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The PCs have been level five for a few sessions. Here are the stats.

BALIAN, CG Male Human ranger 5 (urban ranger)
Init +5; Senses Perception +9
AC 21, touch 14, flat-footed 18
hp 50 (5 HD)
Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +2
Speed 20 ft. (4 squares)
Melee masterwork greatsword (two handed) +10 ((two handed) 2d6+6/19-20)
Melee masterwork dagger +10 (1d4+4/19-20)
Ranged masterwork dagger (thrown) +9 (1d4+4/19-20)
Ranged masterwork longbow (composite/strength rating+4) +9 (1d8+4/x3)
Base Atk +4; CMB +8; CMD 22
Ranger Spells (CL 2nd):
1st (2/day) (DC 12) - lead blades, longstrider
Abilities Str 19, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 7, Wis 13, Cha 7
Special Qualities Favored Community Korvosa +2, Track +1, Trapfinding, Wild Empathy +1
Feats Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Endurance, Favored Defense, Following Step, Step Up
Skills Acrobatics +4, Acrobatics (Jump) 0, Climb +4, Disable Device +5, Heal +5, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (Geography) +2, Knowledge (Local) +6, Perception +9, Perform (Act) +3, Sense Motive +1, Sleight of Hand +4, Stealth +7, Survival +5, Survival (Follow or identify tracks) +7, Swim +4
Possessions masterwork greatsword; ring of protection +1; breastplate; amulet of natural armor +1; masterwork dagger; Masterwork Longbow (Composite/Strength Rating+4)
Favored Community Korvosa (Ex) You gain a +2 bonus on initiative checks and Knowledge (local), Perception, Stealth, and Survival skill checks. An urban ranger traveling through his favored community leaves no trail and cannot be tracked (although he may leave a trail if he so desires).
Favored Enemy (Human +4, Undead +2) (Ex) You gain a +4/+2 bonus on Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks when using these skills against humans/undead. Likewise, you get a +4/+2 bonus on weapon attack and damage rolls against such creatures.
Trapfinding (Ex) At 3rd level, an urban ranger can find and disable traps, as the rogue class feature of the same name.

Trained actor You trained as a child to be an actor. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Perform (act) and Perform (act) is always a class skill for you. You also gain a free skill point in Perform (act).
Child of the Streets You grew up on the streets of a large city, and as a result you have developed a knack for picking pockets and hiding small objects on your person. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Sleight of Hand checks, and Sleight of Hand is always a class skill for you.
Reactionary You were bullied often as a child, but never quite developed an offensive response. Instead, you became adept at anticipating sudden attacks and reacting to danger quickly. You gain a +2 trait bonus on Initiative checks.

Spyder, dog companion level 5, N Medium animal
Init +3; Senses low-light vision, scent; Perception +8
AC 19, touch 14, flat-footed 15 (+3 Dex, +5 natural, +1 Dodge)
hp 52 (5d8+20)
Fort +7, Ref +7 (evasion), Will +2, evasion
Speed 40 ft.
Melee bite +10 (1d6+4)
Str 18, Dex 16, Con 18, Int 3, Wis 12, Cha 6
Base Atk +5; CMB +9; CMD 22 (26 vs. trip)
Feats Dodge, Skill Focus (Perception), Weapon focus (bite)
Skills Acrobatics +7 (+15 jump), Perception +8, Survival +5 (+9 scent tracking), Swim +10

---

PUK, CG Male Halfling rogue 5 (swashbuckler)
Init +5; Senses Perception +8
AC 24, touch 18, flat-footed 18, uncanny dodge
hp 42 (5HD)
Fort +5, Ref +10 (evasion), Will +2, +1 morale bonus vs. fear, +2 racial bonus vs. fear
Speed 20 ft. (4 squares)
Melee main hand silver short sword +2 +10 (1d4+2/19-20) and masterwork short sword +9 (1d4/19-20)
Ranged shortbow (small) +9 (1d4/x3)
Ranged sling staff (halfling) (small) +9 (1d6/x3)
Base Atk +3; CMB +2; CMD 17
Atk Options Sneak Attack +3d6
Abilities Str 10, Dex 21, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Dodge, Martial Weapon Proficiency (Halfling Sling Staff), Nimble Moves, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (short sword)
Skills Acrobatics +15, Acrobatics (Jump) +11, Appraise +5, Bluff +6, Climb +7, Diplomacy +6, Disable Device +12, Disguise +5, Escape Artist +10, Intimidate +4, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +3, Knowledge (Local) +5, Linguistics +4, Perception +8, Perform (Percussion Instruments) +6, Ride +5, Sense Motive +4, Sleight of Hand +11, Stealth +15, Use Magic Device +4
Possessions small masterwork short sword; small silver short sword +2; studded leather +2 (small); Shortbow (Small); Halfling Sling Staff (Halfling); amulet of natural armor +1

Sneak Attack (Ex) If you can catch an opponent when he is unable to defend himself effectively from your attack, you can strike a vital spot for extra damage. Your attack deals 3d6 points of extra damage.

Fast-Talker You had a knack at getting yourself into trouble as a child, and as a result developed a silver tongue at an early age. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Bluff checks, and Bluff is always a class skill for you.
Personal Addiction You were the addict. You blame Gaedren for your brush with death and hate how his drugs are causing similar problems among other youths. Fortunately, your body recovers quickly from toxins, and you have a +1 bonus on Fortitude saving throws.

---

Quintilian, CG Male Human bard 5 (court bard)
Init +2; Senses Perception +7
AC 19, touch 12, flat-footed 17, Combat Expertise
hp 30 (4HD)
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +4, +4 vs. Bardic Performance, sonic, and language-dependent effects
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee short sword +1 of frost +6 (1d6+3+1d6/19-20)
Melee longsword +5 (1d8+2/19-20)
Melee masterwork whip +6 (1d3+2)
Melee sap +5 (1d6+2)
Ranged shortbow +5 (1d6/x3)
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 17
Known Bard Spells (CL 5th):
2nd (3/day) (DC 15) - cacophonous call, gallant inspiration, heroism
1st (5/day) (DC 14) - cure light wounds, innocence, memory lapse, sleep, timely inspiration, touch of gracelessness
0th (at will) (DC 13) - detect magic, ghost sound, light , lullaby, mage hand, message, open/close, prestidigitation, read magic
Abilities Str 14, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 17
Feats Combat Expertise, Improved Feint, Lingering Performance, Skill Focus (Perform Comedy)
Skills Acrobatics +9, Bluff +15, Climb +5, Diplomacy +13, Disguise +7, Escape Artist +5, Intimidate +14, Knowledge (Arcana) +6, Knowledge (Geography) +6, Knowledge (History) +8, Knowledge (Local) +12, Knowledge (Local/Art & music) +13, Knowledge (Nature) +6, Knowledge (Nobility) +8, Linguistics +9, Perception +7, Perform (Act) +8, Perform (Comedy) +13, Perform (Dance) +7, Perform (Oratory) +7, Perform (Sing) +7, Perform (String Instruments) +7, Sense Motive +7, Sleight of Hand +6, Spellcraft +6, Stealth +5, Use Magic Device +7
Possessions short sword +1 of frost; chain shirt +1; masterwork buckler; longsword; masterwork whip; sap; wand (feather step); wand of cure light wounds; wand of mage armor; Shortbow; amulet of natural armor +1

Bardic Performance You can use this ability for 15 rounds per day.
Versatile Performance (Comedy) (Ex) You can use your bonus in the Perform (Comedy) skill in place of your bonus in the Bluff or Intimidate skills.
Countersong (Su) You can counter magic effects that depend on sound.
Distraction (Su) You can use your performance to counter magic effects that depend on sight.
Fascinate (Su) You can use your performance to cause up to 2 creatures to become fascinated with you (Will save DC 15).
Heraldic Expertise (Ex) A court bard gains a bonus equal to half his bard level on Diplomacy, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), and Knowledge (nobility) checks. 2/day, the court bard can also reroll a check against one of these skills, though he must take the result of the second roll even if it is worse.
Satire (Su) A court bard can use performance to undermine the confidence of enemies who hear it, causing them to take a -1 penalty on attack and damage rolls (minimum 1) and a -1 penalty on saves against fear and charm effects as long as the bard continues performing. This penalty increases by -1 at 5th level and every six levels thereafter. Satire is a language-dependent, mind-affecting ability that uses audible components. This performance replaces inspire courage.
Mockery (Su) A court bard of 3rd level or higher can subtly ridicule and defame a specific individual. The bard selects one target who can hear his performance. That individual takes a -2 penalty on Charisma checks and Charisma-related skill checks as long as the bard continues performing.

