. The party enters, but the prisoners have a sharp adverse reaction to Slim in his Physician outfit and the paladins in their confiscated Gray Maiden armor.

But the party is able to convince the captives that they are here to rescue them, a story helped by the fact that Slim recognizes his cousin Vittora among the prisoners. Vittora says that she and the others were plucked off the streets of Korvosa by the Physicians and taken here, where they have been hauled off one by one for experiments, never to return. Ashla asks if Ruan the missing ocarina player was among those taken away and Vittora says that he was.

The party escorts the captives over to the entry chamber, warning them not to open Davaulus’ box. Leaving a dagger with Vittora to protect the group, the adventurers now advance towards the double doors at the end of the grand hallway. Eschewing stealth, Arlynn simply kicks the doors open.

The Vanishing Necromancer

Beyond lies the vat chamber, where the priests of Urgathoa brew the Blood Veil from catwalks overlooking three immense, boiling cauldrons. The priests are waiting for the adventurers, accompanied by several zombies. But it is the fugitive necromancer Rolth who greets them, chiding them for being late. Slim warns that he’ll do to Rolth what he did to Jolistina. The necromancer is mad that the party dispatched his toy before he was done with her, doubly so as he hasn’t been able to find her corpse. But he expects that their deaths with convince Lady Andaisin to embrace him as more than just a cult member. (The other Urgathoans roll their eyes).

The party members tell him of the disdain the Urgathoan leader has for him, but Rolth insists that she respects results. “When I deliver your gibbering heads on a silver platter, she’ll see my worth.”

The party then notes that one has to sink pretty low to take a derro as an apprentice. “Shut up and die!” shouts the wizard.

While Slim activates a scroll of invisibility, Arlynn, Ashla, and Irabeth rush forward to attack the priests and their zombies. Cat-Egan and Remmy hang back to snipe at the cultists. Rolth, meanwhile, strikes Zandu with feeblemind, reducing the sorcerer to a slack-jawed simpleton.

Slim moves up the catwalk, but is delayed by more priests. Arlynn fights her way past the henchmen on the ground floor and up onto the catwalk, even as Rolth continues to batter her with spells, but is also halted by an Urgathoan. The feebleminded Zandu starts pitching around alchemist fire potions, while Cat-Egan calls lightning against the priests and Rolth.

As the adventurers begin to close in on him, Rolth retreats to the back of the room. He summons an enormous, living hole to rend apart the catwalk beneath Slim, but only manages to snare Zandu. The rogue, invisible once again, stalks across the wobbly scaffolding towards Rolth from the left while Arlynn approaches from the right.

“This cult just isn’t my style anymore,” the necromancer announces, weaving a spell. “Give my regards to Lady Andaisin.”

He summons up an ethereal door and steps through it, vanishing from the room.
Down on the ground floor, the last surviving priest of Urgathoa tries to overturn one of the great plague vats, but Slim drops down and skewers him with a rapier.

Furious at having the necromancer escape his grasp, Slim promises that “Next time I see Rolth, he’s a dead man.”

Interview with a Vampire

As the party investigates the area, Irabeth and Arlynn feel the presence of great evil deeper within the temple. Irabeth notes that this is a site of great power for the Pallid Princess, and they have yet to meet her champion.

The battered adventurers decide to search the side rooms before venturing further into the complex and soon stumble across a bizarre laboratory where the young Ruan is strapped to a table being experimented on by a nosferatu, Ramoska Arkminos. He invites them in, saying he has no quarrel with them and their efforts to destroy the temple and fight the plague.

He was sent by his master to help the Urgathoans perfect their disease, but has no heart in the effort. Instead, he has been fascinated by the immunity to the plague displayed by a subset of Varisians. He hopes that this could help unlock the cure for other supernatural maladies, such as vampirisim, so that he could finally die as a living man. He also warns the party that he is by far the most dangerous thing in the temple, so they would be advised not to pick a fight with him. If they leave him alone, he’ll pack up his things and be heading back to Ustalav.

Slim and Ashla note that they can’t let him walk off with Ruan. He offers to sell the boy back to them for 2,000gp, to cover the cost of transport to Ustalav. Slim tries to haggle him down, but Ashla cuts him off and takes the deal. The vampire assures them that the young man has suffered no permanent harm.

Slim asks if they could have a copy of Ramoska’s research on the blood veil, so that the healers in Korvosa could continue his work on curing vampirism and compare notes with him. The nosferatu gives him a knowing look, but agrees to share his research, leaving Slim a forwarding address in Ustalav to send any mail.

As a token of good faith, he warns them that the next room contains a powerful daemon, the last of four that were used to create the plague. When asked about Lady Andaisin, he describes her as “Urgathoa’s chosen,” one who is sure to cause them a great deal of trouble. He also urges the party to kill the half-feral vampire spawn “assistants” he was forced to bring over from Ustalav.

Night Gathers

Bloodied by their battles and carrying an unconscious Ruan, the adventurers decide to retreat upstairs to the hospice to rest. Before they go, Egan uses stone shape to seal the two doors leading deeper into the temple.

Upstairs, they encounter Marcus Endrin, a squad of Sable Company marines, and Ishani Dhatri. Marcus explains that Cressida got the party’s message and mobilized the Guard to support them, but when they arrived they found the hospice surrounded by a phalanx of Gray Maidens claiming to have orders from Dr. Davaulus not to allow anyone inside. There’s a major standoff taking place outside and no one has been able to reach the Queen to resolve the dispute. Marcus and a small team were able to fly over the blockade and enter the hospice to try to find out what has happened.

After Zandu is healed of his feeblemind and cured of his lycanthropy, the party relays what they have discovered about Davaulus, the cult, the plague, and the Maidens. Marcus is especially furious at that last piece of news, as his sister had joined the Gray Maidens. He offers to slip away with Remmy, Dr. Davaulus, and one marine and make his way to the Castle to convince the Queen to end the stand off. Ishani chooses to stay behind to help care for the victims and begin looking over the notes the party recovered.

The adventurers retire to Davaulus’ office to rest for the night.

Hospice of the Blessed Maiden
Seven Days to the Grave, Part 10

A Night at the Opera

After parting ways with Slim, Zandu evades the pursuing Sable Company hippogryph rider by ducking into a crumbling hole in the roof of a building. While this gets him out of the chase, it also lands him in the clutches of choker lurking in the room, which soon has its tentacles wrapped around his throat. He responds by repeatedly smashing jars of alchemist’s fire onto the tendrils. Unfortunately, he drops the last flask, setting the room on fire.

This is enough to send the badly scorched choker scampering out into the dark. Zandu likewise scrambles through a trap door and down into a dark hallway. Hearing raised voices speaking with an unusual cadence, he carefully approaches the exit to the hallway, which opens onto a set of scaffolding overlooking a grand stage, where an opera is in progress.

Zandu is quickly noticed by the lighting technician, a gnome named Mikah. Feigning drunkenness, Zandu mentions that he might have knocked over a lantern when he woke up in the attic. The gnome smells smoke and soon most of the production crew is working on a bucket line, while desperately trying to hide the disaster from the audience—they can’t afford to stop the show. Zandu volunteers to help with the lighting, and throws some minor illusions into the production, too.

Afterwards, Mikah praises Zandu’s efforts and offers him a part-time apprenticeship as a lighting and effects technician. Zandu notes that he can act, too. The sorcerer also learns that the Marbledome opera house is poorly maintained and financially troubled, despite being sponsored by House Jeggare, one of the Five Great Houses. He returns home to find Slim still missing, shrugs, and goes to bed.

