Midday of 16 Erastus, 4708
Don’t Fear the Reaper
After returning the body of the impostor to Endrin Manor, Flint lets Damon and his sister Valeria finish their conversation. Then he accompanies the young man back to House Forscythe, where Lady Forscythe invites him inside.
She curtly thanks him for keeping his word and returning her son. She asks him to keep her son out of any future magical intrigues. She then tells Damon that they’ll “talk later.” Flint backs away carefully.
Regrouping back at the Farima townhouse after his spirit journey, Egan shares his stories with Arlynn, Nox and Flint. They decide it’s time to sell some of the treasure they’d acquired during their recent adventures and upgrade their equipment for the battles to come.
Egan decides it’s time to replace his headband of wisdom, which had become sinisterly sentient thanks to the Harrow Deck of Many Things. The gnome first approaches Arlynn, who defers to Irabeth as more talented at removing cursed artifacts. It takes a couple of shakes, but ultimately Egan is dropped free of the evil headband.
The Littlest Castle
The Crimson Blades journey out of the city to Kyra’s Castle across the river, where two surprisingly well-equipped halfling guards greet them at the gates. They are escorted into the great hall, where Kyra is conferring with a group of halflings and humans, whom she dismisses to speak with the party.
“Hey! It’s good to see you guys!” she says. “It’s been, what, a day? and you’re already here looking for my help.”
Arlynn presents her with the headband and warns her not to put it on. The paladin explains that it is an evil artifact—and they want her to sell it. After protesting to that she has gotten respectable, Kyra quickly agrees to fence their evil headband. She has a couple potential buyers in mind. Though of course, the halfling will take a cut of the transaction. For the benefit of her bustling community.
The adventurers ask her if she has named her castle yet and offer some ideas.(Arlynn: “Castle Smalltown.” Ashla: “Smallcastle.”) Kyra admits that she likes the thought of naming it after herself. Ashla asks her what her last name is and she admits she does have one, but coyly notes she’s hoping to pick up a last name one soon.
Kyra invites them to drop by and stay whenever they like, the castle—or at least its human-sized ground floor—is big enough accommodate them at any time, and the soundproofed walls will ensure that they won’t disturb anyone.
“Has Korvosa bugged you about the new property?” Nox asks.
“Oh, we’ve gotten a few inquiries, but it turns out that having a big fucking castle is nine-tenths of the law,” she explains.
Nox asks if she has a title to go with the property, and she admits that’s one area she’s working on. He tells her knows a guy who might be able to help her out. Kyra is surprised at Nox’s emerging respectability. Arlynn also offers the Farima family’s assistance in provisioning the castle.
Touch of Evil
After returning from Kyra’s Castle, Arlynn and Irabeth prepare to ride down to the Pharasman Cathedral in the Gray District to check on the paladin’s Sworn Sword Chammady. Nox elects to join them, as he has business that way, too.
Arlynn notes that Nox is not carrying his sun blade and the fighter admits that he has left it with Remmy, as he cannot wield it himself. The blade still considers him an “evil” being, and he is seeking aid from the Pharasmans to cleanse himself of this lingering aura.
Arlynn quietly questions Serithtial about whether this condition is a natural effect from the Crown of Fangs and one that Nox can recover from. The sword is not sure what is afflicting Nox, but is confident it can be cured.
The New Recruit
They arrive at the Cathedral to find Chammady in good shape and preparing to leave. The flame-haired young woman is excited to see them and excitedly explains how she can feel the Inheritor’s grace within her.
Arlynn assures her than she has earned this blessing, from her days helping her fellow orphans survive under the lash of Gaedren Lamm, through her actions protecting innocents as leader of the Sworn Swords, to her sacrifice in trying to halt the escape of Mistress Kayltanya. Her valor and her righteousness have not gone unnoticed by the Goddess.
Chammady is simply amazed that Iomedae might grant such a boon to a simple orphan like herself. She thanks Arlynn again for sharing the teachings of the Inheritor and for giving her the strength to fight back against evil and carry out Iomedae’s word.
“One day, Irabeth and I may not be here to fight for Korvosa,” Arlynn says, “and it may be up to you and the Sworn Swords to watch over the city. Until that day, remember to temper your zealotry. Though we fight on behalf of Good, we must also be the change that we wish to see.”
“Be the change that we wish to see,” Chammady says, and then nods. “Got it! You can count on me, Ser Arlynn!”
“I may not be a paladin, but I am a man of faith,” Nox interjects. “I will say that the role of the paladin who serves is one of eternal vigilance. You no longer live for your self, but for the city and your loved ones. Just remember that.”