Trained actor You trained as a child to be an actor. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Perform (act) and Perform (act) is always a class skill for you. You also gain a free skill point in Perform (act).
Fast-Talker You had a knack at getting yourself into trouble as a child, and as a result developed a silver tongue at an early age. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Bluff checks, and Bluff is always a class skill for you.
Child of the Street You grew up on the streets of Korvosa, and as a result you have developed a knack for picking pockets and hiding small objects on your person. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Sleight of Hand checks, and SoH is always a class skill for you. You also gain a free skill point in SoH.

---

SHAOBAN (SJO), LN Male Human oracle 5
Init +0; Senses Darkvision (60 ft.), Perception +2, Clouded Vision
AC 23, touch 11, flat-footed 23
hp 37 (5HD)
Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +7
Speed 20 ft. (4 squares)
Melee cold iron mace +2 (heavy) +8 (1d8+4)
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 16
Known Oracle Spells (CL 5th):
2nd (5/day) (DC 16) - cure moderate wounds, hold person, resist energy, restoration
1st (7/day) (DC 15) - burning hands, comprehend languages, cure light wounds, magic weapon, protection from chaos, remove fear, shield of faith,
0th (at will) (DC 14) - create water, detect magic, purify food and drink, read magic, spark, stabilize
Abilities Str 14, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 19
Feats Armor Proficiency, Heavy, Combat Casting, Lightning Reflexes, Weapon Focus (Heavy Mace)
Skills Bluff +8, Diplomacy +13, Heal +7, Intimidate +11, Knowledge (Local) +0, Knowledge (Religion) +7, Perform (Act) +9, Sense Motive +9, Sleight of Hand -1
Possessions cold iron mace +2 (heavy); ring of protection +1; full plate +1; buckler; amulet of natural armor +1, cloak of resistance +1

Clouded Vision Your eyes are obscured, making it difficult for you to see.
Flame Mysteries You draw upon the divine mystery of Flame to grant your spells and powers.
Touch of Flame (Su) As a standard action, you can perform a melee touch attack that deals 1d6 points of fire damage + 1 per two oracle levels (1d6+2). Alternatively you can use this power to ignite your weapon as a free action, adding the same amount of fire damage to each of your weapon attacks during that round. You can use this ability a number of times or rounds per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier (7).
At 11th level, any weapon that you wield is treated as a flaming weapon, adding 1d6 points of fire damage + 1 per two oracle levels.
Molten Skin (Ex) You gain resist fire 5

Trained actor You trained as a child to be an actor. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Perform (act) and Perform (act) is always a class skill for you. You also gain a free skill point in Perform (act).
Child of the Streets You grew up on the streets of a large city, and as a result you have developed a knack for picking pockets and hiding small objects on your person. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Sleight of Hand checks, and Sleight of Hand is always a class skill for you.
Ease of Faith Your mentor, the person who invested your faith in you from an early age, took steps to ensure that you understood that what powers your divine magic is no different than that which powers the magic of other religions. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Diplomacy checks, and Diplomacy is always a class skill for you.


When the companions get back to Citadel Volshyenek the Chelish guests have already arrived. They are in Kroft's office, so the heroes have to wait in the courtyard, where more and more soldiers are arriving. The Field Marshal has apparently ordered all troops to gather here for a big announcement. Some Gray Maidens are there as well and stand guard at the doors of the main building. When Quint asks them something, he can tell from their Chelish accent that these must be some of the Maidens who came from the old country, Cheliax. Grau Soldado joins his friends in the crowd and tells them that his niece Brienna had a bad night again. He doesn't know anything about these doctors, but he suspects that their magical healing capacities - if any - will be limited, so they will mostly have to rely on mundane healing skills. Not all civilians are as lucky as his niece, who can also benefit from Sjo's magic to keep her strength up. The look in Grau's eyes expresses a gratitude that words could never encompass.

It takes over an hour before Cressida Kroft finally steps out. At her side is a middle-aged gentleman in a simple black overcoat with streaks of white gracing the sides of his short dark hair. He has a soft, concerned look in his eyes and tightly grasps a heavy doctor's case. They are followed by a more ominous looking group: men wearing cowled robes of oily-looking leather, supple gloves and wide, black hats. Their faces hide behind dark-goggled masks tapering to a pointed beak. Kroft climbs a weathered wooden platform and orders her troops to silence. She introduces the man at her side as Doctor Dave Saulus, the leader of the queen's physicians. The guards will have to escort these doctors in their royal duties, wherever they may take them. They will go into the city to help the sick, but if they want to get a grip on this disease, people will have to cooperate and do what the doctors order them to do!

Then Kroft's tone grows grimmer: "There is something else ... you are to consider orders from any of the queen's Gray Maidens to be as binding as any superior officer in the Korvosan Guard." A murmur of protest rises up from the dozens of red-and-gold-armored guards in the courtyard, but Kroft commands them to be quiet. "You are guardsmen of Korvosa, you have a duty to the citizens of this great city. These are dire times and our people need you and they certainly need these healers. You will do as commanded! Now, all patrol leaders to me for your assignments!" Quint makes his way through the soldiers and approaches Doctor Saulus. He offers is assistance in escorting the doctor himself, but the kind man replies that his job consists of coordinating his physicians work, so we won't be needing a personal escort. He does thank Quint for his kind offer, though, and tells him that he might call on him if the need arises.

When the patrol leaders have been given their orders, they take their men and leave the citadel with two of the new doctors in tow. The companions also depart, heading to Trail's End to see Grau's niece Brienna. As they travel through the streets of East Shore, a gaunt man with only one eye preaches to them that this plague is the wrath of Urgathoa, the goddess of disease, who is displeased that she has not been given her own spot in the Pantheon of the Many, Korvosa's temple to seventeen different gods, spread out over seventeen small shrines in a huge building in South Point. The Pallid Princess is not among these seventeen, which obviously vexes her. The old man claims that Urgathoa will not stop until every house has lost someone to the plague! The companions ignore the mad man's rambling and focus on aiding sick little Brienna instead. Her mother has already informed two of her former employers that she will be leaving, there is one more person to go before she is free to work at the companions' villa instead. Of course, that will have to wait until her daughter gets better, Tayce says. Sjo and Balian take their time to give the girl the necessary care. When they are finally done, they want to drop by Meep Gildenglare, the wererat seamstress, to see if she can offer any insight or help. On their way over there they notice new posters all over town:

"By Decree of Her Royal Majesty, the Radiant Queen Ileosa I, all citizens and members of the Korvosan Guard are to aid and admit the newly established Queen’s Physicians in this time of urgency. These royal agents will extend healing to the sick and organize defense against the spreading affliction. They are to be allowed access to any home or building they deem necessary in the course of their duties. All those suffering from disease or disorder are to submit themselves to the Physicians for treatment. To aid in the duties of the Queen’s Physicians, know that the order of the Gray Maidens has been established to provide military support as needed. The Maidens answer directly to the Crimson Throne, and will be called upon as necessary to augment and strengthen the peace where simple city guards will not suffice. Impeding or distracting the duties of the Queen’s Physicians or the Gray Maidens is punishable by imprisonment. Impersonating one of the Queen’s Physicians is punishable by death. Knowingly harboring or hiding the infected is punishable by death. Purposefully spreading the plague is punishable by torture, then death. The Queen’s Physicians will be making rounds of every city district henceforth until Her Majesty deems this misfortune abated."