Travelers from Distant Lands, Friends of Old

Shortly after dawn, the Varisian rogue returns with his three guests: Kyra, her mother Yamyra, and the paladin Irabeth. Kyra greets the others as friends she met while managing the Sticky Mermaid. Zandu suggests that she could look into taking over management of the Marbledome.

When Ser Arlynn steps forward to greet the halfling, Irabeth roars and challenges her to an immediate duel. It’s soon discovered that the half-orc was purchased in Kaer Maga’s slave markets by Arlynn’s sister. Irabeth apologizes to Arlynn and the two quickly bond over their shared experience training as Iomedaen paladins in Lastwall.

Kyra takes off for Twitcher’s Tavern in the Shingles to try to reconnect with the Cerulean Society on the mainland and arrange for permanent quarters for her mother. Slim and Irabeth bed down to sleep off the night’s adventures and are joined by Arlynn, who used her lay on hands to cure Zandu and several strangers of the Blood Veil that morning.

While the two paladins and the rogue sleep, Egan ventures out in the wilderness to track down a porcupine, hoping to expand both his knowledge of nature and his repertoire of wild shapes. Zandu revisits the opera house. He finds the Marbledome’s manager, Touran Palastus, berating the staff as they disassemble the sets and gear from the previous night’s performance. Zandu challenges the man to treat his employees more kindly and then delivers a rousing speech to the staff—unfortunately, at least half the audience is left asking “Wasn’t that the man who started the fire last night?”

Slim awakens in early afternoon, having dreamt up a cunning plan for investigating the hospice. The party treks over to Citadel Volshyenek to see about borrowing the captured Queen’s Physician outfit from Cressida.

The Dead Man’s Tale

In the half-empty Citadel, they find Verik Vancaskerkin on guard duty with Grau outside the makeshift evidence room, having given his parole not make any escape attempts. Inside, the Abadaran cleric Ishani Dhatri inspects the body of the dead physician while Cressida looks on.

Ishani reveals that he has learned more about the magical items recovered from the wreck of the Direption. The strange necromantic coffers are able to transfer a disease from one object to another when both are placed inside, leaving the latter item supernaturally contagious for an entire week. More interesting is the Queen’s Physician mask, which when worn on the head grants immunity from the blood veil while also shielding the wearer’s alignment.

Warning the party that the spell can only be sustained for two questions, Ishani casts speak with dead on the corpse. The adventurers ask the deceased who was involved in the plot against the city. The dead man says that the Cult of Urgathoa was approached by the assassins of the Red Mantis to help craft the plague. Cressida asks him where the cult is now. The cadaver says that they are at their new temple in the Vaults, whose location he does not know, but if they find the Red Mantis leader, “the doctor,” they will find the cult. With that, the body falls still once more.

Slim gives Cressida a tastefully edited version of his encounter with the strange assassin in Old Korvosa and shows her the mask and sawtoothed sabre he recovered. Given the mantis theme, it seems safe to conclude that the mysterious assailant was one of the Red Mantis assassins. Cressida frets that they now have a whole other faction playing bloody-minded games in the city.

Together, the party concocts a plan for infiltrating the hospice. Slim will pose as a Queen’s Physician, while Arlynn and Ashla will disguise themselves as members of the Guard helping him escort two unruly patients—Zandu and Irabeth—to see Dr. Davaulus. Egan will slip in after them in cat shape. To add to the ruse, Zandu plans to cast enlarge person on himself to give him the appearance of a mutated plague victim.

“Why do I always have to be the prisoner?” Irabeth groans as Slim places some manacles loosely around her wrists.

Aren’t You a Little Short to be a Queen’s Physician?

The party bursts into the lobby of the Hospice with Slim in the lead, urgently demanding to see Dr. Davaulus. Pointing at the blotchy hulk of Zandu, Slim claims that the blood veil seems to mutating, adding that “this could be the breakthrough the doctor is looking for!” Slim explains that the man-giant and his half-orc companion knocked out his Gray Maiden escorts in Racker’s Alley, necessitating the intervention of the two guardswomen. A pair of Gray Maidens tromp out of the hospice to attend to their fellows, with Slim warning that he also saw signs of vampires in the area.

Amidst all the confusion, Cat-Egan slips into the hospice and starts scouting the area. He tries to investigate a curious set of boxes stacked in a corner, but ends up creating a racket that forces him to slink back into the shadows.

Slim continues to bluff his way through increasingly skeptical layers of security until the party is finally stopped at the upper floor of the hospice by a pair of Gray Maidens. Slim insists he has “orders” to take the patients straight to doctor Davaulus, but when questioned as to where his orders came from, the whole ruse falls apart.

The ensuing battle is fought half on the stairs and half in the confined antechamber on the second floor, as Queen’s Physicians stream out from the room beyond. Arlynn, Ashla, and Irabeth take care not to deal lethal damage to the Maidens, but Slim, Zandu, and Egan extend no such luxury to the plague doctors.

A mob of Queen’s Physicians surrounds the giant Zandu and bludgeons him to the verge of death before turning their attention on Slim, who is soon assisted by an enlarged Arlynn. Ashla and a Gray Maiden fight an inconclusive duel on the staircase until Irabeth is able to join her and together knock the Maiden senseless. Cat-Egan scampers into a corner and begins striking the Maidens with heat metal and chill metal, taking one of them out of the fight.

Upstairs, Downstairs

As the battle begins to wind down, Cat-Egan picks up a new scent of someone invisible approaching the lift in the corner. The druid calls down a bolt of lightning on the stranger, alerting the rest of the party. Irabeth follows the invisible figure onto the lift while Arlynn tries and fails to halt its descent. Before the elevator slips out of view, Slim manages to slide inside, bowling over the invisible man. At the rogue’s direction, Irabeth reverses the controls and the lift rises back towards the top floor. Cat-Egan creates water in the elevator, exposing the invisible man’s location.

The unseen foe sends the lift lurching back down as Ashla and Cat-Egan overhear people tromping up the stairs. Cat-Egan uses shape wood to peel the staircase up into a wall, barricading the upper story from below. In the elevator, Slim dumps an inkwell over the sopping wet victim, revealing him to be Dr. Davaulus. Slim tells him to surrender, but Davaulus instead turns the question around, warning the rogue that he’ll be in a great deal of trouble once the lift reaches its destination.

Arlynn takes this opportunity to seize the lift cables with her enlarged hands, arresting the descent and slowly hauling it back up. Slim and Irabeth try to subdue the doctor, but Davaulus’ rapier snakes out and spits Slim in one savage blow. Irabeth is left to face the doctor alone.

As Arlynn hauls the lift cage back into view, Asha tumbles past Davaulus into the elevator and Zandu casts enlarge upon her. As the half-elf swells up in size, she forces Slim, Irabeth, and Davaulus out onto the second flood. The doctor refuses to surrender and continues to lash out with his deadly sword, despite being surrounded on all sides. Ashla finally knocks him unconscious.

Oh Remmy, No!

In the aftermath of the fight, the party makes a series of grim discoveries. In the chambers beyond they find a dozen Varisians strapped to operating tables and inflicted with unnecessary surgeries and other experiments. The reason why is found among Davaulus’ papers: he has discovered that some Varisians have proven immune to the blood veil and he determined to find out why so that the plague can be made more virulent.

They also discover to their horror that each of the four Gray Maidens they defeated has had her face deliberately mangled as part of some torture regimes. The victims include their friend Remmy, the former Guardswoman, who was knocked out by Ashla and Irabeth. Not only scarred, Remmy is also missing an eye.

