Putting Affairs in Order
Having acquired the powerful sword Serithtial, the Crimson Blades have returned to Kaer Maga to prepare for their return to Korvosa. Zandu and Egan use magic transport their mounts and animal companions from the Sklar-Quah camp. Egan also takes this opportunity to collect his dragonhide breastplate from the Shoanti crafters.
In the city, Arlynn cares for the poor of the Bottoms while Nox reaches out to his contact with Amprei. Ashla seeks out the enchanters of the Tarheel Promenade to improve the spells on her swords and armor.
Once everyone has regrouped, they discuss their options for entering the city. Ashla is in favor of simply tuning invisible and flying over. But Nox believes he can present himself as a noble envoy from Cheliax, since he was not seen associating with the party during his time in Korvosa. He hopes to create an official cover that the others can take advantage of once they infiltrate the city.
In the end, it is decided that they will split up.
Egan wind walks the party and their mounts to the Blackbird Ranch on the outskirts of Harse, while Zandu waits in Kaer Maga with Nox before teleporting the freshly minted noble south to Harse and then rejoining the others at the ranch.
A Night in Harse
Nox rides into Harse on his newly purchased steed and stops at the village’s nicest inn, the Fighting Rooster, whose sign depicts the aforementioned fowl poised like a boxer. Inside, Nox calls for the best room in the inn and for their finest wine. He signs the guestbook with a flourish as Lord Aquilos Nox.
He chats with the innkeeper, a flashy man with a silk eye-patch, explaining that he is an envoy from the Empress of Cheliax on a mission to Korvosa to ensure that matters are put to right there. The innkeeper tells him that there are rebels in the city, but that he expects the Queen to bring them to heel soon.
A Hug for Laori
Hours before, the bulk of the party traveled to the Blackbird Ranh north of Harse, where they stabled their horses in the abandoned barn. They searched the ranch house, while while abandoned had been visited by at least one person within the past week. The Crimson Blades decide to keep a low profile and settle into the basement for the night.
Egan also takes this opportunity to awaken another tree, which they dub Treebeard.
Laori has been unusually quiet these past few days, a haunted look about her dark eyes. Whatever answers to her crisis of faith that she sought out in Kaer Maga were clearly not to her liking. She hunkers down in a corner of the basement, sitting with her knees pressed against her chest.
“Laori, you look like you need a hug,” Zandu says. He scoops her up into a warm, fuzzy embrace. By the time he lets go, her mood has improved appreciably.
“I know I said I’d bake you guys something once we got out of Scarwall,” the priestess says, “but I’ve been feeling so down I forgot to give it to you.”
She reaches into her pack and produces a surprisingly moist chocolate cake.
“I’m glad to have awesome friends like you, and I am with you to the end, or as least as long you can tolerate me.” Laori says.
“Tolerate you? Laori, don’t be silly," Arlynn proclaims. "We tolerate Zandu; we love having you around.”
“You’re one of us,” Ashla says.
“I’m really one of the Crimson Blades?" Laori asks, eyes widening. "Awesome! The last gang I was in had Sial in it.”
“Yeah, he was so grumpy,” Egan says.
“And into weird stuff too,” Zandu adds.
“Oh, its not weird,” Laori clarifies.
“Oh, well I thought with all the chains hanging up in the nu—“ Zandu starts.
“Zandu! Don’t be crude!” Arlynn stammers out. Composing herself, she says to Laori “I know things are confusing for you right now, but if you find that ZK is no longer a god you wish to follow, Iomedae will always have a place for you.”
“Arlynn, I’ll have to think on things,” Laori says, “but thank you for all your advice.”
“Take all the time you need,” the paladin says. “When Aroden disappeared, many of his faithful were also lost before the light of the inheritor guided them. So it shall be with you too Laori; you’ll find your way.”
With the elf maiden considerably cheered up and everyone full of cake, the party prepares for bed. Remmy and Kyra are left as the only two non-spellcasters who can stand watch. They determine the order of their shifts in the traditional Korvosan fashion, a game of Boulder, Parchment, Sheers. After a heated match, Remmy wins first watch.
The adventurers decide to rest for 12 hours to give the two women time to get a proper night’s sleep. After an uneventful night in the creepy abandoned basement, the party rises 4 hours later than usual. As Kyra scrapes together breakfast, they gather to decide their course of action for entering the city.