“It is a rare honor and a sacred duty to take up the sword that the Inheritor has granted,” Irabeth says. “I know you will do it justice.”
“Now that the light of Iomedae shines brightly upon you,” Arlynn says to Chammady, “one day you must make the journey to Lastwall to follow the footsteps of both Irabeth and I and learn from High Priestess Aylunna Varvatos the ways of a paladin.”
“It may be frustrating at times,” Irabeth adds. “I know that those of us charged with defending the Light are people of action, but you must know the faith inside and out, beyond merely reading the Acts of Iomedae. You will need guidance on what is expected from you and on the dangers and temptations that you will face.”
“By the way, Tiran Maksev also gives great tattoos there in Lastwall,” Arlynn says cheerily.
While the three paladins continue to chat amongst themselves, Nox asks to see Bishop D’Bear about an affliction that requires some discretion. After clearing up what sort of discrete affliction he is presently suffering from, the bishop examines him but cannot find the cause.
She offers to perform a ritual to probe the inner reaches of his mind and soul. She summons Ramara to assist and beckons Nox to the same side chamber where Wulfrik was raised from the dead the night before. Nox asks Arlynn and Irabeth to join him, to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
After bidding farewell to Chammady, Arlynn whispers to Irabeth that she had asked Iomedae to bless the girl with the powers of a paladin.
The priests seat Nox on the floor and begin to circle around him, swinging censors that fill the room with sweet-smelling incense as they chant in a strange tongue. As the ceremony goes on, Nox finds his eyelids growing heavier, until he closes them but for a moment.
When his eyes open again, all color seems to have leeched out of the room, save for his own self which is over saturated with light. He realizes that everyone else in the room has frozen and even the smoke hangs rigid in the air. Then he hears someone calling his name.
The Lady from the Heavens
The voice, a woman’s is coming from above him. There is no ceiling to the room anymore, only an open, cloudy sky. Then, from among the clouds, she emerges and descends to float ten feet or so above him in the air. An angelic figure, with porcelain skin and platinum blond hair, there is a hardness to her, like steel in a gilded scabbard. Her raiments are dark and in her hand is a polearm whose head glows brilliant white.
Nox, who had drawn his sword in fear, immediately drops to his knees, but she invites him to stand. He does so and sheathes his blade. She explains that the Pharasmans’ ritual drew her attention and she has come to aid him with his affliction. She explains that Nox has fallen under the sway of Lorthact himself and the fiend’s hooks are sunk so deep that only the destruction of the infernal duke will release him.
For now, she can suppress Lorthact’s lingering aura so that Nox can wield Vigil without difficulty. But she further warns that the fiend lord is taking steps to seal Korvosa off from the outer planes. She says that she and her mistress can help Nox in the coming battle, but only if she can maintain a toehold inside the city that will allow her to return.
She presents Nox with a strange coin and tells him to place it upon the person of someone else in the city. It will serve as a conduit that will allow her to manifest despite Lorthact’s planar barricades. Nox asks if this process will harm the person bearing the coin. She insists that the person will not be harmed by the process, unless Lorthact wins the final confrontation, in which case they are all doomed anyway.
Nox volunteers to carry the coin himself, but she explains that his connection to Lorthact would expose her and even leave her vulnerable to capture by the duke. She also says that for their own safety, the coin should be planted in secret on the person in question.
Nox suggests Ser Arlynn as a candidate, and the angelic being notes that the power of Iomedae may not mix well with her own—there would be complications. Nox then asks if the person needs to be a follower of Pharasma; she says no, but that it would help.
She then waves her polearm over Nox to mask Lorthact evil influence. Nox asks one moe question, seeking to know her name. She says that while she goes by many names across the planes, in Golarion she is best known as Azeret.
She then rises back into the clouds and a moment later, color and life returns to the world. Bishop D’Bear and Ramara halt their procession and look around confused. The bishop asks Nox how he feels, and he insists he is fine. Nox asks her if she knows of Azeret, and the bishop admits the name does not ring a bell, although Pharasma has many servants, not all of whom are known.
With his business done and the coin quietly palmed, Nox suggests to the two paladins that they return to the townhouse.
The Most Dangerous Game
Flint, meanwhile, recruits Ashla for an evening manhunt as he seeks to track down his remaining duplicates. He decides to start at the Shoreline Drinkhall in East Shore, where Egan had caught the scent of one of the doubles. Ashla picks out a bootprint identical to Flint’s from among the muck and they slowly track the clone across every tavern, dive, and brothel in East Shore and Midland, before finally trekking over to wealthy South Shore.
