The Sleepers Awaken
Sleeping under the protective canopy of a copse of trees, the adventurers each have interesting dreams. Slim is chased by shadows until he catches one and turns it into a cloak. Ashla sees a skull rise off the floor of a ruined temple. Arlynn glimpses dark towers and awakes with the eerie feeling that she is missing her sword. Egan dreams of walking along the river bank with his father and awakens refreshed and connected to nature. Zandu’s dreams leave him with inspiration for his book.
After waking, the party agrees that they need to leave Korvosa for a while, but they still have some business to conclude in the city. Ashla sends an animal messenger to summon Majenko and Reno. Zandu and Egan, meanwhile, decide to slip back into the city. The druid simply flies over, while Zandu disguises himself to pass through the gates.
Heads, Walls, Spikes
Inside Korvosa, the talk of the town is all about the Gray Maidens’ assault on the Arkona Palace the night before. Word is that Lady Vimanda Arkona warned the Queen that her cousin Lord Glorio Arkona was some sort of shapeshifting fiend. Now his head is said to be on display outside the Longacre Building in North Point. Zandu goes to investigate, while Egan fetches the party’s horses from the stables in East Shore.
Zandu observes four heads mounted on the wall outside the Longacre Building: a tiger, a boar, a snake, and an orangutan with an eye patch. A sign below the heads identify them as Glorio and his conspirators. The crowd seems unsure of how to react or what to believe, but it does seem that Queen Ileosa has earned back a certain measure of respect for bringing down these monsters.
Zandu next seeks out Kyra at Twitcher’s Tavern in The Shingles. The halfling is glad to see he made it out of the palace alive. She says that it’s pretty clear where at least some of the Bekyars’ slaves were going: the Gray Maidens found human remains in the palace kitchens. Zandu convinces Kyra that she needs to skip town with the rest of them and urges her to get her mother out, too, but the halfling says Yamyra is too stubborn to leave.
After Zandu reunites with Egan, who procured a wagon in the meantime, they are confronted by a Gray Maiden and a Korvosan Guard—Remmy and Grau in semi-disguise. They are escorted to a secret briefing with Cressida at the warehouse they cleared out a few weeks back.
The two adventurers bring the Field Marshal up to speed on events in the palace and she relates Vimanda’s version. Cressida warns them that while officially the party are still regarded as heroes of the city, unofficially the Queen has put the word out that they are to be killed.
Cressida is delighted that the Seneschal is alive and already outside the city walls. She urges them to get him as far from Korvosa as possible for the time being. She adds that it may be up to the party to devise a means of defeating whatever fell power is at the Queen’s command.
Cressida also asks that they take Remmy with them, for the young woman’s own safety. Grau explains that while she is getting better, the guardswoman is refusing to wear anything other than her Gray Maiden armor—which makes her hard to conceal.
For the trip out of the city, Zandu disguises himself as a merchant and then uses his magic hat to make Remmy look like his assistant. She’s pleased with the getup and cocks the hat at a raking angle.
“Pretty cunning, don’t you think?” she brags.
Together, Zandu, Egan and Remmy drive their wagon out of the city gates after a cursory inspection by the guards. Once they are safely out of sight of the city walls, they make for the copse of trees where the rest of the party is holed up.
Having reunited, the party agrees with Vencarlo’s suggestion that they make for the village Harse. The fencing master has friends there who can offer them shelter and a chance to regroup. Neolandis is reluctant to share what he has learned until they reach the safe haven.
Before setting out, the adventurers reaffirm their commitment to their cause and take the name the Crimson Blades as the title for their company. Irabeth also introduces the group to her divine-bonded mount, a pure white horse named “Princess.”
With the Seneschal in disguise, the party begins the journey north. On the second day, they find themselves being stalked by a wolf pack. Egan is able to communicate with the beasts. He learns that the pack was driven from the Howlwood and is hungry for food. The gnomes negotiates an agreement, paying the wolves with meat in exchange for protection. Egan also deduces that they were driven out of their woods by goblins.
