While the others hold down the fort at the barbican, Zandu, Slim, Egan, and Kyra teleport back to Kaer Maga in order to sell loot and make purchases. They also dispatch a message to Arlynn’s sworn swords in Korvosa.
As the party prepares for another night in the barbican tower, Sial and Asyra retire to their bone house while Laori once again sticks with the Crimson Blades.
Readying for bed, Remmy unbuckles her armor, stripping down to a simple tunic and exposing the nasty scars that spiderweb across her face, arms and legs. This piques Laori’s interest and the elf maid sidles up to her.
“Where’d you get those cool scars?” Laori chirps.
Remmy gives her a blank stare and the priestess presses on. “I’ve been thinking about about getting some scars done—do you have anyone to recommend?”
Slim tries to derail the line of conversation, but Remmy interrupts him to reply “The scars were a lesson, to teach me my place and to punish me for disobedience.”
“What did you do to deserve this . . . punishment?” Slim asks.
“I abandoned my post,” she says. “After the Queen inspected us, all the Gray Maiden recruits were taken below the castle to train. But after a while recruits started getting taken away and never returned. I thought that was fishy, so I tried to slip away to report to Cressida or Sabina. It was a mistake and I paid the price for it.”
Oblivious to the awkwardness, Laori gets right up in Remmy’s face, peering at the scarification. “Ooh, that looks like erinyes’ handiwork—we don’t get a lot of that in Nidal.”
“What’s an erinyes?” Egan asks.
“Um,” Arlynn starts to reply, but Laori cheerily cuts her off,
“Fallen angels lured down into the Nine Hells,” she says. “They become really angry devil ladies.”
Laori reaches for the Gray Maiden’s eyepatch, but Remmy swats her hand away.
“The Six Sisters did this to me,” Remmy says, gingerly touching a scarred cheek with her own hand. “They were in charge the final training and discipline of the Maidens. But they were just women, I swear.”
“Nuh-uh,” Laori shakes her head.
“Remmy,” Ashla asks, “did the Six Sisters do the same thing to Sabina that they did to you?”
“No, they never touched Sabina,” Remmy says, gazing into the distance. “She got her scars some other way . . .”
“Why not?” the ranger persists. “Isn’t it unfair for the Gray Maiden commander not to undergo the same experience as her troops?”
“Sabina has the same scars and the same loyalty we all do,” Remmy says, starting to get worked up. “She visited me when I was recovering from my punishment, asked how I was doing, asked me what had happened, and made sure I was treated well. She cares for all of us, for the city, and for the Queen!”
“Okay, I think that’s enough questions for one night,” Slim says, stepping between Remmy and the others. “We should all get some rest, got another big day tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Remmy says. She brushes past him to crawl into her bedroll, while Laori looks around quizzically for a moment.
The next morning, the elf priestess breaks out another meal for the party, unveiling a platter of biscuit rolls with sausages stuck in them.
“Who’s up for some kids-in-a-blanket?” she grins.
“What in Iomedae’s name are kids-in-a-blanket?” Arlynn asks, fixing Laori with a stern look.
“Oh, it’s an old Nidalese recipe,” she explains, passing out the treats. “You wrap a bit of biscuit dough around a little sausage—like a blanket, right?”
The adventurers take the rolls uncertainly, turning them over in their hands as if checking for traps.
“What. Kind. Of. Sausage?” Arlynn asks.
“Pork,” Laori says. “And some sweet spices. It’s better served fresh from the oven, but it should still be good.”
“D’finitely pork,” Irabeth agrees, licking her fingers.
Laori makes sure Remmy has an extra helping of the sausage biscuits, but otherwise keeps her distance from the Gray Maiden, who eats in silence.
After the meal, the party regroups outside the barbican tower to meet up with Shadowcount Sial and Asyra. Arlynn suggests that they split up to investigate the castle more quickly. The count and his chain devil would explore the upstairs while the Crimson Blades and Laori would investigate the ground floor.
“A simple strategy, but it could get this task concluded more swiftly,” Sial grudgingly agrees. He nods at Laori. “Do call out if you get in over your head, Disciple Vaus.”
“Oh I will, Si,” she smiles back at him. “After all, your head’s big enough for the both of us.”
The Death Chamber
The Crimson Blades press past the Scarwall gatehouse and through the double doors, where they are greeted by a stomach-churning scene. Bodies lie everywhere, orc and human alike. Many corpses are riddled with arrows and crossbow bolts, and a few appear to have perished while locked in mortal combat and still clutch at weapons embedded in various parts of each others’ anatomy.
A particularly large mound of bodies lies in the northwest corner, a heap of carcasses in a tangle of limbs. Strangely, while the room reeks of death, the bloodstains on the walls and floor seem incredibly ancient.
Arlynn wades forward into the room, while the rest of the party lingers near the door. Her investigation causes the heap of corpses in the corner to stir to life, skittering forward on dozens of arms and legs. As it draws close, the paladin can see that the bodies within it appear to have fused together into a single tangled mass.
“Welcome home, my wayward children,” the creature calls out from multiple mouths as it approaches, multiple arms outstretched. As it draws near the party, the mass of bodies lets out a piercing shriek that slams into the adventurers win intense pain. Egan recognizes that the horror is a living abomination of some kind, immune to the party’s anti-undead effects and weapons.