Their deliberations, however, are cut short by the bellow of a war horn coming from the direction of Harse…
Nox, meanwhile, rose at first, light, donned his noble’s outfit, and rides off at first light towards Korvosa. It is a bright and cheery summer day and he makes good time.
Several hours south of Harse, Nox arrives at a stone bridge across a fast-flowing tributary of the Falcon River. The clatter of hooves on the cobblestone is interrupted by the gentle thrum of a crossbow from the bushes up ahead. A bolt grazes Nox in the side, while two armed ruffians leap out from the bushes behind him. The ambushers rush him from behind, with one of them striking and wounding his horse.
Despite being caught without his armor, Nox wheels his stallion around and draws his sun blade. He can tell from their gear that these “bandits” are hired sellswords.
“You have no idea who you are dealing with!” Nox bellows. “I am a sworn representative of the Empress of Cheliax! Tell me who sent you and I’ll spare your lives.”
The ferocity of his challenge gives one of the ambushers pause. His companion gives him a queer look.
“C’mon, Marl, don’t just stand there!”
“Don’t use our real names, Wirt!” the shaken sellsword replies.
“Gentlemen, get your act together,” says the head sellsword, who emerges from the bushes on the other side of the river with rapier and buckler in hand. “You’re supposed to be professionals.”
Wirt hacks into Nox’s stallion, but the nobleman deftly leaps off the dying horse as it falls. Using its body to help shield him from the two sellswords to his rear, Nox retrieves his shield.
“This is your last chance!” he warns. “Aid me and be rewarded, or side against me and perish!”
“I’m not with them,” the sellsword Marl says, turning to face off against Wirt.
The lead ambusher gets in several solid cuts through Nox’s now-ruined noble’s outfits. The warrior responds by charging the man with his shield and forcing the leader off the bridge into the river.
“Die, fool!” Nox shouts. “Die and be forgotten!”
With Marl switching sides and his boss flailing in the river, Wirt turns tail and run. Marl apologizes for his role in the ambush, insisting that he didn’t know he’d be attacking a representative of the Empress. Nox, quietly relieved that the tide of battle had turned, goes to fish out the lead sellsword. But the man manages to swim to shore and flee into the forest. Nox and Marl take off after him. After a lengthy chase, Nox catches up with the sellsword and cuts “Not-Slim’s” head clean off. While looting the body, Nox retrieves a piece of fine paper with his description on it.
Afterwards, Nox questions Marl, who says the sellsword leader recruited him and Wirt in Korvosa for a contract to take out a lone nobleman riding south from Harse. He doesn’t know who the leader’s employer was. Nox recruits Marl as a bodyguard for 75gp a day, plus expenses. Marl also reveals that they took a cart up from the city, which Wirt thankfully hasn’t absconded with. Nox grimly recovers the chain barding from his late horse. Packing it and the loot up in the cart, they head south, with Nox now wearing his plate mail.
The Scorpion’s Kiss
Meanwhile, a few hours north, Egan wildshapes into a bird to investigate the horn blowing, while the rest of the party scrambles into their gear. Approaching the town of Harse, the gnome druid can hear the temple bells ringing a warning. A great black ship has sailed up the Falcon River, flying the baleful flag of the Bekyar Nation.
As Bird-Egan watches, raiders leap over the sides of the ship and run across the water into the town, twirling nets and bolas over their heads. A hulking brute of a man directs the raiders from the ship, while a woman with the air of a priestess surveys the scene from the quarterdeck towards the stern. Surrounding the woman on all sides are eight dead-eyed children shackled ti her waist.
Egan relays this information back to the Crimson Blades, who decide to approach by air and attack the ship directly. Egan wildshapes into a roc and carries Arlynn and Ashla, while Zandu casts fly on himself, an invisible Kyra perched on his shoulders. Irabeth, Laori and Remmy are dispatched into Harse itself to defend the townsfolk.
As they approach the ship, the party spies some dark shapes lurking in the rigging in the shadow of the black sails. Based on her knowledge of Bekyar tactics, Arlynn also judges this to be a very brazen raid. Not only are they striking in the heart of Korvosan territory, but they also appear to be personally directed by the Whip Hand herself, the woman on the quarterdeck.
Zandu dives down first, passing an alchemist’s fire to Kyra, who tosses it at the rigging, igniting the sails and tar-covered ropes. This provokes the creatures in the rigging to launch themselves into the sky. They are lanky fiends with mouths full of teeth and great bat-like wings. The monsters fan out to either side of the ship and start circling towards Roc-Egan.
