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.
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.
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.