Meep's Gilded Needle is a cute little shop along Burnt Bridge Boulevard. Meep is still the same kind old lady the companions met five years ago, though she doesn't immediately recognize her visitors. Quint reminds her of the play and refers to her 'power' over the rats. He wonders if she would be able to talk to the animals to find out more. She claims to be very worried about the rats dying recently, as she has four tame rats running around her shop whom she loves very much. She fears for their safety and has decided to keep them indoors for the time being. She confirms that she can exert some influence over them and their kin, but the rodents only possess animal intelligence, so they cannot speak, not even in a secret rat language, Meep smiles. "I can only get them to understand some basic, commands", she continues, "pretty much like you can with your dog. I fear that my aid in fighting this plague will be limited to laying low and hoping that the disease skips my door. I'm sorry I cannot be of more help."


26 Sarenith 4708

Mouse has a good night and is doing a bit better the next morning. The companions decide to go to the temple of Sarenrae to buy a new wand of cure light wounds. On the way over there they come across an old man in rags who is hanging from a pole. His hands have been tied together above his head and his back is badly scarred from a whipping. The wounds suggest that the lashes were delivered last night. A woman in the streets says that his name is Lombard. He sweeps the streets and makes some extra money selling rats for food to the poor. He was punished by a mob of citizens yesterday for trying to sell diseased rats. The companions cut him loose, heal him a bit and send him on his way, warning him not to pull his stupid stunts again. The seriousness of the plague also becomes clear when a mourning family carries out a heavy body bag and lays it down in front of their house. The city's body carters will be transporting more than just dead rats today.

Ezekiel Sollux, the highpriest of the temple of Sarenrae, is glad to see Sjo. He informs his former acolyte that the situation is very bad. The temple has already been converted to an improvised hospital, but the scale of the disease is making it impossible to care for all the sick. He sends out his priests to make as many house calls as possible, transporting only the worst cases to the church. There is some magic available, but that is quickly spent, so the priests have to rely on their mundane training in the arts of healing instead. Sollux asks Sjo to help out a bit and the Shoanti agrees immediately, as does Balian.

Meanwhile Quint and Puk pay Cressida Kroft a visit. The Field Marshal gets a full report of what transpired in the Carowyn Manor last night. Quint also reveals that they were warned of danger by the Vudran rabble-rouser Selena. She claimed that the queen is responsible for whatever evil was planned at the party. Kroft can only conclude that this Vudran lady has to be brought in as soon as possible. If she was not responsible for planting the shadow at the party herself, she must at least have more information on who did. Kroft also feels unhappy about the manipulative ways of the dark-skinned woman, whatever her schemes are, they always lead to trouble, so she must be stopped. The Field Marshal also has some news. The queen has summoned doctors from Cheliax to help fight the plague. They will arrive here today through teleportation and Kroft will have to employ her troops to assist these healers as they go into the city. She actually expects them to arrive any moment.

Sjo quickly swings by the temple of Shelyn to see his girlfriend, priestess Larella Semyr, but he only finds closed doors. He meets up with his friends and as they head back to the Citadel to see the queen's new doctors for themselves, he ponders on the time when he, Balian and Quint participated in the Pied Piper play while they were still kids. He explains to Puk that they performed the play with real rats on stage. An old woman was hiding underneath the boards, controlling the rodents. Although they were forbidden from doing so, the boys sneaked a peek at the lady while the play was in full swing. That is when they saw her for what she really was, a wererat! Alan, the kind leader of the Varisian theater troupe, told them afterwards that the lady could indeed transform into a rat, but that she was 'one of the good ones' who could do that. Meep Gildenglare still lives in the city; she owns a seamstress shop called The Gilded Needle in North Point on Burnt Bridge Boulevard. Maybe she can shed some light on the rats and their disease.


Panic slips through the crowd in the great hall of the Carowyn Manor. The dark creature that has just crawled from the chimney looms before Sjo and Quint, who realize that almost all of the invitees to this party have been gathered in this one room. The ease with which this lightless threat took down its first victim could very well be the preface to a bloodbath. Fortunately the creature's own tactics prove helpful in getting the noble guests to safety. Weaving its inky magic the shadow blasts out an aura of fear that strikes terror in the hearts of half the people in the room. Overcome by mortal dread Balian makes for the front door and pushes it open, freeing the way for the other guests to flee the scene, even those who have not been affected by the creature's fearful magic. Sjo is also among the unfortunates who are panicked initially, but he recovers even before he makes it out into the streets. Quint, Puk, Xerxes Jeggare and Christina Leroung are the only ones who stand their ground. Quint engages the shadow, taking on a defensive stance, while Christina shouts out that this enemy is extremely hard to hit: you need magic weapons made of cold iron or force magic to hurt it, and even then its incorporeal state and many protection will be an obstacle. She immediately proves her point by sending two magic missiles at the creature that do not penetrate its magic resistance. Puk's first swing also gets lost in thin air.

The shadow rewards three of his four remaining adversaries for their bravery by engulfing them in an explosion of green and yellow flames. Not recognizing the magic for what it really is, an illusionary shadow version of a fireball, they are hit to the spell's full effect. Puk relies on his roguish adeptness at avoiding similar magical explosions and evades to lick of the burning tongues altogether, but Quint and Christina are not so lucky and get seriously burnt. Although he is badly damaged, the bard is still on his feet. The fierce daughter of House Leroung does not have enough vitality to survive the blast though and goes down in a smoking heap. Xerxes, who was in the other corner of the room, did not get caught in the burst of yellow and green fire. His mundane rapier will be of no good against this foe, so he rushes to Christina's side to make sure she is still alive. Another ally appears at the top of the stairs, Perishial Kalissreavil, the elven ambassador. He also recognizes this creature for what it is and throws his dagger to the ground: "Take it, it is made of cold iron", he shouts as he fires two magic missiles from his fingers as well. This time the force arrows penetrate the creature's defenses, delivering some real damage at last. While Quint retreats to administer some much needed healing to his own wounds, Sjo turns around and charges the shadow, using his new dwarven mace. The cold iron from which it was forged proves its worth as the Shoanti tears away some of the threatening shady curls. Puk picks up the elf's dagger, but his feeble swing hardly hurts the opponent.

With Balian running wild in the street and Puk being able to only inflict the tiniest amounts of damage, Sjo is the only one who stands some chance at beating back this shadow. His full plate armor provides no protection whatsoever against the incorporeal claws of his enemy, making him an easy target. The creature tears at the Shoanti as if he were naked. Puk finds that his nimbleness provides more protection, but is hit nonetheless and suffers the sting of the cold tendrils. Perishial throws a healing potion down Christina's throat, saving her from death's embrace and pushes the girl into Xerxes' arms, who carries her outside. Quint rejoins the fight and bolsters Puk's fighting prowess with heroism, while the halfling finally manages to slip into a flanking position. His hopes of delivering some serious damage now with his sneak attack prove futile as he finds no weak spot to hit. So he continues picking away at the shade's life force one smoky sliver at a time. Sjo fares better, even though half of each smash is also lost to the air and his blows are answers by smoky claws that totally ignore his mighty plate. At this rate he will never outlast his opponent, so Quint helps out by healing his friend, more or less keeping pace with the damage that is being delivered.

Perishial casts his last two magic missiles and shouts he is out, stepping into the next room. A moment later Christina Leroung reappears in the front door. She still looks very weak - she was probably just nursed back to consciousness with some potions - but her sorcerer powers allow her to throw more magic force missiles at the shadow. Despite the small amounts of damage that everyone is inflicting, the combined efforts of the defenders are slowly wearing down the dark outsider. Somewhere out in the street, already a block away from the manor, Balian snaps out of his panic and stops fleeing. He glares up at the moon, deciding he doesn't like it so much - don't ask - and would rather still be in the great hall fighting the mysterious attacker. He only hopes his friends will still be alive by the time he makes it back to the house.

With Quint's healing now balancing out the shadow's strokes, Sjo, Puk and Christina gain the upper hand. The Leroung sorceress blasts two more magic missiles into the swirl of black coils and Sjo calls out to Sarenrae, begging the sun goddess to aid him in defeating the darkness. He hits the shadow twice in rapid succession, ripping the final shred of shade apart.