They strap the young woman down on a bed in the lab and wake her up. She recognizes them and begs to be let out, insisting that “I have to serve the Queen.” The party shows her a reflection of her mutilated face and while she is not pleased to see it, she insists the torture was necessary for her to understand her place in the Queen’s new order.

The party presents her with the evidence that Davaulus was working to strengthen rather than cure the plague. They convince Remmy that Davaulus and his men had betrayed the Queen and need to be stopped. Remmy agrees that the Queen would never permit such a monstrosity. They ask her about the lift and she explains that there is a secret third floor below the hospice where the Gray Maidens were never allowed to go. Only Davaulus has the key to take the lift down.

The adventurers debate whether or not to let Remmy out of her restraints, until Slim declares that he trusts the young woman as a friend and frees her. Eventually, she is given back her bow, to help cover the party as they investigate the Vault below. Cat-Egan is secretly assign to watch her for any sign of treachery.

Into the Vault

After Arlynn and Irabeth change into full plate taken from the other senseless Gray Maidens, the party takes the wet and creepy lift down into the Vault. They bring with them not only Remmy—still unsteady on her feat after the beating she took in the fight—but also a bound and gagged Davaulus, who they considered too dangerous to leave upstairs with the Varisian patients and the other prisoners.

The lift opens into a subterranean chamber bedecked with an elaborate mural of gleeful corpses dancing in the plague-ravaged streets of Korvosa as a delighted Urgathoa looks on from a perch over two double doors facing the lift. Two other entrances lead north and south. Zandu detects and Slim disarms a powerful magical trap on the main double doors. The rogue then investigates the southern room; peering inside he spies four plague doctors gearing up for a fight.

Slim catches one of them by surprise, and the rest try to deftly tumble past him only to be surrounded and killed by the rest of the party. Remmy hangs back from the action, with Cat-Egan perched on her shoulder. (“Good kitty! You love the Queen, too, don’t you?”)

Arlynn dispatches the last of the plague doctors with a savage one-two, telling the corpse: “Iomedae says… hello.”

“That’s the best you could come up with?” Irabeth says, cocking an eyebrow at her fellow paladin. Arlynn shrugs.

Once the Queen’s Physicians are disposed of, the party takes the bound and gagged Davaulus, wraps him up in a tarp, ties up the tarp, crams him into a crate, ties up the crate, and scatters caltrops around it just to be safe. Slim grudgingly pokes an air hole in the crate before locking it inside the south room.

The room to the north holds supplies and Queen’s Physician outfits, with another door leading east. Peering through the keyhole, Slim spies a funerary-themed barracks where unmasked Physicians and priests of Urgathoa are relaxing, attended by skeleton servants. Creaking the door open a fraction, Slim tries to snipe one of the priests but isn’t able to bring him down.

The priests try to bottle the party up in the doorway while one of the Physicians runs to alert the rest of the temple, but the adventurers slowly press forward. Arlynn urges Irabeth to get into the quipping spirit, but all the half-orc can manage is “You have a problem: you’re gonna die.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, cutting down one of the Physicians, “it’s harder than it looks.”

As the party closes in on the few remaining priests of Urgathoa, Slim urges the others on, calling out “Arlynn, what do we say to the Pallid Princess?”

The paladin lashes out with her sword. “Your princess is in another castle!”

Unsatisfied, the rogue calls over his shoulder. “Egan, what do we say to the Pallid Princess?”

UNLIMITED POWER!” shouts the gnome as he calls lightning.

With just one Urgathoan remaining, Slim turns to the half-orc. “Irabeth, what do we say to the Pallid Princess?”

“Not today, Slim, I’ve had my fill of quips.” She stabs the last priest and kicks his body to the floor.

Find the Halfling!
Seven Days to the Grave, Part 9

Fly, You Fools!

The night after the quarantine of Old Korvosa goes up, Slim and Zandu quietly slip out of Zellara’s house. They make their way to North Point, where Slim assesses the level of security along the Narrows of St. Alika, which separate Old Korvosa from the mainland. Gray Maidens patrol the shoreline, while patrol skiffs periodically glide through the river water and hyppogryph riders circle overhead.

After spying the weakest point in the quarantine, they step into an alley, where Zandu casts fly on both of them. Rising above the Shingles, they float over the shoreline towards the island. But they hadn’t factored on the stiff breeze off Conqueror’s Bay, which sends Zandu’s robes noisily flapping, attracting the attention of a patrol of Gray Maidens, who sound an alarm. As a Sable Company hippogryph rider swoops in to investigate, Slim signals for them to split up.

Robes still flapping wildly, Zandu awkwardly wheels about and flies back over the mainland, drawing the attention of the hippogryph rider and the shore defenses. Slim, meanwhile, dives towards the shoreline on the other side of the Narrows, barely missing a passing patrol skiff.

Unfortunately, the Bridgefront ward of Old Korvosa is thick with tall, rickety buildings rising as high as five stories and linking together with multiple tethers, rope bridges, and walkways representing several successive layers of the Shingles. Slim tries to maneuver into a narrow gap in the obstruction, but has to break off at the last moment and circle back around for another try. His maneuver attracts the attention of another Sable Company rider who orders him to halt. Slim replies by making an all-out dive through the gap, escaping into the relative security of Bridgefront’s warren of slums.

The Scouring of Old Korvosa

After landing, Slim makes his way through the ill-lit streets. Never the best neighborhood to begin with, Bridgefront seems to have gone rapidly downhill. Broken glass from smashed windows litters the cobblestones, while corpses lie openly in the streets. No street lamps are lit and rare is the building with a single light in the window. Slim has a bad feeling about this.

He comes across a large apartment building that has been lit on fire, a gang of bearded men methodically looting its ground floor while the upper stories blaze brightly. Slim pulls up his hood and tries to pass by nonchalantly, but he’s stopped by one of the gang members, who demands to know his allegiance. Slim insists that he’s a freelancer and the thug, who claims to be one of “the Longstreet Boys,” says that with the quarantine in place, a man needs to pick a side if he wants to survive. Slim recognizes the gang as small-timers affiliated with the Cerulean Society—this kind of brazen looting is out of character for them.

The gangster then demands that Slim pay a toll for passing through Longstreet territory. Slim convinces the man that he has always been able to pass through without any trouble and suggests that the gang carry on with their business. Slim starts to walk away, then asks “Does the Sticky Mermaid still keep hours?”

“No, it’s closed for repairs,” the thug snickers.

At the Sign of the Sticky Mermaid

The deeper Slim walks into Old Korvosa, the worse things seem to have gotten. He passes several charred buildings, sees stray dogs tearing into corpses, and passes by homes that have been trashed in riots. There are no lights lit anywhere in Old Dock or Garrison Hill. Watch fires shine only at the very top of the hill, along the crumbling walls of the old Fort Korvosa that demarcates the wealthiest ward in the district.

As Slim approaches the stretch of river walk that the Sticky Mermaid is perched upon, he discovers that the entire building has been gutted by a fire, leaving only a few charred walls and support pillars behind, its cheerful mermaid sign lying scorched in the ashes. Nine bodies lie in the street around what would have been the main entrance. Three of them Slim doesn’t recognize, but the others he’s seen at the tavern before—including Peaches, the bouncer. Slim pauses to retrieve a blue Cerulean Society uniform from one of the bodies before investigating the wreckage.