The trail ends at the Jade Circle, where they pass by tables of young bravos debating fighting styles. Rapier and dagger seems to be en vouge. Ashla is incensed that her twin sword fighting style as seen in the duel between Blackjack and Trifaccia has not caught on more widely.
The hostess, a young Tian woman, is surprised to see “Lord Endrin” appearing on her doorstep when he should be upstairs. Flint explains bluntly that there are impostors posing as him and he wants to know where his look-alike is. She gives him a room number and he promises to cover the damages. While she protests, Flint and Ashla push past her to head upstairs.
Neither of them being gifted with lockpicks, they simply kick in the door. The room beyond has an open air balcony looking out on the bay. In the center is a four-poster bed on which the duplicate is lounging, appraising three scantily clad young women. They shriek at the sight of the armed intruders, while the other Flint is caught off guard and half-dressed.
Before his doppelganger can grab the bow and quiver resting by the bed, Flint sticks them there with a tanglefoot bag. He then looses another arrow at the double, but his clone catches it in mid air and tosses it back.
“Damn, I’m good,” Flint mutters to himself in admiration.
Thrown off by the counterattack, Flint’s next shot goes high, striking the rope tying up the bed’s curtains. They tumble down over the bed, concealing the double from view. But a lantern hanging on the balcony illuminates the man’s silhouette against the fabric and Flint tags him with two more arrows.
“Stop!” the duplicate calls out. “I’m the real Flint!”
For a brief moment Flint experiences a disorienting existential crisis, as the other man’s words seem to ring especially true. Then his mind clears and he regains his certainty that he is the true Telus “Flint” Endrin.
The duplicate growls in frustration and then dives for the balcony, still tangled up in one of the bed curtains. Despite this, he makes a solid landing on the ground level and proceeds to dash past the young bravos, upending the tables as he goes.
Ashla leaves the next move to Flint, who tells the courtesans to go and then jumps down to the ground level. He tries to line up a shot, but is set upon by a drunk and angry young noble. Ashla jumps down and pulls the man off of Flint who takes after his fleeing double.
The other Flint tries to hide in the shadows, but the sliver of the waning moon offers enough light to glint off the buttons of his open shirt and an arrow swiftly follows. The duplicate then climbs into the Shingles to try to lose his pursuer. Flint makes use of the celestial full plate Irabeth gave him that morning to fly up above the rooftops, an ability his clone had not counted on.
Flint shoots the duplicate a half a dozen times before he collapses, then a few times more just to be sure. He collects the human pincushion and then returns to the Jade Circle.
Questions and Answers
Flint questions the courtesans about the double. They claim that they ran across him at various houses of iniquity that he visited in the city over the past few days. He spoke often about the tragic loss of his parents and his failure to protect his family. On multiple occasions, he said that Valeria deserved to inherit the House more than he. In just the last day or so, he apparently had a falling out with his sister that left him feeling very hurt. The courtesans also note that he seemed to have tremendous way with words.
Flint is unimpressed with his whiny double, but when it becomes clear that they have no insight into the doubles’ plans, he lets them go. He also grudgingly pays the Jade Circle for the damages, while declaring he will never return.
With that, Flint heads back to Endrin Manor with the body, which gets stashed next to the other duplicate’s corpse. Valeria notes that they’re getting good at stacking the bodies. Flint asks her about her future plans and her thoughts on Queen Ileosa. Valeria continues to believe that the Queen is the best person to run the city. She thought that she would serve Ileosa for the rest of her life, but if the Queen is removed she isn’t certain of her own future in the city.
Flint asks about her conversation with Damon. Valeria admits that she was unaware of his affections, but they aren’t unwelcome. She reiterates her trust in Flint and her dedication to restoring their House after the calamities that have struck it. She is glad that they are no longer on opposing sides.
Valeria then presents Flint with a letter addressed to him from Lord Ornelos, which arrived earlier that day. The letter expresses condolences for the loss of his parents and says that House Ornelos and House Jeggare are working to erect a memorial to the late Lord and Lady Endrin. The letter also provides Flint with additional information on the dwarfstone he inherited from his father, and suggests more revelations could be forthcoming. In return, the letter asks Flint to lobby Lord Jeggare to support Ornelos’ bid for the throne.
Comings and Goings
Flint is not the only one receiving letters from Lord Ornelos. One arrives at the Farima townhouse addressed to Arlynn. The Acadamae’s headmaster praises her service to the city and her goddess. Ornelos suggests that were he to become king, he would provide greater support to all of the orphanages in the city, as well as subsidize a proper temple to Iomedae. He urges Arlynn to lobby the other Great Houses on his behalf.