What happens afterwards is a bit of a blur to the Shoanti. His head is still light from the rush of the fight and the drinks that Puk and Quint pour their friends to recover from the excitement. He notices that Cedrik Carowyn returns with a patrol of Korvosan Guards in his wake. Fortunately Xerxes offers to talk to the captain, freeing the companions from the task of making a report. Puk also discovers some kind of rune on the inside of the chimney breast. Whatever this thing was, it was summoned by powerful magic through this magic mark. Since the party is obviously over, the companions head back home again for a good night of sleep.


Instead of killing a well-liked NPC off, you should offer the PCs the chance to save him, e.g. he gets sick with the plague but the characters make sure he gets cured.


Knick wrote:
That was pretty short compared to most of my posts...

Lol, true, but it's always a pleasure to pick your mind for ideas.


Knick wrote:

Option 2: Ileosa decides to hedge her bets.

In this scenario, Ileosa isn't completely sure her Grey Maidens are ready to handle a group like the PCs. At least, not able to handle it quietly. Ultimately, it doesn't matter to Ileosa what the PCs think, so much as what the city at large thinks. She informs Davaulus of his incompetence, and demands to know what the Red Mantis are going to do about it. She isn't paying them a king's ransom to bungle the plan and ruin her reputation. She pulls the Grey Maidens out of the Hospice, if only to minimize her apparent involvement. She lets the doctor know that she will throw him under the donkey cart if this scheme goes public--so don't let it go public.

Now, Davaulus didn't get to where he is today by being timid. The man has a fair amount of confidence in his own abilities and the backing of the Red Mantis. I would treat the whole temple as on alert, really making the PCs earn it. Add some more physicians to make up for the Grey Maidens, or maybe just some mercenary thugs with surprisingly similar stats...

In this way, you can basically run the adventure as written, with a simple "I was wondering when you would show up" line added to a Davaulus or Rolth or Andaisin monologue.

If Davaulus succeeds and the PCs are defeated, Ileosa can continue as normal. If the PCs succeed, she has no direct involvement and can pin it all on the doctor. Rolth is also a nice target here. The two times I ran this AP I played Rolth up as a little unhinged, and in his own mind he thought the plague plot was all his anyway. I conveyed this to the PCs by having him scream to the clerics to stop the group from ruining his work. It ultimately didn't stop either party from determining that the Queen was behind it all, but it was a noble effort and I'll try it again if I am ever so lucky to run it for a third group. Also, do yourself a favor and let Rolth get away--he can be a lot of fun.

Anyway, in this case Ileosa makes sure that she can't lose either way the PCs' investigation turns out. Having hired the plaguemaker is a black mark on her decision making, but not nearly as bad as being the person who had the plague created to cull the city of offensive poor people. Obviously, whichever bureaucrat that is resisting the new order most will be executed for passing along the Davaulus recommendation, since he/she was obviously in league with the doctor. Maybe you can throw the PCs off the Queen's scent with this, maybe you can't. Honestly, you need the Queen-as-enemy to be revealed soon anyway, if only to drive the PCs out of the city at the end of Book 3.

I like Knick's second option the best. This way Ileosa has total deniability, no matter how things turn out. Either result is okay by her: if the PCs lose, she got rid of those nosy adventurers, if the PCs win, she tied up a loose end (the doctors).

I do understand the problem with the sunken ship, though. I'm at the start of the second book as well and I dropped the news about the ship. My players have been curious about the vessel as well and I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to go to the shipwreck before I planned for them to do so. Still, that won't pose too much of a problem. All the encounters for this adventure fall into two categories: the ones related to fighting the disease and its consequences on the city, and the ones fighting the bad guys. In my preparation the disease-fighting scenes come first, the fight against the bad guys come second. But if the bad guys get tackled first, there still is the need to cope with the disease and its influence if the PCs want to save Korvosa's civilians.

I have made the information on the ship indirect, though. It does not implicate the doctor, but rather points to an abandoned villa where the PCs can find more info on 'Davaulus' (his name is Doctor Dave Saulus in my campaign, because Davaulus is too much of a give-away) and his evil schemes. The villa is a reworked version of Misgivings, Foxglove Manor, from Rise of the Runelords # 2. I'll be including the Graul homestead from # 3 as well on the way over there. Later on I want to make the PCs more instrumental in making the cure as well. Since none of the PCs have alchemy as a skill, they will need to enlist an outsider's help in producing the cure, but the information they bring in from the 'bad guys' will be very important in speeding up that process. The PCs will further aid the production of the cure by looking for an ingredient needed to copy the medicine quickly. This quest will be an adapation of The Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale, where a special mushroom grows.


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Kyiera wrote:

I am brand new to DMing and still learning how to wing it when my players go off "script". They went to the Direption and discovered the papers in Davaulus' name. Last game, they very nearly went to the guards at the castle in an attempt to tell the Queen what they'd learned. They got sidetracked, but may still try to approach her.

Has anyone else run into this? Thoughts on what happens if they tell the castle guards that they suspect the Queen's Physicians are actually helping to spread the plague? Although I think it would be a very interesting development, it seems a little daunting for me right now to head in the direction of them being imprisoned or tried for treason or something of that sort. Is it logical to think the castle guards even know what's going on? Or that they would pass a message onto the queen herself (or someone higher up)? Any suggestions?

The queen is a major manipulator. If my PCs were to approach her with this news, I'd have her tell them that she is glad they told her, but she doesn't know who she can trust anymore. Some of the guards have turned out to be unreliable (think of Vancaskerin and his buddies, or other guards who have deserted), now the physicians are traitors and her Grey Maidens are - let's face it - still inexperienced. So she asks the PCs - the only ones she can trust - to look into the problem. Of course she can give the traitorous doctors and cultists the heads-up, so they are expecting the PCs ... In this case I would remove the Grey Maidens from the hospital, but you can put extra mercenaries (or even red mantis assassins) in their place.


The Carowyn home is a stately manor along Shoreline Way, just a street away from the companions' own villa. It serves as the in-town house of Ausio and Olauren Carowyn, a small noble family with lots of land outside the city, where lord Carowyn prefers to spend most of his days. His son, Cedrik, however, is more inclined to stay in the city, officially to look over his family's interests, but his main reasons are of a personal nature. Like most young men he enjoys the excitement of city-life. Since his family's city estate is actually built for entertaining, Cedrik takes full advantage of that by regularly throwing parties for his peers as a way to raise his house's standing among the older noble families. When the companions arrive at his Bloodsworn mahogany front door, he welcomes them with open arms. Had he known that the heroes of the city were interested in coming to his masquerade party, he would have invited them himself, he claims. He shows his guest into the great hall, where Ruan Mirukova from the Marble Dome's orchestra is playing some music and his sister Deyanira is dancing. A scantily-clad woman serves the newcomers a drink, as they politely say hello to the visitors in this room. Valdur Bromathan V makes for a far less impressive barbarian in his Shoanti outfit than Balian in his rattlebone armor, while Derrik Jeggare, lord Mercival's son, is dressed as a lion and Alice Fordyce makes for a fearsome pirate. The cutest person in this hall is doe-eyed shepherdess Siri Leroung.

In the front sitting room the companions reconnect with Aaron Endrin, the eldest son of Marcus Endrin, the commander of the Sable Company. Aaron has started his training to become a Sable marine himself, after serving his father as a squire for many years. This role is now being observed by his smaller brother, Jonas, who is here as well. Quint remembers seeing Aaron with Marguerite Jeggare at the grand feast in her family's museum three weeks ago, so he informs if Korvosa's most beautiful girl is here as well. Aaron tells him she won't be attending parties any time soon, as she has joined the queen's guard to serve as one of the Grey Maidens. Quint is quite surprised to hear that, but Aaron explains that he understands the call of military duty. Despite her beauty Marguerite is not an air-headed puppet, but a self-confident and principled young lady who is allowed to make her own choices in life. Christina Leroung disapproves of Marguerite's "dumb" decision. She can understand Aaron's ambition to join the Sable Company, as he was born to become their next commander, but she cannot get why someone from a noble family would chose to play the part of an anonymous soldier, certainly not if she has Marguerite's looks. That girl can get any man she wants, so why she prefers to waste her time chasing windmills is beyond Christina. While the conversation is on the topic of the Grey Maidens, Quint also asks Aaron if he knows where all those new soldiers suddenly came from. Aaron confirms that one ship was registered coming from Cheliax with over a hundred Maiden recruits. Neither the Leroungs nor the Endrins have any sick family members at the moment, although they do realize the threat: diseases do not stop at a nobleman's door.