There are more remains inside the ruins of the tavern—none of them halfling-sized—as well as the tell-tale smell of alchemist’s fire. Slim has the unnerving feeling of being watched, but doesn’t see anyone out in the darkness. Carrying on, he makes his way through the ruin towards Kyra’s favorite table.

The table is lying on its side, half-charred. Scratched onto the underside is a phrase in Korvosan thieves’ cant, which Slim translates as “Don’t turn around.” Facing forward, he starts walking slowly and purposefully towards an alleyway, his hand on his sword. As he draws near, there is the crunch of a single footstep behind. Slim whirls around, rapier in hand.

Ten paces behind him is a man with the head of a bug, wielding two strange jagged swords. The bizarre figure immediately begins twirling the swords in a hypnotic, undulating pattern that quickly has Slim entranced. The strange man begins walking towards him, still waving his swords, until the twisting pattern is on the verge of striking the helpless rogue.

At which point there is a loud thwok and the bug-headed man keels over with a dagger sticking out of his back. Ten paces behind him is Kyra, drawing another dagger from her belt. Slim lets out a grateful chuckle. “I really need to read your instructions more closely next time,” he tells her.

They search the body of the would-be assailant. His bug head is revealed to be a mask in the shape of a mantis head, covering the face of a Keleshite man. The mask, like his leather armor, is dyed a dark red. With little else on him besides his strange saw-toothed sabres and a few daggers and tanglefoot bags, Slim figures he must be some sort of assassin. Kyra explains that the strange man has been prowling around the wreckage of the Sticky Mermaid ever since the fire, as if he was looking for something, but she wasn’t able to get close to him until he was distracted by “bait.”

Slim says that he’s come to share some important information with her and hopefully get her out of Old Korvosa. Kyra says that they should take their conversation indoors, but adds that there’s a bit of a complication. The halfling woman can’t leave Old Korvosa without also taking her aged mother Yamyra, who is unaware of her daughter’s criminal affiliations.

A Shortcut to Mushrooms

Kyra leads Slim on a quick jaunt through the Shingles—despite her shorter legs, the Varisian rogue has trouble keeping up with her. After a while, he notices something odd. Although the buildings they’re traversing are the same height as before, they now have more floors. All is revealed when they slide down a drainpipe to ground level and Slim notices all the buildings have round doors that never reach higher than his armpit.

“Welcome to Smalltown,” Kyra grins.

She takes him to a well-kept block of flats and knocks on the door. “It’s me, mom, and I’ve got company. You can put down the crossbow.”

Inside they are greeted by a friendly middle-aged halfling woman who regards Slim warily. Hunched over inside the cramped halfling-sized foyer, Slim introduces himself as an old friend of Kyra’s and says he’s with the Guard. Her suspicions allayed, she invites him inside and offers to prepare a spot of tea.

Kyra waves him into the living room, where the arched ceiling offers more room to stand up. Once her mother is occupied in the kitchen, she starts talking about what has happened over the past few days. The plague weakened the authority of the Cerulean Society, as the local gangs stopped taking orders. With the Guard and the Gray Maidens pulled out of the district, law and order began to collapse. Kyra’s folks were gathering at the Sticky Mermaid to launch a punitive attack to force the Old Dock gangs back into line when they were overwhelmed by an angry mob that burned the place down. Most of the Society leadership has holed up at the guild hall in Korvosa’s Vaults and sealed the entrances, leaving the district to burn.

She has no idea what the man in the mantis masque was after, but the Society does have its secrets. Kyra explains that the Society’s unpleasant, dim-witted leader Guildmaster Boule has implied that he is just the front man for someone much more powerful. Slim tells her about the party’s discovery in the wreck of the Direption and his suspicions of Chelaxian involvement. They’re both stumped as to motive.

Slim notes that his original plan to get Kyra off the island has fallen through, but the halfling woman says that she might have another way out. She explains that the Bekyar slaving operation wasn’t limited to West Dock; they were also operating out of a sea cave in Old Dock, right under her nose. The cave has a teleport circle like the ones Slim described before, but the chamber is flooded except at low tide, when it’s only buried under three feet of water. That’s too deep for a halfling to activate it, but not for Slim. The only problem is that Kyra has no idea where the circle goes. Ultimately, the two of them agree that it’s a risk they’ll have to take as soon as the next low tide in early morning.

Yamyra emerges from the kitchen with hot tea and a plate of dried mushrooms, forcing Slim to explain that they need to flee Old Korvosa for their own safety.

One Does Not Simply Walk Out of Old Dock

The halflings bundle up their most precious items and stow what they can’t carry in hidey-holes around the apartment. At the appointed time they make their way through the darkened streets to the Reefclaw Run Market as the first fingers of dawn begin to creep over the horizon. Ordinarily the market would be bustling with merchants setting up their stalls, but instead it is deserted and the stalls trashed.

Kyra leads them to the bait shop the Society used as a front for the smuggling operation and Slim makes a show of unlocking this secret “Guard” safehouse. A hidden trapdoor leads down to the sewers, where the Society has fenced off a long, straight passage out to the sea cave. Slim ignites a torch and leads the way.

The crackling torchlight draws attention from several zombies who rattle the iron bars of the barricades as the trio nervously passes by. The noise attracts yet more zombies until the growing horde finally breaks through the fences just as the cave comes into view.

The cave has a narrow seaside entrance just large enough to allow a small boat to slip in and out at low tide but otherwise hidden beneath the waves when the tides turn. The cave floor is a flooded pool three feet deep, but even under the flickering torchlight a circle of strange runes can been seen at its center.

Slim wades out into the chilly water and struggles to decipher and then activate the teleportation circle while Kyra and Yamyra try to hold back the flood of restless dead. The glyphs slowly begin to flicker with eerie blue light as Slim performs the activation ritual, water lapping at his waste. Zombies begin to force their way past the halflings as the light grows brighter and Slim calls for the two smallfolk to join him in the circle. Moments later the light flares blindingly bright…

Together, the trio, a lone zombie, and three feet of sea water apparate into a different Vault with a loud splosh. Kyra dispatches the zombie and the three of them examine their surroundings.

They Have a Half-Orc

They have materialized in a rectangular room at the bottom of a deep shaft molded from the stone by some long-forgotten art. The chamber is damp and moldy and shows signs of relatively recent use. A stairwell winds upward around the walls, flight after flight. Slim ignites a second torch and investigates, leaving Kyra to look after her mother at the foot of the stairs.

Eventually, Slim reaches the top of the Vault, where he finds a sturdy wooden door. After carefully checking for traps, he picks the lock and slowly pushes the door open. That’s when the trap goes off.

Burning glyphs appear all around the door frame and then blast outward in a crackling spray of fire as the door swings open with a loud creak. By the time Slim is done beating out the last smoking patches of his clothes, the echoes of his mishap have faded away, instead replaced by the harsh voice of a woman bellowing in Orcish. Her voices rings out from somewhere in the dark room beyond the doorway:

“You honorless sons of pigs, I’ll string you up by your own entrails! Where are you?!”

Slim retreats back down the stairwell until he meets Kyra and Yamyra, who were rushing up to join him. He explains that he might have accidentally set off a slight trap and roused the anger of an orcish woman. The younger halfing shakes her head. “You are a disgrace to our shared profession.”

“I’m sorry, they don’t really teach us much about infiltration in the Guard,” Slim reminds her, pointedly not looking at Yamyra.

They make their way back up to the door, where the angry woman is still spewing curses in Orcish, demanding that they show themselves. The room beyond the door appears to be a large and well-furnished wine cellar—the orc woman is nowhere to be seen.