Last Goblin Standing
As the Crimson Blades approach the the Howlwood, Egan communes with nature, learning that the forest contains both a band of goblins and a human woman. The party enters the woods cautiously, weapons at the ready. Carefully scouting ahead, they are able to get the drop on the goblins mid-ambush.
The little green menaces had blocked the forest trail with several fallen trees, trapping a human merchant and her camel. The woman is none other than former perfume maker and would-be plague curer Vendra Loaggri. She is caught in a standoff with the goblins, warning them that the vial in her hand is a terrible magic potion that will destroy them if they get any closer.
With the goblins thus distracted, Slim, Egan, and a flying Zandu move in to devastate them with a surprise attack. Arlynn, Ashla, and a mounted Irabeth bring up the rear, while Kyra and Remmy stay with the wagon to protect their guests.
Zandu and Egan destroy the goblin chief, but a goblin named Magrak seizes Vendra’s “magic drink” and rallies the tribe. However, once he drinks the potion and splutteringly declares it poison, the rest of the goblins break and run, where they are cut down. Magrak is kept alive, interrogated, and sent back with the perfume-soaked heads of his fellows.
The party then turns to Vendra, who says that their testimony helped exonerate her of the charge of knowingly peddling a false cure. But nonetheless, her reputation in Korvosa has been destroyed. She is trying to rebuild her business far away from that city and asks if she can travel with the adventurers for awhile. They agree to let her accompany them as they continue north to Harse.
The next evening, they make camp upon a lonely hill ringed with standing stones covered in ancient Thassilonian runes. The runes describe it as marking the boundary between the domains of the Runelord Sorshen and the Runelord Karzoug. Neolandis identifies it at as the site of the Battle of Seven Stones, a turning point in the wars between the Chelaxian colonists and the Shoanti natives.
Investigating the stones, Arlynn uncovers an exposed part of the stone that reacts with Slim’s medallion to cause its emerald to glow—but only when facing south. Neolandis says that the medallion may be one of the fabled Eyes of Sorshen. After a little back and forth, he says the item could be what has permitted the party to make use of the teleport circles—they’ve certainly never used them without its presence.
The Seneschal warns that the medallion is a key that could open many locks beneath the city that were meant to be kept forever shut. He urges Slim to keep it out of the hands of the Ambassador and is shocked to learn that the rogue had worn it in his presence.
“If I weren’t the most wanted man in Korvosa, I’d take the damned thing and hide it myself,” Neolandis growls.
“The safest hiding place is on your person,” Slim insists.
As twilight gathers, the adventurers share a few ghost stories before bed. Arlynn tells tales of vengeful lion spirits that stalk the savannas of Garund, while Kyra shares a disturbing story of a ghost ship haunting the waters off of Varisia, and Irabeth recounts the story of the haunted castle of Scarwall in Belkzen. But Zandu manages to tell the most blood-curdling story of the night, sending everyone but the paladins to bed shivering with fright.
Slim proceeds to have a strange dream.
At the Crossroads
Harse is a farming village that sits on the junction where the Sarwin River splits off from the Falcon River that flows down from the Mindspin Mountains, making it an important crossroads for both east-west and north-south travel. The party takes the ferry across the river and quietly questions the ferryman about whether he’s seen any strange travelers.
He says they’re first people he’s seen in a while to come up from the city; the last bunch were refugees fleeing the plague there. They agree that the city is a bit of a mess and the man worries that the lack of guards on the road will encourage bandits or Shoanti raiders.
After crossing the river, they ride north a little ways beyond the village proper to their destination, the Blackbird Ranch. It is managed by Jasan Adriel, an old adventuring partner of Vencarlo’s. They run into their old friend Trinia Sabor, the falsely accused artist, as well as Slim’s cousin Vittora. The two gals have been lying low in the countryside—though that didn’t stop them from exploring some nearby Shoanti cairns. They quit playing adventurer after stumbling into a nest of ettercaps and barely making it out. Still, they’re excited to see the Crimson Blades and seem antsy to get out of town.