In the dining hall the companions come across even more guests. Verana Ornelos is trying her best to hide her average features by dressing up as a hot succubus, succeeding only partially at the job. Her younger sister Julia possesses a lot more natural grace and looks stunning as a fairy princess. The cute little noble lacks her family's knack for magic, however, so she will be one of the few Ornelos children not pursuing a career in spell-weaving. Her sister Verana, on the other hand, will shortly start her Acadamae education. Belinda Zenderholm takes some time to get to know the companions better. She has heard many good things about them from her mother, high judge Zenobia. She cautions Sjo not to encourage Amin Jalento to drink too much. He is rumored to have got really drunk at the Riverwind Festival three days ago, spoiling what is left of his reputation and his family's good name by whoring and drinking in Eel's End. He is already quite inebriated and shows no signs of slowing down. He wants to share a drink with the men who saved him from half a dozen hot-tempered dockworkers during the riots. He is also glad his father, the "respectable" captain, is not here to rebuke him some more, as he is prone to do, preferably in public. Another person in this room is Perishial Kalissreavil, the half-elven ambassador of the Mierani Elves. He totally lives up to his reputation of womanizer by flirting with Julia Ornelos. Before long he smooth talks her into following him upstairs.

The companions meet their closest friends among the city's nobles in the music room. Aisha Leroung, the star of the Saint Alika opera, makes for a sexy vampire tonight. She immediately clings to Quint's arm and wants to know what he's been up to. She has not started a new project herself yet, but she hopes the Marble Dome's director Touran Palastus comes up with something soon. Flamboyant Xerxes Jeggare has chosen to come as Blackjack and feels inspired to play some music with Sjo, Quint and Puk. He takes a seat behind the harpsichord and starts a little session that draws more guest to the back room. His sister Maud is as fine company as ever, joking and laughing in her pretty peacock dress. Sjo strikes up a conversation with Sara Bromathan, who is dressed up as a chaste version of Sarenrae. Like her father she envisions a career serving the sun goddess. She wonders about the source of Sjo's strange divine powers, as she knows from her father that Sjo served as an acolyte to Sarenrae for some time, but then dropped out. Sjo explains that his powers come to him naturally; he has a special talent for fire magic, which puzzles Sara even more. She thinks it might have been wiser to pursue the same path as Verana Ornelos and train as a wizard, but Sjo figures that his powers are more like those of the Shoanti shamans. (Although Sjo is officially an "oracle", that name does not really fit the bill, so if we call him anything at all, we prefer to use the term "shaman", which has absolutely nothing to do with the new shaman class.) The Cinderlands barbarians have several clans, one of which is called the sun-clan. Sjo suspects he is related to them.

Quint remembers why he and his friends came here, to secretly watch over the guests tonight, so he invites everyone back into the main hall, trying to get as many people together as possible. He cannot avoid that some invitees wander off into the dining room to get something at the bar, but with the open door between the two spaces, he can keep tabs on the people in there as well. While the pleasantries of the evening further unfold, the fire in the hearth suddenly flickers and dies out. The candles in the great chandelier follow one second later, plummeting the room in darkness and startling some of the girls. Sjo, who was standing next to fireplace, has no trouble seeing in the dark. His vision might be limited, but it is also more powerful at short distance, allowing him the gift of darkvision. Realizing that he is probably the only one in the room who can see now, a slight grin slips over his face as he reaches for the wood in the hearth. He sends a touch of flame through his fingers to relight the firewood, but is surprised to see a shadowy creature crawling down from the chimney, just inches from his face. The sighs of surprise from the girls turn to screams of terror now. How could Sjo have missed that thing in the dark? Unless the shadow did not show up in his darkvision ... that must be it! With the fire still licking his fingers, Sjo makes for the creature, but the flames do not seem to hurt it. With his other hand the Shoanti pushes back Sara Bromathan, trying to move her out of harm's way. As the fire on his hand dies out again, the room sinks back into darkness and the creature disappears in the black once more. Balian draws his blade and Puk unsheathes his silver blade, both of them standing ready to react. Then Quint casts a light spell on one of his devil's horns. Although the brightness of his light seems to suffer from the presence of the shadow, it does reveal that the creature has already flown out of the fireplace and wrapped its dark tendrils around the servant girl. The frozen look of death stares from her eyes, as she slips to the floor.


25 Sarenith 4708

That morning Korwick and Heldrin inform Sjo that their friend Mouse is running a fever. The Shoanti examines the boy and finds him ill with the first symptoms of the mysterious disease that is plaguing Korvosa. He gives the lad proper treatment and orders him to stay in bed. After that he and Balian make their way to Trail's End to take care of little Brienna. Body carters are at work in the streets to clean up the dead rats and a woman almost empties her chamber pot on Balian's head, but the ranger's quick reflexes save him from a smelly shower. There is a dead rodent in the filth as well.

At Brienna's house Sjo is happy to learn that the girl is doing better today, although she hasn't conquered the disease yet. While he is there he offers Brienna's mother Tayce a full-time job in the villa, promising to pay her half more than what she's making right now. When Brienna gets well, she can join her mother as well. Tayce happily accepts, but asks some time to inform her current employers that she will be making a career change.

Meanwhile Quint and Puk swing by the opera house to ask for a favour from Delindra, the old elven seamstress who looks over the Marble Dome's large collection of costumes. She immediately agrees to help her friends with their outfits for the party at the Carowyn residence. Puk wants to be a dwarf, Quint will go as a male erinyes devil, while Sjo will dress up as a Hellknight and Balian as a bone-themed Shoanti. The kind elven needleworker tells the companions to return in three hours for a first fitting.

Over lunch Quint muses about Amarice, their one time fellow lamb who joined the Grey Maidens. He is curious how she's doing, but is even more interested in finding out more about the Maidens themselves. The companions still know very little about this new military force, they don't even know where the armor-clad soldiers are staying. Quint decides to write Amarice a letter, inviting her to breakfast.

When they return to the Marble Dome, the companions come across a struggle in the street. Ishani Dhatri, the half-Vudran priest of Abadar, is the victim of a broad shouldered man who is pressing a dagger to his back: "I'll tell you one more time, priest, if you don't heal my son, things will turn ugly!"

"But I already used up all my magic for the day. I CANNOT help you today ... but maybe if you go to the temple, they'll be able to help you out ..." the desperate priest tries.

"I've already been to your stinking temple. They want money, lots of it, or they don't care about you. That is how pious your Abadarian brothers are!"

"I suggest you back off immediately", Quint interferes. "I don't see how killing a man helps your son. It will only get his father thrown in jail while this is the time he needs you most to take care of him."

"You should try the other churches", Sjo adds. "Go to the temple of Sarenrae and ask for Nathan. Tell him Sjo sent you."

The burly man backs off, realizing that his current actions will only get him into trouble. He mumbles a faint apology to the shaken priest and makes off to the Sarenites instead. Ishani thanks the companions for their aid and informs about Brienna. He is obviously pleased to learn that she is doing better.

At the Marble Dome Delindra has everyone try out his costume for this evening. Although the garments seem to fit nicely, Delindra is a perfectionist and pulls out a few needles and pins for some last minute adjustments. She has the four young men return to her at half past six, to help them get dressed and made up.


Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
The question is basically, if Caelus did enough heroic stuff in Korvosa, would the Zenderholms be willing to change their minds and accept him into the nobility as per his late father's wishes? Or would they basically be "Nope! No Shoanti-bloods allowed in our family, period!"