Speaking Orcish, Slim responds to her inquiries, promising that they mean her no harm. She accuses them of locking her up and now taunting her by hiding from view. A confused Slim says that they are refugees and had nothing to do with her capture.

The woman abruptly switches from Orcish to Common and explains that she is chained up in a holding cell behind an illusory wall. If they free her, she would be most grateful. Leaving Yamyra safe by the doorway, the two rogues search for the fake wall and along the way discover that the cellar is stocked disproportionately with fine Chelaxian vintages. Slim gets a sinking feeling in his stomach.

Hidden behind the illusion is a familiar metal stockade. Inside, chained to the rear wall, is a burly half-orc woman with short hair and bright hazel eyes, smeared with dirt and dressed only in filthy rags. She introduces herself as Ser Irabeth of Lastwall, Paladin of Iomedae, and explains that she was captured by orcs from from the Hold of Belkzen and sold in the slave markets of Kaer Maga to a gang of Bekyars. They took her south to a hidden sea cave, from whence she was teleported into the Vault below. She has been held in the cage for more than a week, with no idea where she is.

Slim surmises that they are likely somewhere in Korvosa. As he and Kyra free the half-orc, she explains that she is fed once a day at this time and mistook their entrance for that of her jailers. At that moment, they hear the cellar door creak open and heavy footsteps descend the wooden stairs. Slim passes Irabeth one of the sawtoothed sabre, which she clutches eagerly.

The Bekyar jailer, dressed in loose civilian clothes and carrying a heavy bucket of slops steps through the illusory wall to find Slim’s rapier pressed to his throat. Slim proceeds to ask te man a series of questions, while Irabeth glowers over his shoulder. From the brief interrogation, they learn that they are somewhere in the South Shore district and that the mansion above them has “many” more people in it. Kyra then disarms the slaver and Slim and Irabeth give him a one-two to knock him out. They chain him up in his cell and gag him, then fetch Yamyra to plan their next move. It won’t be long before the man’s absence is noted, so their only choice is to try to sneak out.

The Shadow of the Past

Slim and Kyra ascend the staircase quickly and quietly, while Irabeth hangs back with Yamyra. The first thing slim notices when he reaches the top of the stairs is the familiar layout of the hallway—a design pattern similar to Carowyn Manor. The second thing he notices is that the decor is all done in Chelaxian blacks and reds. To the east, he can hear servants at work in the kitchen, while to the west is the sound of two people taking breakfast in the dining room.

With people to either side, Kyra suggests they pick the side closer to an exit. Slim invites her to investigate the dining room. Nudging the door open a fraction, she spies two Bekyars having breakfast at a long dark table. Kyra insists that the two of them could take the slavers by surprise. Lurking in the doorway, they each line up a shot with their crossbows. Both bolts hit, but neither man is quite slain. Before the Bekyars can do more than thrash about, the two rogues reload their crossbows and finish them off.

Unfortunately, the commotion draws the attention of a halfling servant from the kitchen, who runs away shrieking “Assassins! Assassins! Protect the Ambassador!” At this point, Slim drops all pretense at stealth and races across the dining room for the garden exit. Unfortunately, he steps outside to the sight of a pair of Chelaxian soldiers hustling towards the mansion.

“Can’t get out that way!” he calls out, stumbling back inside with the guards hot on his heels. The doors to the dining room are kicked open as a Chelaxian soldier and officer barge in, demanding their surrender. Kyra leads her mother off into the kitchen to the east, while Ser Irabeth stands her ground.

“I am a paladin of Iomedae the Inheritor, caged in your cellar for eight days, and I will have my freedom at the point of a sword if need be!”

The soldiers hesitate, giving Slim time to regroup with Irabeth. The Chelaxian officer demands that they explain why they broke into the mansion and slaughtered the ambassador’s guests. Slim insists that their intrusion was all an accident, then demands to know what they are doing keeping slaves here when it is against all the laws of Korvosa.

Here is precisely the point,” says a richly dressed man as he pushes his way past the guards. “This embassy is Chelaxian soil, from here down to the center of Golarion, and in Cheliax, slavery is perfectly legal.”

Slim accuses him of using magic to subvert Korvosan law. The man praises him as an aspiring lawyer and suggests that they all put away their nasty sharp things so that they can discuss matters like civilized men. Once the Chelaxian soldiers sheathe their blades, Slim does likewise and Irabeth reluctantly lowers her sabre.

The “civilized” man introduces himself as Ambassador Darvayne Gios Amprei of Cheliax. He insists that the arrangement with the Bekyars has nothing to do with Korvosa—it is a matter of Chelaxian geopolitics in the southern continent of Garund. Word of these clandestine dealings must not leave the building, so he must either be confident of Slim’s silence or take the step of silencing him.

Amprei reminds Slim that his companions have already proven to be a thorn in his side. With this latest mess in his own home, he has little incentive to be merciful. Slim replies that he knows full well what Chelaxians do to those who cross them.

“I imagine so, Mr. Tils,” the ambassador replies. “I know that while you were last in Egorian, you stole a certain amulet sought after by two individuals of great influence and I know that you fled their wrath to this city. Were I to reveal your presence to them, their agents would soon be fighting over your head. Fortunately, your enemies are no friends of mine.”

Amprei asks Slim to divulge the location of the artifact in exchange for his life. The ambassador hopes to present the amulet to the Empress to show what her trusted councilors have been up to behind her back. This would get Slim off the hook and get Amprei out of this backwater posting.

Slim says that they can talk about the artifact another time and instead asks for Amprei to release them as a show of good faith. In return, the rogue pledges to keep silent about the ambassador’s connection to the Bekyars.

Irabeth refuses to go along, declaring that she cannot permit slaving to continue in Korvosa. Slim quietly tries to talk her into going along, but she hisses back to him that “If I make a promise I must keep it—and this is a promise I do not want to make.” Slim manages to subtly convey that they aren’t going to let this matter slide and Irabeth grudgingly goes along with the pledge of silence.

“We won’t tell anyone either!” Kyra says, popping back up beside Slim, her mother in tow. “Our lips are sealed.”

Amprei reminds Slim that if word of the slavery arrangement gets out, there will be repercussions. He also promises to stay in touch about the amulet. Satisfied with the oaths of silence from the four of them, the ambassador has his guards escort them outside the embassy. The last shreds of twilight are retreating over the western horizon as the sun rises in the east.

There and Back Again

“Well, that was easy,” Kyra says as they walk down the cobblestone lane towards the Midland District.

“When Cheliax is involved, it’s never easy,” Slim cautions.

“No, I meant filching his stuff,” the halfling grins. She pulls out a set of important-looking documents. “While you guys were jaw-jawing, I got into his study and rifled through his papers.”

Slim invites Kyra and her mother back to Zellara’s home and offers the same to Irabeth. He says they may be able to get her a change of clothes, too, as he knows a woman about her size.

“That would be the other paladin you mentioned?” she asks.

“How did you guess?”

Irabeth shrugs. “The Church attracts a certain type.”

Slim touches a hand to his chest, feeling the reassuring weight of the amulet beneath his armor, and then leads the ladies towards home.

Stay Awhile, and Listen
Seven Days to the Grave, Interlude

Setting the Scene

As night settles over Korvosa, the party gathers around the fireplace in Zellara’s home, not quite ready to head for bed after investigating the sunken ship. The warm glow from the fireside doesn’t quite touch the dark corners of the room and the damp of the river has seeped into everyone’s bones.