The druid swoops straight for the ship, depositing Arlynn and Ashla on the main deck. The hulking Bekyar captain jabs a finger at Roc-Egan.
“Bring down that bird!” he commands his men.
A Bekyar at the forecastle wheels around a ballista to fire a harpoon at the giant fowl. But the shot goes wide and Roc-Egan successfully avoids getting caught up in the harpoon’s chain.
Death on Deck
The Bekyar captain hacks at Arlynn, but the paladin replies by lopping off his head. Undeterred, harpoon-wielding Bekyar crewmen close in around her. Ashla, meanwhile, charges up onto the quarter deck to confront the Whip Hand. Afraid that the Bekyar woman might harm the child captives, the ranger grabs hold of her in a grapple.
Kyra takes this opportunity to leap off Zandu’s back onto the main deck. Scraps of burning sailcloth drift on the breeze as the hungry flames lick their way down the rigging towards the hull.
The two fiends floating over the river turn and point at Arlynn. Dealy bolts of necrotic energy lance from their clawed fingers and strike the paladin, leeching away her life force. Roc-Egan attacks one of the winged monsters while the other continues to throw death bolts at Arlynn as she fends off attacks from the slavers.
The Whip Hand threatens to kill the children by channeling negative energy, but her attempt is thwarted when a terrified fish leaps out of the river and hits her in the head. It is then followed by the even bigger fish pursuing it, which knocks the Whip Hand prone. Ashla urges the orphans to join her in finishing off the evil priestess.
Elsewhere, things are not looking so bright. Zandu tries to keep the other fiend busy by attacking it with his claws, but the creature successfully casts a spell that paralyzes the sorcerer, Kyra, and Arlynn. The Bekyar ballista, meanwhile, manages to successfully spear Roc-Egan with a harpoon, even as the druid finishes off the second fiend.
While most of the Bekyars rush to the quarter deck in a last ditch effort to save their leader, one pauses by the helpless paladin.
“You don’t want to do that,” Ashla warns.
The slaver rams his harpoon through Arlynn’s heart, killing her instantly. As her paralyzed body hits the burning deck, the slaver gives Ashla a mischievous shrug and then flees the ship. After the ranger cuts down a few of his companions, the surviving Bekyars likewise retreat, scrambling across the river into the forest beyond. The last remaining fiend also teleports away.
Raising the Black Flag
Egan is able to quench the shipboard fire and they tow it to the dock, where they meet up with their companions and the villagers. Irabeth is deeply distraught at the sight of Arlynn’s body, but Laori insists the problem can be swiftly fixed. They will have to wait until dusk to do so, however, so that the lingering necrotic effects of the fiend’s magic can fade.
The body is taken to the temple of Erastil in the center of town, where it is laid in state as Irabeth stands vigil until the appointed hour. When the time comes, Laori calls upon the power of Zon-Kuthon to restore the paladin to life
Egan and Zandu, meanwhile, work with some of the locals to repair the damage to the Scorpion’s Kiss, having hatched a plan to use the ship to gain entry to Korvosa. The sorcerer also teleports back to Kaer Maga to pick up several more hats of disguise to aid the party in their plot.
Knocking on Korvosa’s Gate
It takes two days of travel for Nox and Marl to reach Korvosa, with the nobleman still uncomfortably nursing nasty wounds from the fight. They arrive at the North Bridge gate, where Nox presents himself to the Gray Maidens as the new liaison from Cheliax.
The faceless soldiers quickly summon Magistrate Petronicus, who assures him that the queen is bringing matters under control and offers to provide an escort to protect him from rebel agents. He offers Nox the abandoned Chelaxian embassy as a residence.
Petronicus also suggests that Nox contribute a small amount of blood to aid with scrying efforts should he be abducted by rebels. Nox turns down the blood drive, and requests an escort from the Korvosan Guard. He also asks for an audience with the Queen within a week and expresses the Empress’ concern over the instability in the city.
The squad of Korvosan Guards that arrives to escort Nox appear bedraggled, poorly equipped, and despondent. Nox chats with their commander, a long-faced man named Corporal Bendis, who shares information about the state of the Guard and the city.
He learns that the Guard is in a poor state, with its diminished membership including a number of questionable elements. Nox requests a permanent detachment of the guard to secure the ambassador’s residence until he can obtain more assistance from Cheliax. Bendis promises to assign the right sort to guard the embassy.