Zenobia Zenderholm, the current head of the family, is a judge who is known for her strict, no-nonsense court rulings. She is LG in alignment with a strong emphasis on the Lawful aspect. She adheres to the law and is not afraid to send criminals to the execution block, but she also has a less known human side, as she supports the orphanages in the city (not from a distance but by actually helping out).

This means that she is not lead by her emotions, but rather by the law, logical arguments and commons sense. Add her 'human side' to that and she is probably one of the most open-minded nobles in the city when it comes to accepting Shoanti, unless Korvosa's laws dictate otherwise.

In your case, I would make her the PC's aunt (his father's older sister). Her father, the lord of the house at the time the PC was born, is the one who cast out his son and spat on his legacy. Zenobia never really agreed with him and might be willing to give her nephew a chance at proving himself worthy (now there's the rub, as Zenobia is extremely lawful and her bloodrager nephew will be anything but lawful). You could even decide that Zenobia has no children, which would leave the family heirless. In this case Zenobia could even be looking for a successor.


If the king's passing still took place in your campaign and turmoil broke out in the city as a consequence, blocking the bridges makes perfect sense. The Hell Knight despise the riots and will do everything in their power to contain the problem and nip it in the bud. On top of that, your encounter served as a nice introduction to the Hell Knights, so you made the right call.


Olondir wrote:

The Initial Riots

Read this in your favorite news reporter’s voice
Breaking news in Korvosa this evening; a young Korvosan was stabbed by police outside the Wounded Wretch Taphouse which some are calling a “Gross Miscarriage of Justice.” The Guardsmen in question was responding to a disturbance call inside the Taphouse where, according to observers, proceeded to fatally stab the victim. It is unclear at this time if the victim was, indeed, armed or a threat, but the crowd seems to be organizing an ad-hoc protest in response.

This is the first battle of a very long, bloody war for the soul of Korvosa.

While I do like your idea that the riots are caused by a 'police' incident getting out of hand, I miss the link with the king's passing. The real reason why the people are rioting is their lack of trust in the new queen's ability to rule. So instead of some drunk nobody who gets killed by accident, I'd link it to the king.

Here's an idea: after the king died, people are sad and start drinking to the king's health. Some of them get really drunk and start discussing the future. In their drunken stupor, they are sure that the queen won't be able to rule Korvosa well, so they (just a dozen men or so, not a lot) march to the castle, demanding to speak to the queen. When the guards refuse them entry, a skirmish ensues at the foot of the great mastaba, which leads to death of one of the drunkards. This death could feed more protest ...


24 Sarenith 4708

When the companions walk down the street the next day, they see dead rats everywhere. People claim that they saw rats dying under their eyes. The animals convulsed in desperate spasms until they stopped moving. Asking around in the temple of Pharasma, our friends learn that half a dozen people have come in sick today with the same symptoms as Brienna. Sjo wants to swing by the Shoanti camp to give Thousand Bones the pendant he found in the Shundar-Quah tumulus. He is surprised to find out that the visitors from the Cinderlands have left town. Gaekhen's family was very angry about his death and the defilement of his body. There were also rumors that the Shoanti on the Storval plateau are gathering for war and Gaekhen's father was eager to join them, while Thousand Bones felt his mission should take him there as well, but then with the purpose of trying to prevent such a war.

Puk and Sjo use the privacy of the old fishery to examine some dead rats. Puk shaves them so Sjo can study their skin. They also have red spots, which have even turned into terrible sores with pus and blood. They clearly died from the advanced stages of the same disease that some citizens have contracted. The companions scour the pubs in the harbor to find out more about the ship that sank in the river, fearing it might be connected to the sick rats. There is no sign of other dead animals, the fish and birds all seem to be unaffected. If anyone knows more about the ship, it's the Sable Company. There were some hippogryph riders in the air when the vessel went down.

Since Balian is not the smoothest talker, he chooses to sit at a quiet table while his mates are gathering information. As he is enjoying his drink, he sees a shapely woman approaching. She is very beautiful, has a tanned skin and shiny dark hair. "You're Balian, one of Korvosa's new heroes, are you not?" she smiles while she bends forward, offering the ranger a peek into her cleavage. "I would like a word, but you have to promise me not to get mad and let me finish." Balian sighs, suspecting that this is the Vudran schemer he and his friends have been looking for.

"Our paths have crossed in the past, although we never actually met", she continues. "My name is Selena, but you already guessed that, I suspect. I hope you give me the chance to clarify something in a civilized way. I am indeed the one who set up Verik Vancaskerin in All the World's Meat, so he could feed the starving people of the city."

"With human meat", Balian grunts.

"Verik was not responsible for the actions of the goons that went with him ... those cow hammer boys had their own agenda. He did not know about their evil deeds. A most unfortunate circumstance that was, but Verik's intentions were true, as were mine, with the butcher's shop.

Anyway, I am part of ... an organization that has never trusted the queen, from the early start. We believe her to be a power-hungry manipulator who orchestrated the king's death to claim the throne for herself. A month ago you were still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and help her secure her position. But lately, if I'm not mistaken, some cracks have started to appear in this confidence. I've been following your exploit from a distance and I suspect that you also have some doubts about the queen's true intentions ... or at least that is what I would think of the men who helped free the falsely accused murderer of the king from the queen's clutches." At these words the woman peers deeply into Balian's eyes. "Yes," she claims, "I have my resources. But don't worry, your secrets are safe with me, including the location where the girl is hiding right now."

"But enough of that for now. I fear the queen has been concocting new evil plans to tighten her grip on the city. She will strike among those who can still oppose the most, the city's nobles. Tomorrow night, there is a party at the Carowyn residence where the young scions of the noble houses will be present, a masked ball, to be exact. Cedrik Carowyn, the family's son is hosting the event in his villa in South Shore, which is quite close to your place, actually.

Two days ago one of the Carowyn servant girls visited the castle ... twice. She moved through the streets in a highly suspicious manner and normally there would be no reason at all for her to go to the palace, so naturally I got curious as to why she'd gone there. I tried looking her up yesterday, only to find out that she hadn't survived the night. Apparently she was captured by the Grey Maidens and killed while 'resisting arrest'. I can't help but feel very uncomfortable about this ... I smell the queen's scheming and I fear she will put her plans to fruition at tomorrow's little ball.

The four of you are well liked and well connected, so I would like to think that you could easily get yourselves invited. Moreover, you are skilled enough to interfere if things go wrong. Several of your friends will be there as well, Aisha Leroung and Xerxes Jeggare, to name two. I'm not asking you to help because of my beautiful eyes, but I would hate to see anything happen to those innocent youngsters while the queen tightens her grip on the city and its people. I would also like to think that heroes as yourself want to keep their friends from harm.

I tell you again ... I'm not sure what the queen is up to, but my gut tells me it's nothing good. You are my best hope of keeping the situation under control. And, even if nothing happens, you get to enjoy a nice party and rub elbows with with the future bigwigs of the city. I can imagine worse things."

Balian lets the woman finish, but that does not imply that he trusts her. "And why should I trust you? Who says you're not luring us into a trap or trying to keep us away from something else?"

"Did you have plans for tomorrow, then, that I'm keeping you away from anything?"

"We might ..."

"Well, the strange thing is ... we've been fighting on opposite sides, while I think we've been in the same camp all along. We both want what is best for Korvosa. I give you this information freely because you might offer a hand if needed. Check it out and then judge me. I, for one, hope that this meeting signals a new beginning for us."

"And how do we contact you?"

"You don't, I'll contact you. But if you desperately need to get in touch with me, just ask around in the harbor. I'll know soon enough. For now, young ranger, I bid you adieu. I'll be seeing you." At that Selena gets up and disappears in the crowd.

Balian quickly informs his friends. They are mad at him for letting Selena go so easily. Why didn't he ask about the assassination attempt in the opera? She claims to be a 'good guy', so how does she explain that? They are also worried that she claimed to know about Trinia and her new hiding place. She didn't actually say she knew where Trinia was, but she certainly hinted that she did. They wonder how she found out. Only Vencarlo and Blackjack are in the loop. Is she connected to either one of them? Or is she Blackjack? Everything about the caped crusader points at a 'man', his build looks and his voice sounds male, but that could all be a clever ruse.