Majenko is off watching over the evidence room at the Citadel, but Ashla’s raccoon Badger is curled up on her lap. Reno is snoring on top of a tattered rug by the fire, serving as a warm, furry pillow for Egan to lean back against. Slim broods by the mantle, while Arlynn sits sharpening her sword and Zandu struggles to stay awake slumped in a chair by the corner.

The party has gone through a harrowing time these past few days and have a few Harrowing times to look forward to. But for the moment they are safe and have the opportunity to reflect on how far they’ve come and how much further they still have to go.

The Haunted Thief

Ionas found himself hovering over the fireplace mantle, gazing intently into the flames with weary eyes. Memories of the past bubbling forth not unlike the dark waters of the river earlier when they unearthed the horrors that had occurred in that cursed ship. Cheliax, he thought, I can’t seem to outrun you. No matter how far I run, no matter how dark the shadows I hide in are, you always find a way to wrap your tendrils around me. He looked down at the emerald medallion still around his neck. He gazed into the stone as if to peer into a crystal ball, his mind replaying the fateful night in Egorian that eventually brought him here. Her face and bright smile brushed this memory faintly before becoming engulfed by images of death and decay that had become all too familiar lately.

With his back still turned toward the fire, Ionas resumed his posture as ‘Slim’ as the party knew him, and said grimly, “This nightmare that has befallen Korvosa will only grow darker now that Cheliax is involved. I fear whatever comes out of this, we will carry it the rest of our lives, however short they may be.”

The Hungry Gnome

While resting on Reno’s back and getting mesmerized by the movement of the flames, Egan can feel his eyes getting heavier and more “dog-tired.” After hearing Slim’s comment, he sits up and gazes at him with a smirk, “Then we’ll just have to prepare ourselves more than ever now, don’t we, Lad?”

He hauls himself up from the floor and sluggishly walks to the kitchen, grabbing a chair along the way. Using the chair as a ladder, Egan climbs up to the counter to scavenge the cupboards for food.

The Dashing Rogue

Slim tucked the medallion back underneath his armor, and turned to face Egan who was now helping himself to the cupboards.

“If only it were that simple, little master of the forest,” Slim said with a grim smile, " there are powerful forces in Egorian the likes of which we couldn’t hope to face alone. Not without allies…"

His voice trails off as he recalls the dank and sweaty smell of the Sticky Mermaid and the privacy of its dark corners. Kyra, he mused, she would have the connections we need to fight this menace from the shadows…But the quarantine, someone knew that’s where we’d turn next. There must be a clue to all of this in Old Korvosa. Something someone doesn’t want us to see, and I know Kyra must know all about it, but first I need to get her out…

He looks at the group, “I’m going out for some fresh air and some answers to questions I have. Zandu, would you kindly accompany me?”

Without giving him time to answer, Slim grabs the drowsy sorcerer’s arm and heads out the front door, with a plan to make the most daring infiltration of his young career.

The Sword of the Inheritor

Arlynn barely noticed the two leave, her eyes focused on her longsword as she peered down its length, inspecting its sharpness. Not that a whetstone could do much to sharpen a mithril blade, but she found solace in the activity.

“The sword is a tool.” The solemn voice of Ser Demarq rang in her ears as if she were back on the practice grounds at the Crusader War College. “Without my heart to guide it, it is worthless—my strength is not in my sword, but in my heart. If I lose my sword, I have lost a tool. If I betray my heart, I have died.”

As she held out the weapon, Arlynn felt a wave of disgust at the thought that her family once held the title of First Sword of the Bekyars, marking a time when House Farima’s battle prowess received the highest respect for their contributions to the slave raids. As little children, Arlynn and her sibilings would even pretend to be slave raiders.

She shuddered even more as her thoughts turned to Keris, her older sister. Keris who had reveled in the tales of those glory days and felt no compassion for the weak.

Arlynn recalled a time of weakness in her life. Her blossoming idealism had clashed with Keris’ cruelty on the sparring grounds, but Keris won every time. Each defeat ingrained a sense of shame and weakness into the young idealist girl.

These fears of weakness were evermore amplified on the day that Keris betrayed the family to the Master of Whips. Amidst the chaos, Arlynn could not protect her mother from the slave lords’ wrath. She was too young then and not as adept at the sword as Keris.

That treachery had driven her family into exile in the strange northern continent of Avistan. Just when things seemed as if they could get no worse Arlynn was captured by the very slavers that had once praised her and the Farima Family. She was sold to the dastardly Gaedren Lamm, who set about making her into one of his Little Lambs. Arlynn had almost abandoned her idealism and faith in herself.

It took Iomedae’s intervention through one of her paladins to free the young girl from her captor. The rescue had inflamed a passion within Arlynn to prove herself and repay the kindness with devotion to the Inheritor’s holy cause.

In the years since then, the goddess had bestowed many blessings upon Ser Arlynn to aid her in her duties. Rather than work against her, now her selfless thoughts manifested through channeling the goddesses power. But the past was once again catching up with her. Keris was here, somewhere, and a confrontation was inevitable. Despite the years of training, Arlynn worried whether she could defeat her sister should they cross blades again. Would Iomedae grant her the strength to succeed? Or would the goddess realize what a flawed vessel her servant truly was?

“My strength is not in my sword, but in my heart,” Arlynn murmured. “If I betray my heart, I have died.”

Terror from the Deep
Seven Days to the Grave, Part 8

Death & Taxes

After conferring with Commandant Marcus Endrin about an expedition to the sunken ship, the party returns to Zellara’s house to rest and plot their next move. Before they can get settled, though, they are visited by a city tax collector accompanied by four Gray Maidens. He requests that they pay an income tax on their earning from the Korvosan Guard. Once paid, he also asks to see their deed to the house—squatters in the homes of the dead have become a major problem, and no one has seen Zellara in weeks.

Thankfully, Zellara’s illusory image emerges from one of the back rooms and convinces the tax collector that she is renting the house out to the party. Slim then steps in to claim that he saw squatters in an abandoned house a few blocks away. With a tip of his tricorn hat, the collector and his entourage tromp off.

With that matter dealt with, Arlynn shares her plan for reaching the sunken ship: They will hire a boat to taken them to the center of the river, then disembark with weighted anchors that will swiftly carry them to the bottom. Ashla endorses the plan, elaborating that the anchors should have cables for the boat crew to draw them back up quickly.

Egan is able to treat Zandu’s lingering infection from the devil’s halberd, but neither he nor Arlynn can cure the sorcerer of his lycanthropy affliction. As soon as they are able, Zandu intends to purchase a dose of wolf’s bane to try to purge himself of the wererat’s curse.

Egan visits Faunra at the Citadel, where the Blood Veil is taking an ever greater toll on the guardsmen the Elf is treating. Egan asks her if he can borrow her shark companion Silver for the expedition and she agrees, with some trepidation. The area around the ship has become somewhat notorious among the river wildlife.

Before dark, Arlynn swings by the orphanage, which remains on lock down. This has kept the children and remaining staff safe from the blood veil, but it has made the place seem even more prison-like. From there, the paladin does a quick patrol of the neighborhood, stumbling across an angry crowd hunting for suspected wererats to attack for bringing the plague to the city. Arlynn is able to convince them that she has dealt with the wererat threat and urges them to turn their attentions instead to helping their neighbors weather this crisis.