Kyra arrives at the townhouse late in the day to inform the party she got a good price for Egan’s headband of wisdom, even with her commission. The party is impressed at this bit of good fortune.
Eventually, everyone gathers together at the townhouse. To their surprise, the learn that Laori appears to have up and left without so much as a farewell note. They worry about her journeying back to Nidal, but Arlynn is confident in Iomedae’s prediction that the Fangs of Kazavon would not leave the city.
After a peaceful (if crowded) night in the townhouse, the adventurers awaken to find that they have received a summons from Queen Ileosa to meet with them immediately. Unfortunately, the request conflicts with the first round of voting by the Five Great Houses. Nox decides to head to the vote, while the rest of the party goes to meet with the Queen.
Morning of 17 Erastus, 4708
The Crimson Blades arrive at the royal quarters where Ileosa is being held under house arrest. A Gray Maiden guard allows them instead, but as they approach the door to the bedchamber, they hear a scream, a clattering noise, and then the door to the chamber is smashed open as two women in Gray Maiden armor tumble onto the ground. One of them, which they recognize as Sabina, appears to be tackling another woman. Peering out from the bed chamber is Ileosa, looking somewhat rumpled and bleeding from a gash on her arm.
“Sabina!” Flint calls out. He hauls her off of the other Maiden. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Arrest her!” Sabina insists, pointing at the other woman. “She tried to kill the Queen!”
Arlynn detains the suspect, while Sabina removes the woman’s helmet. None of the Crimson Blades recognize her, but she is known to Sabina as Matilda, a former Gray Maiden furious at Ileosa. Sabina notes that Matilda should not have been on the guard roster—she’s been staffing the Gray Maiden guards only with those women she considers trustworthy.
The would-be assassin is hauled off and the party enters the bedchamber to speak with Ileosa. The Queen’s first concern is the status of the Fangs of Kazavon. She is relieved that the cursed dragon’s teeth have been secured and are going far away from the city. She was afraid Kazavon’s spirit might try to influence her again. She is also deeply worried about Lorthact and the contract pledging her soul to him. She says that they must find the other half of the contract—likely with Lorthact—in order to release her from it, and she will give them any reward to do so.
When the adventurers ask if she has any more information on the infernal duke, she notes that the contract bound an erinyes’ soul to her to fortify her flesh and spirit. Ileosa speculates that the erinyes might have some link back to Lorthact, but she has no conscious way to interact with the fallen angel.
One of These Houses is Not Like the Others
Ileosa then turns to the reason she summoned the party. She has learned that the Five Great Houses have voted to depose her as Queen. She insists that the vote is invalid—all five houses must agree, and there were only four genuine houses voting. She declares Vimanda Arkona to be a fraud and a rakshasa. She also accuses Vimanda of sending the would-be assassin, to silence her before she could talk. The Crimson Blades, who had their doubts about Vimanda but already examined her once, ask for Ileosa’s proof.
Ileosa explains that Vimanda claimed to be Glorio Arkona’s cousin from Westcrown. But when Ileosa’s father was shopping her around to prospective husbands, he tried to match her up with the Westcrown Arkonas only to discover that they didn’t exist—just an empty mansion was all that was left. So Vimanda’s backstory doesn’t hold up.
The Queen admits she can’t directly prove Vimanda is a rakshasa, but she is certain of it. As the head of a Great House, Vimanda is personally inviolate absent a royal warrant. Ileosa has drawn up such a warrant and asks the party to seize Vimanda and strip her naked to reveal the telltale reversed organs of a rakshasa.
Flint raises the point that if Ileosa is still the rightful monarch, that would make all of them traitors and rebels. Ileosa argues that they did what they did to save her from an evil curse, for which she is immensely grateful and as monarch would reward them appropriately.
Arlynn takes Ileosa’s claims under advisement, aware that bringing down one of the Great Houses would only contribute to the city’s power vacuum.
As the party prepares to leave, Ileosa asks them to invite Nox to come speak with her privately at his earliest convenience.
On his way out of the royal quarters, Flint is stopped by Sabina, who sarcastically thanks him for calling out her name and blowing her cover with the Queen. Flint belatedly recalls that Sabina and Ileosa had not been on speaking terms when last he saw them. But he just shrugs it off and leaves, while Ileosa calls for Sabina.