Later that day the companions visit Tayce Soldado again. Brienna has been getting worse once more. Sjo attempts to cure her with an application of restorative ointment, but the magic fails. Next he strengthens her health again with lesser restoration and gives her the necessary care. Balian aids him while Puk cooks up some dinner for the family and plays with the boys. Afterwards the companions go to the Great Tower, the headquarters of the Sable Company. From his former colleague Max Sjo learns that the ship that sunk was on fire, although it went down so fast that it couldn't have been the fire alone. Stranger even was the fact that he saw no one on board. It was as if he was flying over a ghost ship. The last stop of the day is House Jeggare. Xerxes is happy to receive his friends and will see to it that they get invited to the Carowyn party. If they procure their outfits, he will make sure they get in.


Sjo, Balian and Puk meet up with Quint and head to North Point to talk to Brienna' employer. While making their way across the city, Sjo takes the Harrow deck in his hands to consult Zellara's ghost about the strange disease. He gets a mental answer that she is not familiar with it, but maybe a new reading of the cards later today will offer some insight. When they reach the address where Brienna cleans, Sjo talks to the lady of the house. She has no symptoms and seems to be mostly worried about how long Brienna will be out. Asking around in the neighborhood does not unveil more information about sick people.

The companions also cross the bridge to Old Korvosa to pay a visit to Vencarlo Orisini. When the fencing master sees them arriving, he ends his lesson prematurely and sends his students off to clean up. He is very pleased to learn that Trinia is now safely in Harse with his old friend Jasan and thanks the four young men for their help. In fact, he has a reward for them. A long time ago he and Jasan were members of a band of adventurers, but they parted company with the Blackbirds over a conflict about what to do with the loot from an ancient dwarven tomb. While their friends decided to keep the treasure, Vencarlo and Jasan went to the city of Janderhoff to return their share of the loot to the dwarves. The Janderhoff people greatly appreciated their gesture, but still allowed them to keep what they had found. In Vencarlo's case it was a weapon, but preferring blades himself (especially the rapier), he never used it. Still, he never got rid of it either, promising himself that he would not sell it for profit, but rather put it to good use. Now he has found such a purpose in Sjo, who is well trained to wield it. Vencarlo disappears upstairs for a couple of minutes and returns with a heavy mace in his hands. Sjo is a bit shy about accepting it, but then he promises to use it to help defend the city. The metal feels quite cool to the touch as the weapon turns out to be made of cold iron.

That evening, after dinner, Sjo pulls out the Harrow cards and summons Zellara's ghost for a reading. The fortuneteller feels that Sjo's earlier questions about sickness and health would be best suited with the shield cards, as they represent constitution, the body's natural defense against illness. She removes the nine cards with the shield symbol from the deck and allows each companion to pick one of them. Sjo pulls out the trumpet, which represents an archon blowing a horn in an overt declaration of power. This display of force clearly calls for Sjo to face the dire situations ahead with similar confidence. Quint picks the brass dwarf which shows an azer who is unaffected by the flames that surround him. Likewise Quint will have to find the strength to withstand whatever dangers will cross his path. Balian's card is the waxworks, a place of helplessness which dangles a bound man above a steaming vat of molten wax. If he is plunged into the boiling goo, he will be frozen in place for ever in eternal torture. Balian will have to be extra careful not to be caught in the inability to move or act himself, so this card serves as a dire warning. Despite his small build, even for a halfling, Puk draws the mountain man, signifying that he might be a giant amongst men. The towering giant also stands for a huge force that is very hard to control, so hard even that it might be wise not to get carried away by it, if you want to survive its destructive power.

Next Zellara puts the shield cards back in the deck and performs a full reading for everyone. Puk still needs to come at peace with his past, as shown by both the inquisitor and juggler card. There is tragedy that he still hasn't fully accepted, as if he can't admit the truth about his own involvement, not even to himself. The wanderer in his present acts as a collector of things that are valuable to him, even when others consider them useless. Puk has also shown a great knack for acquiring items, as he is possibly the best equipped member of the group. His days to come turn up two misaligned cards. The rakshasa reveals the threat of a force that wants to enslave the bodies or minds of others, but the fact that it is in the opposite corner indicates that Puk might play an important part in casting off this enslavement. The empty throne suggests that this threat originates in an ancient past, whose restless ghost reaches out to the present.

Balian's past is under the sign of the winged serpent, pointing out that the ranger has always known when the time to act had arrived. Apparently Puk is not the only giant amongst men, because the mountain man in Balian's present reveals that he is an equally impressive force. The beating also indicates that the companions are constantly being threatened from multiple sides, making it hard to tell who is a friend and who is the enemy. The future turns up the unicorn and the hidden truth, although the third card in this column, which remains uninterpreted, is the idiot, which obviously elicits some snickering from Balian's friends. The unicorn stands for someone who will offer help to uncover the real truth, although the hidden truth predicts that this truth might be something you had rather not known.

Quint's cards reveal little. Just like in his first reading he does not draw a single card from the suit that blesses today's session. Characters gain a Harrow point for every card they draw from the chosen suit, which was shields for this reading. However, I do not use the Harrow points as suggested in the AP because I found that system a bit too complex, but rather as reserve hero points. As PCs can only have three hero points at most and need two to avoid death, I feared they would be too shy about using them for anything else, so I decided to give them the Harrow points as an extra pool. This way they can keep some points in reserve to avoid dying, while they can utilize their hero points for truly heroic feats. Quint's card are also spread in a vague way, with no true or opposite matches at all. Zellara thinks this means that Quint's destiny is still shrouded in mystery and his true path remains to be revealed. The Varisian ghost does interpret some cards, though. The dance in the bottom row of his past seems to indicate that Quint has always struggled to fall in line and follow the pace that was imposed on him. The tyrant in his present is a ruling force that could be harmful to all, but the fact that it is in the upper row suggests that Quint is capable of detaching himself from that force. The big sky in the bottom row warns that casting off the shackles of one master might quickly see new manacles from another lord. The crows in the future are a dangerous bunch of enemies who violently take what they want and destroy that which is loved. The companions might be the only ones who can avert the threat of these long-beaked villains.

Sjo has the misaligned demon's lantern in his past, as a sign that he had a hard time finding his true path, but the card's position suggests that he finally saw the light and he is on the right track now. The theater in his present is misaligned as well. Sjo continues to play his part in the playhouse which is life, but he has to be careful to remain true to himself, so he doesn't play the wrong part. The future cards have a true match: the uprising. A force stronger than the companions threatens to grab the city in its clutches. The crown on the pitchfork of the rebel in the drawing signifies an overthrowing of that force, whatever it may be ...


James Jacobs wrote:
In fact, I often allow the hold person save each round to end the effect early for ALL immobilizing effects in the game, because it keeps the players involved. In the end, even if they make their first save to escape, they're still out of combat for 2 rounds, and that's still significant... especially when you consider that the player may have had to endure no actions for dozens of real-world minutes depending on the complexity of the fight.

I hear you, James. Now, if only you knew someone of importance at Paizo's, you could get this houserule taken up into the official rules.

Spoiler:
:-P


No update to your journal since August 5. Did you play more sessions since then? And if you did, how did they go?


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pennywit wrote:
I've noticed that on the AP boards, we GMs can be pretty aggressive in picking up an AP, taking it apart, adding our own bits and pieces to it, then putting it back together with our own ideas and ideas from other GMs. The resulting adventures sometimes bear only a passing resemblance to the original adventures. I'm curious ... what do the AP writers think when we do this?

I would hope they are pretty psyched about it. Being one of those GMs who does what you describe, I have never expressed any disrespect for the adventures that I changed. I have nothing but respect for the writers, whether or not I'm using their material. To me it feels like that is exactly what all the available material is meant for.

I am GM'ing Curse of the Crimson Throne right now with heavy modifications. Still, the fact that I chose this AP above all else is already a clear indication that I love the AP very much and admire its writers greatly. I mean, I could have chosen any AP and I chose this one. Must mean I think it's pretty great, no?