After a restful night at Zellara’s, the party prepares to sail out onto the Jeggare River. While the others secure a patrol skiff from Sable Company, Slim swings by Racker’s Alley to quickly check for anything suspicious. Within the crooked alley, he find a large pile of dumped plague corpses, some of which feature tell-tale bite marks on their necks and wrists. He also finds a hole ripped into the wall of one of the neighboring buildings. Slim does a quick sketch and sends it to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft along with a short message.

The Wreck of the Direption

Sable Company provides the party with a boat captained by one Rogar Saltspear, a grizzled dwarf with a peg leg. He takes them out to the approximate site of the sinking and Egan casts water breathing on the other four adventurers before diving into the water and transforming into a shark. Rogar sets up a plank for the adventurers to walk and gets his men to beat a drum ominously. Zandu and Arlynn play along, while Slim and Ashla simply plunge into the dark, brackish waters of the Jeggare River.

Shark-Egan and Silver circle around the others as they sink to the riverbed, kicking up a small cloud of silt. It takes them twenty minutes of slow slogging to find the sunken ship, even with the sharks’ help. The ship lies on its side in two pieces, having broken over a rock outcropping. While the bow sunk in a way that allows explorers access to any of its decks, the stern cleaved to the rocks it fell up, limiting entrance to its lower decks. The adventurers investigate the bow first, which bears an ominous moniker along its fire-scarred hull: Direption.

The party disturbs a nest of silt eels that had relocated to the wreckage, but Ashla and Egan are able to calm them. Inspecting the forecastle and the galley, the adventurers find them curiously empty of the normal supplies. After having difficulty swimming, Zandu casts spider climb on himself, which he soon extends to Arlynn and Slim as they scramble over the stern of the ship’s hull. Silver is dispatched to patrol the perimeter.

The door to the captain’s quarters is swelled shut, so the party is forced to awkwardly bash it in. Inside they find the ruins of a four-poster bed. Tangled in the floating sheets and linens is the body of a man wearing simple black robes and the ibis mask of the Queen’s Physicians. Arlynn searches the man to discover a brass unholy symbol of Urgathoa in his possession. (The others have to prevent her from instinctively destroying the corpse fly badge.) As best the paladin can determine, the man drowned to death.

While the rest of the party investigates the cabin, Shark-Egan picks up the scent of a third, unidentified shark as well as something fouler, both inside the ship. Following the wildshaped druid’s determined gestures, the adventurers enter the Direption’s hold through a gaping hole bashed in through the water line. Inside, they find the half-eaten remains of the Sable Company team sent to investigate the ship.

They also find dozens of identical boxes floating eerily in the quiet darkness. Arlynn opens one to find it contains only an air bubble. The others are waterlogged and also mostly empty, though a few contain bits of flesh or dead rats infected with Blood Veil.

Lair of the Sea Hag

Venturing up one deck into the crew quarters, Arlynn is immediately attacked by a large, powerful shark while a smaller jigsaw shark waits in the adjacent room. Slim enters stealthily after Arlynn to join the fray, but as the two of them confront the sharks, the creatures’ mistress swims out of the shadows.

The sight of the grotesque Sea Hag sends a shiver down their spines, but thankfully they are able to resist seizing up in disgust. Arlynn calls out a warning that they are facing a monster “nastier and more horrible that you’ve ever seen.” Slim simply warns “don’t look at it!” The sea witch fixes him with her evil eye, but the slippery rogue is able to shake off its effects. Irked that her powers have been resisted, the hag swims into the fight with a pronged fishing spear.

Despite the warning, Ashla and Shark-Egan soon join their companions, likewise overcoming their disgust at the sight of the creature. Zandu remains below, granting his destined powers to Ashla as she battles the sharks. After destroying the hag’s smaller summoned shark, both Egan and Ashla summon creatures to distract the sea witch while Slim’s rapier snakes in for deadly thrusts.

But the hag is no pushover. She pirouettes like a graceful fighting fish, striking first one adventurer than another. Yet fortune—or perhaps the Harrow cards—smiles upon Arlynn and Slim, as each blow against them somehow never lands quite right. Even so, as the fight progresses the waters darken with red blood and Slim draws near collapse.

But after the hag’s companion shark is finally slain, the rogue is able to pry away her spear and she instead attempts to flee. Slim brashly gives chase, accompanied by Ashla’s summoned dolphin, but it is Zandu who delivers the killing blow via magic missile.

Sunken Secrets

After warding off a curious jigsaw shark, the party surfaces with the remains of the Sable Company expedition, the body of the sea hag, and the corpse of the Queen’s Physician. They also bring with them an unopened coffer obtained from the sea hag’s body as well as another small container Ashla found pinned under a metal bed frame in the creature’s lair.

Leaving the Sable Company dead with Rogar and his men, the party carts the Queen’s Physician corpse via tarp-shrouded floating disc to Citadel Volshyenek, where they request a private audience with Cressida.

The Field Marshal meets them in a ground floor chamber, eager for news from the wreck. After ensuring that the room is completely sealed, they inform her of the previous expedition’s fate and then unveil their find. The Urgathoa symbol and the presence of a Queen’s Physician aboard the plague ship is troubling enough, but the adventurers have even more evidence to provide.

After Slim unlocks the coffer, Zandu retreats to a safe distance and then opens it, revealing its contents as a plague-infected dead rat and 50 pieces of silver. The box itself exudes a faint necromantic aura. Arlynn recalls that Brienna Soldado claimed to have found a similar box washed up on the riverbank also containing 50sp, but they were never able to find the coffer.

The second box contains a collection of ledgers, invoices, and the deed to the Direption, all from a group noted as “B7,” titling one “R. Davaulus” with ownership of the ship and a cargo noted only as “specimens.” Slim confirms the documents’ authenticity with a quick inspection.

Ashla hypothesizes that the Rakshasa could have replaced the real Dr. Davaulus—that could be him on the table—and be orchestrating the entire crisis. She and Slim also speculate that it could be a plot by Cheliax to deliberately weaken the city.

Cressida warns that they must proceed very delicately. She will call for the cleric Ishani Dhatri and have him cast speak with dead so they can get some further answers from the corpse. Confronting Davaulus, however, could prove very challenging. The Queen’s edicts have given the Chelaxian doctor powers approaching martial law within the city. If the badly depleted Guard attempted to arrest him, it could spark a civil war—or worst.

Cressida suggests that they investigate the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden, an old warehouse that the Queen’s Physicians turned into their headquarters. All plague victims who can’t obtain magical care are required to go there for treatment. If Davaulus is in league with the Urgathoans, then they are likely facing a fate worse than the blood veil. Cressida wants the party to search for any additional evidence of the Queen’s Physicians’ connection to the blood veil and the Urgathoans—and if possible, quietly arrest Dr. Davaulus.

But the adventurers decide to investigate the bodies Slim discovered (a task Cressida was gearing up to do herself, given how short-handed the Guard has become). They hope to find more clues about the Urgathoans and their connection to the blood veil.

The Field Marshal has Grau Soldado and a squad of his most trusted men guard the evidence room. Ashla quietly has Majenko keep an eye on the chamber to ensure the evidence isn’t moved and Zandu places a mental alarm on the room to alert him if anyone unauthorized enters.

Inside the Citadel, Egan tracks down Faunra to thank her for letting Silver accompany them. Faunra is pleased to have helped and relays that she has more news for the party. A friend of her father’s at the Elven Embassy saw the missing musician Ruan and a thin, rat-faced man being escorted away from Carowyn Manor by two Gray Maidens the morning after the party. The men were loaded into a prison cart and driven off. Egan gives a surprised Faunra 100gp for her assistance.