Arlynn, Irabeth, Remmy and Laori close in to strike the creature, but it lunges forward, seizing the elf maiden in its grasp followed by the other three women one by one. Even so, they manage to hack at it until Zandu is able to finish the creature off with a lightning bolt. The steaming corpses twitch with leftover energy while a strange black ooze leaks out of their mouths onto the stone floor.
Laori gives the mound of flesh an angry kick. “That’s for pulling on my ears, you grabby creep!” She turns back to the group, frantically rubbing her fingers along the tapered points of her ears. “I hate it when people touch them without permission.”
“I hate it when people grab at my legs,” Arlynn says, polishing her greaves where the corpse pile left a grimy hand print.
“There’s a right way and a wrong way to hug a person,” Laori nods. She gives the corpse pile another kick. “You do it wrong, you end up dead.”
Slim and Ashla gingerly search the bodies in the room, finding little of value but discovering a corpse wearing the signet ring of House Arden of Lastwall, who they conclude was the kidnapping victim.
Continuing their exploration, the adventurers press forward into another hall, this one scattered with bones, many still grasping ruined weapons and wearing tarnished scraps of armor.
Arlynn, leading the way, hears the faint sound of clashing swords and battle cries echoing through the room. She recognizes the sound as the telltale sign of a haunt and cleanses the chamber with a blast of positive energy. While the other Crimson Blades gather around the two doors at the back of the room, Arlynn and Laori investigate a skeleton slumped in the corner—the only one still wearing a full suit of armor.
Their approach stirs awake a wrathful spirit swirls up from the bones to take the shape of a huge, shadowy warrior in armor with glowing red eyes. The wraith fixes its gaze on Arlynn and declares “Serithtial is mine! You shall not have her!”
Arlynn tries to reason with the spirit, saying that the party has been sent by Iomedae to recover the sacred weapon for a just cause and put and end to the curse of Scarwall. But this only enrages the wraith even more. The armored figure steps backwards, into the stone wall, and then lashes a shadowy arm out at Arlynn.
Egan uses shape stone to peel open the wall and expose the wraith, but inadvertently attracts the attention of five minotaur skeletons in the hallway. As the skeletons converge on the intruders, the wraith sinks into the floor. Moments later, its incorporeal hands claw out of the floor, grasping at Arlynn’s legs.
While the paladin focuses on striking back against the wraith, an invisible Slim tumbles out into the corridor beside the minotaurs.
“Watch out, Slim!” Laori calls out in his general direction. “Oh, who am I kidding, you’ll be fine.”
The elven cleric calls down a flamestrike on the corridor, destroying three of the skeletons while Slim deftly avoids the pyre. The shadow dancer finishes off a fourth skeleton, while Zandu knocks out the last one with a maximized lightning bolt.
Arlynn patiently waits for the wraith’s hands to lash up out of the floor again. This time, she dances out of the way and lops one off at the wrist as it emerges. The wraith unravels, pouring out of its wounded wrist like steam from a tea kettle.
“Keris did say I had to improve my foot work,” Arlynn jokes.
With the undead put to rest, Arlynn and Irabeth examine the armored skeleton, which is wearing a gleaming breastplate embossed with elaborate protect runes and the holy symbol of Iomedae.
“This must be Mandraivus,” the half-orc whispers.
“How so you know?” Arlynn asks.
“Who else would be wearing such sacred armor?” she replies.
Arlynn asks her to put on the slain hero’s celestial plate mail. Irabeth complies, but expresses doubts over the fact that he was corrupted.
“If even a champion as pious as Mandraivus could be twisted to evil, how can someone like me hope to follow in his footsteps and triumph?”
Slim and Ashla insist that Mandraivus’ corruption took centuries. Arlynn reassures her that she is as stalwart a servant of Iomedae as they come. The senior paladin pledges that they will conquer Scarwall will the Inheritor’s blessing.
A Hero’s Funeral
Using one of the smashed doors, the party carries the champion’s bones outside. Zandu, Slim, and Irabeth make a quick trip to Kaer Maga to sell items and purchase some supplies. The paladin in particular seeks out a ceremonial sword to return with.
Once the party has regrouped, they garb Mandraivus’ bones in ceremonial armor, place him atop Princess and carry his remains out to Zellara’s hiding place in a solemn procession. When they arrive, Egan uses wall of stone to build a small reliquary to Iomedae, marked with her sword and halo symbol, looking down upon the dark spires of Scarwall in the crater below.
Arlynn and Irabeth then inter Mandraivus within the tomb, bearing the gilded sword Irabeth acquired. The two of them then draw their swords and kneel before the tomb, reciting the Paladin Code of the Inheritor.
During the ritual, Laori whispers to Slim: “When does the ceremonial blood-letting begin?”
“I don’t think Iomedae does things that way,” he whispers back.
“She would,” the elf grumbles, sheathing her sacrificial dagger.
As the ritual concludes, the dark clouds that seem to perpetually swirl over Scarwall and its caldera abruptly part, sending golden rays of light across the waters of the lake and up onto the hillside, illuminating Mandraivus’ tomb for a brief moment before being subsumed again by the gray mass overhead.