After a hearty meal with Jasan’s family, Vencarlo summons the rancher, Neolandis, and the party down to the basement, where they try some of the Adriels’ home brew—and Neolandis tells his story.
The Seneschal’s Account
“Ileosa has always been a spoiled brat. She is vain, greedy, and manipulative. Right from the start I knew her only interest in King Eodred was his crown. The King wouldn’t hear it, of course. Ileosa can be tremendously charming when she wants something, though once you’ve served her purpose she’ll drop you like a sack of bricks. She doted on the King throughout their brief courtship, but as soon as the marriage was sealed she had nothing but scorn for him. It’s always the same act with her. She still has that foolish girl Sabina hanging off her every word.
“Even so, Ileosa is—or at least was—cowardly and indecisive. She clearly longed for her husband’s death but just as clearly lacked the fortitude to hasten it. So she whiled away her time reading in the library, dallying with her handmaiden and ‘borrowing’ the treasury key to look through Korvosa’s holdings.
“But a few months ago, something in her seemed to harden. She became more forceful, ruthless, and interested in taking a role in official business. Not too long after that, the King’s health began to fail. Given his age and… lifestyle, this was not unexpected. But also around that time the King’s brother Venster went missing. I know you haven’t heard of him. Venster was a bastard and an embarrassment, so his entire existence was kept a secret known only to a very few.
“All of this aroused my suspicions, but I foolishly gave Ileosa the benefit of the doubt. She responded by sending Red Mantis assassins after me the night of the King’s death. Through a mixture of good fortune and knowledge of the Castle grounds, I managed to elude them and made my way to Salvator’s to lie low and recover.
“When I was well enough to move about on my own, I began a quiet investigation of the situation, interview key people, poring through records at Endrin Academy, and piecing together information from rumors. All of it to try to determine what caused Queen Ileosa’s sudden shift from a petulant spoiled noble to a scheming murderous tyrant. The more I learned, the more my fears grew, but until the Queen’s most recent display I had still held out hope.
“You see, as Seneschal I took great interest in the history of Castle Korvosa, particularly several old and obscure legends about the chambers below the Castle. Chambers, it was whispered, that were old even when the Shoanti dwelt here and that once housed something of great power or evil. Clearly these myths have more truth to them than we’d dare imagine.
“In my investigations, I came across a document from the early days of Korvosa recording one of the many failed negotiations between the Chelaxian settlers and the Shoanti. In it, a Sklar-Quah chieftain makes reference to an item called ’Midnight’s Teeth’ that was kept within the Grand Mastaba upon which Castle Korvosa now sits.
“The Chelaxian scribe seemed to think these teeth were a sacred relic the barbarians wanted to keep from the settlers. But in my reading of text, it seems as if the Shoanti were trying to warn the settlers away from a great danger sealed below. I fear that whatever these Midnight’s Teeth are, they have taken hold of the Queen and filled her with a malevolent power.
“The Shoanti would know more about what these “teeth” are and how they can be defeated, but I’ve heard that my friend Thousand Bones and his delegation have left the city after some sort of dispute over a dead Shoanti boy. Finding him and convincing him to help will be difficult, but we have few other options."
Dark Wings, Dark Words
The Crimson Blades agree that they need more information on the artifact granting the Queen these terrible powers and what it will take to stop her. After some discussion, they agree to split up. Neolandis and Vencarlo, accompanied by Trinia and Vittora, will take refuge in the dwarven city of Janderhoff with a few of Vencarlo’s old contacts. The Crimson Blades will travel north into the Cinderlands to seek out Thousand Bones.
Jasan also presents Slim with a letter addressed to him that arrived the day before. The rogue reads it in private and immediately burns it, warning that they will need to leave Blackbird Ranch at dawn.