One floor below, in the meeting room just off of the throne room, the heads of the Five Great Houses gather, each accompanied by two attendants/bodyguards, save for Vimanda, who travels alone. Nox is the last to arrive, just in time for Neolandis to gavel the meeting into session. The seneschal invites the candidates to deliver opening remarks.
Headmaster Toff Ornelos is the first to rise. In advocating for his candidacy, he cites his lineage as a descendant of Volshyenek Ornelos the Immortal Lord (may he rest in piece) and his family’s long ties to the city, unlike the recent string of Chelaxian monarchs. He cites his experience as administrator of the Acadamae and his knowledge of arcane defenses against evil curses. He notes that he has no strong ties to either the rebels or Ileosa’s loyalists, allowing him to remain impartial in a city still divided by the recent conflict. He also notes that Korvosa has been cursed with a string of childless monarchs, resulting in repeated succession crises. He notes that he has seven sons and three daughters, as well as many grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. The Ornelos line of succession is secured several generations deep.
After the wizard is done, Neolandis calls for the next speaker and Nox defers to Vimanda.
The head of House Arkona argues that the city needs a leader of impeccable moral credentials, who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the Mad Queen—unlike all the Great Houses. They need someone with strong ties to Korvosa, who will do right by the city. They need Cressida Kroft.
This surprise nomination causes an immediate stir, throwing off the other nobles.
The Seneschal then recognizes Nox, who finds himself agreeing more often than not with Vimanda’s arguments, but nonetheless insists that he best embodies the positive traits she raised, and more.
Once Nox is finished, the seneschal calls the council to vote. It is one vote to abolish the monarchy, one vote for Ornelos, one vote for Nox, and two votes for Cressida. Neolandis declares that the council has no consensus and orders that black smoke be released from the castle chimneys to signify the deadlock. (Red smoke will be released when they have chosen a new king or queen.)
Wheels Within Wheels
Nox quickly pulls Vimanda aside to speak with her. After confirming that Cressida was unaware that her name would be thrown into contention, he suggests a meeting between the three of them to resolve some confusion. Vimanda insists that what the city needs is more transparency and fewer backroom deals. She takes her leave just as the rest of the Crimson Blades arrive.
Arlynn manages to corner Vimanda and question her under a detect lies. The paladin asks if she had a role in the slave trafficking and cannibalism going on at Arkona Manor, which she denies. However, Arlynn does catch her in a lie about her past at Westcrown. She lets the noble go on her way for now, but plans to revisit the issue.
Meanwhile, Flint and Nox alert Neolandis to the growing danger from Magnimar they discovered in the letters being stolen by Flint’s bird-killing clone. This revelation elicits another “Fuck” from the seneschal. He and promises to coordinate response with Cressida. He also tells them that the information they uncovered on House Leroung’s involvement with the clone could be considered “light treason” and would give them significant leverage over the house, should they choose to use it.
Popping the Question
Following the vote, Nox heads straight to Citadel Volshyenek, where he finds Cressida in her office. He tells her that her name has been thrown into contention, which shocks her.
Nox shocks her again when he suggests that they unite as a joint ticket—through marriage. She puts off committing to a decision, but invites him to a dinner date that night to better acquaint themselves with one another.
Off to See the Wizard
While Nox chats with his maybe-bride, the rest of the adventurers run errands around town. Flint goes around paying off his wastrel clone’s bar tabs and requesting the return of betrothal gifts in order to obtain refunds.
Soon enough, however, each of them is contacted by a herald dressed in the colors of House Ornelos. They are invited to participate in the Acadamae’s Breaching Festival tomorrow and are asked to meet with Toff Ornelos at once. Ashla accepts the invitation to participate, but declines the request to see the headmaster. The others agree to the meeting and are teleported to the Acadamae gates, where a squad of tiefling guards escorts them to the headmaster’s office.
Ornelos pitches them on joining the Breaching Festival, which is suffering from not having had a winner in 150 years. He signals that if they win, he will flip his vote to supporting Nox. All they have to do is gain entrance to the eastern end of the Hall of Wards and make their way out the western exit before dusk on the day of the festival—braving the deadly protections the Acadamae’s students and faculty have placed on the building. The first one who makes it out alive will be declared winner and given the prize money, which has grown in size every year for 150 years.
Although usually contestants compete alone, Ornelos is will to bend the rules to allow them to work together as a group, even though only one of them can technically become the winner. Ornelos claims to simply interested in getting a winner, as the contest’s reputation has begun to flag after years with no victor.
The Crimson Blades sense a trap, but agree to go along. Ornelos then invites them to take a tour of the campus with his assistant.