The Quarantine of Old Korvosa

After a restless night at Zellara’s, Slim and Zandu rise early to swing by the Sticky Mermaid and share their findings with Kyra. But as they approach Old Korvosa, they discover that every wooden bridge to Endrin Isle has been destroyed and Gray Maidens have erected a massive barricade across the old stone bridge to the district. Town criers warn that by order of the Queen, the entire district of Old Korvosa has been placed under strict quarantine. No one may enter or leave.

Desperate to find out if Kyra and the Cerulean Society escaped the blockade, Slim journeys to Twitcher’s Tavern in the Shingles. The cramped and smoky dive is even more crowded, as frightened lowlifes have flocked to it for news.

Slim learns that Kyra and many others, including a substantial portion of the Society’s leadership, remain trapped in Old Korvosa. The quarantine was imposed in the middle of the night, with no warning. There are Gray Maidens patrolling the shore, ships blockading the water access, and hippogryph riders in the air, a crackdown unprecedented in living memory. There’s no way to access Old Korvosa through the sewers and no safe route through the Vaults. The district is effective off-limits for the foreseeable future.

But Slim and Zandu have no intention of leaving their friend trapped inside the quarantine zone.

The Wererat's Bite
Seven Days to the Grave, Part 7

Questions & Answer

Ser Arlynn asks around South Shore to see if anyone saw what happened to Ruan, but the servants tending the nearby empty mansions are no help. Slim, meanwhile, reports back to Cressida and asks about the mad elf Jolistina. He learns that she was a minor criminal with a morbid, self-destructive streak. Cressida is concerned that Rolth and the Cult of Urgathoa would give such valuable gear to a small-timer like Jolistina. It suggests the cult has far more resources at its disposal than expected.

When pressed by Slim for any other leads, Cressida notes that they have little to go on beyond the sunken ship itself. Sable Company dispatched a team to the vessel a few days after it sunk, but they never returned. If the party is willing to follow up, she would be grateful, but she urges them to confer with Marcus Endrin of Sable Company for advice on underwater expeditions.

Egan visits Faunra at the Citadel, where she and the other druids are tending to guardsmen who have fallen ill. Egan asks if they’ve heard anything about the missing Varisian musical prodigy, but the Elf admits she has not. However, Faunra says she will follow up with her kinsmen at the Elven Embassy in South Shore to see if they saw anything.

Slim then begins trekking up to the Sticky Mermaid, but is drawn into an alley in North Point by Kyra. The halfling woman wants to pick up their conversation about the Bekyar slavers. She says that the slavers set up in Korvosa six months ago, but the operation was so hush-hush that she didn’t even learn of it until a few weeks ago.

The Cerulean Society is taking a cut of the slavers’ profits in exchange for having a corrupt tariff inspector, Grask, ensure that the slavers’ ships can come and go without scrutiny. Kyra’s family escaped slavery in Cheliax two generations ago and she has no desire to see it take root in Korvosa. But as the Society’s grip on the city weakens under pressure from the plague, the pro-slavery faction only grows stronger. She gives Slim a bag of gold for freeing the halflings, while swearing him to secrecy about her role in leaking the information.

Learning of the party’s plan to investigate the sunken ship, Kyra suggests they get in touch with an old woman named Eries Yelloweyes who fences potions and other items at a stall in the Gold Market.

When Slim approaches Old Korvosa, he sees that the district has been effectively abandoned by the Guard, with even more sick on the streets while ruffians openly loot the houses of the dead. Grouping up with Zandu, the two of them decide to spend the night with the others at Zellara’s house.

Threat from the Sewers

The following day, the party seeks out Eries Yelloweyes, who says she can offer them all potions of water breathing—but only if they help her with a favor. She says that she has heard good things about them from Kyra and from Samp the sewer scavenger. Eries says that the citizens of Korvosa are looking for someone to blame for the plague, and one easy scapegoat is the city’s wererat population.

One unlucky wererat was caught on the surface and killed by a mob. Now a band of wererats led by Girrigz are preparing to launch a retaliatory strike against the city. Eries fears that their misguided effort could bring down another rat purge even worse than the ones under the old Queen Domina decades ago. Eries fears that Girrigz can’t be reasoned with, but she urges the party to stop him with a minimum loss of wererat lives. Then she can help them investigate the ship.

Rodents of Unusual Sentience

The party ventures once more into Korvosa’s tangled maze of sewers. After dispatching a small group of ghouls, they draw near the wererat den. Hoping for a diplomatic solution, Arlynn, Slim, and Zandu enter with their weapons holstered. They encounter a trio of wererats who, while initially suspicious, are ultimately talked into arranging an audience with their leader. But when one of them goes to alert him, Girrigz responds by bellowing for the wererats to kill the surfacers.

Another four wererats spill into the from chamber of the den, but only about half of the lycanthropes take part in the battle, while the others hang back. The start of hostilities also alarms the shrieker mushroom in the front chamber, which lets out an earsplitting wail that makes further dialogue impossible.

To escape the crowd of wererats, Zandu drops a smoke stick and flees into the main sewer tunnel, where Egan and Ashla are waiting. Slim, and several wererats, soon follow him out. Arlynn is trapped in the haze, surrounded by wererats and enveloped in a biting swarm of filthy rats.

A metal grate that sealed off part of the sewer channel grinds open, releasing an Otyugh that swiftly ensnares Zandu. Working together, Egan and Ashla are able to bring down the abomination, while Slim fends off the wererats. Arlynn, meanwhile, is caught in a blind slugging match with a wererat inside the smoke cloud, even as the rat swarm continues to gnaw at her despite her spiked armor.

The Wrath of Girrigz

With the otyugh dead, Egan and Ashla refocus their attention on the wererats. It is at this point that Girrigz himself appears, garbed in chain mail and wielding a mithral rapier. He charges Zandu and bites him savagely, sending the sorcerer tumbling to the ground with a terrible wound—and the taint of lycanthropy.

The wererat leader proceeds to deal grievous harm to Ashla, batting aside her defenses with two vicious stabs of his rapier. Soon, he is fighting Egan, Slim and Ashla while holding his own.

Determined to help her friends, Arlynn stumbles blindly out of the smoke and is knocked to the ground by her wererat foe. With the air finally free of the shrieker’s howl, she calls out to Girrigz, urging him to negotiate. But the lycanthrope leader is fully committed to wreaking vengeance on all non-wererats.

Ashla deftly cuts down his remaining follower, but Girrigz then dispatches her with a terrible blow, leaving her near death in the sewer channel. Slim and Arlynn grimly close in on the wererat, but it is Egan who ultimately brings him down with a lightning strike.

The remaining wererats, who sat out the fight, vacate the den peacefully, pledging never to harm the surface.

The Curious Case of the Rats in the Nighttime

The party returns to Eries, who thanks them for sparing what wererats they could. Eries relates how some of her brethren watched the ship sink and saw strange debris drifting from the its hull. The flotsam amounted to small boxes full of dead rats and a few bags of silver coins conveniently bound to floating timbers. Suspecting something wrong, the wererats kicked the the debris back into the river. Eries is convinced that the ship is incredibly dangerous. She then provides the party with potions of water breathing.

The five adventurers check in with Commandant Marcus Endrin at the Great Tower to get his advice on aquatic expeditions. He explains that land-bound creatures will be out of their element in the water, making them vulnerable to creatures native to the environment. The party pledges to keep him informed of what they find, though Slim fears that the answers they uncover may not be to their liking.