Part of being a GM, for me, is making modifications. We've been playing the RPG game for many years now, we know what we like and what we don't like. Big dungeon crawls are not my group's thing, so the fifth installment of Curse of the Crimson Throne, Skeletons of Scarwall, will get cut entirely. Still, I have always claimed that as far as dungeon crawls go, this adventure is an excellent example. It's just not our favorite RPG ingredient, so we should feel free to change it.

Making changes also gives you the chance to introduce other published material in your campaign. I will fit in The Harrowing and Academy of Secrets, for example, which is of course a compliment to those writers as well.

In short, the thing I love about Paizo is that they are an RPG company that puts a lot of focus on adventures and has already published a lot of them, which gives me the chance to cherry pick what I like. How wonderful is that?!


Tels wrote:

My players hated Ishani, because he couldn't heal Brienna. I tried point out that it wasn't that he couldn't it was that he was forbidden from doing so. If he tried, the magic wouldn't work unless he was paid for it because that's one of Abadars decrees.

Still, despite all that, they blame him, Ishani, instead of Abadar. It's carried far enough that they don't allow clerics or NPCs of Abadar in their campaigns except as antagonists.

My players weren't exactly keen on Abadar's policy either, although they did sense that Ishani feels the same on this particular point. So they don't blame him, but the church.

I do like how priests of Abadar have actually become bad guys in your group, while they are nothing more than modern day capitalists, so we should all be familiar with this kind of thinking.


23 Sarenith 4708

The next morning sees some commotion in the kitchen. Heldrin and Korwick are accusing Mouse of having placed a dead rat under the table, something which the smallest of the three boys vehemently denies. Sjo and Balian examine the rodent and conclude that it died either from disease or poison. They bury the tiny cadaver in the garden. Sjo also purifies the food, just to make sure there is no poison, but even that cannot freshen stale bread, so they head to the baker's for some fresh loaves instead.

In the street they run into Grau Soldado, their sergeant friend from the Guard. He looks a lot cleaner than when they last met him, when he was drunk and depressed for having lost a few of his men and his brother in the riots. Still, he has an air of worry about him as he hails over the companions: "Friends, I was just looking for you. My little niece has come down with something. She's covered in red spots and can't hold down her food. She was very feverish all through the night and, to be honest, I'm concerned. Her mother wants to take her to the Bank of Abadar, to be cured, but she cannot afford the fee. I remembered your kindness and skill and was hoping you could help her out. Little Brienna is such a sweet girl. Can you make her better?"

Sjo replies that he does not master magic to cure diseases, but he will certainly have a look at the girl to see if there is anything he can do to help. The companions follow the guard to Trail's End. On the way over there Grau expresses his admiration for his sister-in-law. Being a single mother with three children is hard and everyone has to chip in to make ends meet, even little Brienna, who cleans houses in North Point. Grau visits them a few times a week to ensure they are safe and have everything they need.

When they arrive at the house, Grau's nephews are playing quietly in the living room. Tayce, Grau's sister-in-law, is upstairs with her daughter. One corner of the ground floor serves as the kitchen. A man in Abadarian garb is working at the stove, brewing some concoction that smells of cinnamon and anise. His skin is tanned, but not quite as dark as his high priest's, Darb Tuttle, who is a full-blooded Vudran. Upon seeing the man Grau is obviously displeased and rushes upstairs. Puk and Balian overhear him scolding Tayce for racking up a bill with an expensive and worthless healer when he said he would handle things.

Quint and Sjo head over to the priest of Abadar. Quint greets him in Vudran and he replies with a smile. He says his name is Ishani Dhatri. He is trying to help, but he has trouble recognizing the combination of the girl's symptoms and fears she might be suffering from a new disease. He is not allowed to use his healing magic, as that requires a fee to the Golden One which these simple folk cannot afford. So he's making due with his mundane healing skills. Sjo picks up that Ishani feels guilty about his church's doctrine and is doing what he can within the rules. He suggests having a look at the girl himself and goes upstairs with Balian to see Brienna.

The creaky steps open up into a bedroom loft above the main room of the house. A young girl with auburn hair lies in a big bed, her slight form dwarfed by the size of the mattress and the pile of pillows. Splotches of angry red rash cover her face and arms, appearing in irregular shapes and sizes. Her restlessness is interrupted by a violent fit of hacking coughs that jerk her entire frame, lifting her off the bed. The spasm passes, dropping her back in the sheets, but seemingly having done little to ease her breathing. Sjo and Balian examine her more closely and conclude that she will probably die within two or three days if she does not receive proper treatment. Sjo can already ease her suffering a bit by magically restoring some of the stamina she lost. He also tends to the rash on her skin and applies the ointment that Ishani made.

Since he can offer no help here, Quint decides to consult the library in the villa to see if he can find out more about this disease. The symptoms seem to coincide with those of a rare disease that was reported a few years ago in soutwestern Varisia, in a small town along the Lost Coast, Sandpoint. Vorel's plague put much of the town in bed sick, but despite its fierceness, it was rarely lethal, so almost all those infected survived. Quint hopes Brienna will survive as well, but remembering that Sjo gave her only two to three days if she didn't receive healing, has him worried.


22 Sarenith 4708

Late in the afternoon the companions arrive back at the gates of the city, making sure to approach the city from the east rather than from the north, as if they came from the halfling town of Heavengard. While soldiers are still strictly checking everyone who's leaving or entering the city, the heroes get in easily and find the atmosphere inside Korvosa much more relaxed than a couple of days ago. Today is the 22nd of Sarenith, which is a popular local holiday known as Riverwind Festival. At the start of summer the winds shift for a few weeks, bringing down a cooling breeze from the Mindspin Mountains. This break from the stifling heat is typically celebrated with games and drinking and the festivities are already in full swing.

The companions head straight for the villa to freshen up and stable their new mounts. Korwick, Heldrin and Mouse are excited to see the horses and are eager to take care of them, but Sjo can tell that they have been taking it easy while he was away, as the house is a bit of a mess. He has the boys help him prepare a bath so he and his friends can clean up before they dive into the streets of Korvosa to join the festival. Balian convinces his comrades to compete in a friendly tug o' war competition against four baker's apprentices. The companions are almost taken by surprise as their opponents throw all their strength and weight into an early attempt at victory, but they manage to turn the tide and end up pulling the four flour covered men into the muddy ditch in the middle.

Quint and Sjo also chat with some of the bystanders and find out that the search for Trinia raged quite heavily until yesterday. Today's 'holiday spirit' apparently changed the mood and things are starting to feel normal again. The only exception are the Hell Knights, who've been conducting their own search, automatically expecting everyone to cooperate freely and rough handling anyone who doesn't. People are also saying that a ship burned out and sunk in the middle of the river yesterday, without ever making it to the docks.

The highlight of today's festivities is the Riverwind Race. Runners make their way through the streets of the city from east to west, mirroring the direction of the wind. The race starts on North Bridge and makes for Jeggare Circle over Norhtgate Avenue. From there Dead Shoanti Way and Academic Avenue take the contestants to the finish in the shadow of the Acadamae. Balian and Quint give it a shot and join the contest. Quint worms himself into the front row between last year's top six: two members of the guard, Cressik and Ringo, a ranger and a stable master, called Nalia and Vardin, the son of a trader, Daramir and a tall Shoanti, Portok Eagle-Eye, who was the winner of the previous edition.

Quint immediately sprints into first position, but is quickly overtaken by the guard Ringo who stays in front until Jeggare Circle comes into view. By that time Quint is already lagging behind, but Balian is dividing his efforts more evenly and never stays more than a few yards behind the person in the lead. Then Cressik, the other guard, takes over and sprints away from the competition. Ringo and Balian do their best to keep up, while the rest of the playing field loses more distance. It looks like Cressik is in for the win, but he overestimated his own vigor and slows almost to a halt in the final stretch. Ringo spurts by his colleague, leaving him to bite his dust and taking Balian by surprise. The ranger pulls out a final sprint and ends up a couple of yards short of the winner. Still, he lands a very respectable second place. Nalia the ranger comes in third and Portok the Shoanti takes the fourth place. Cressik ends up fifth and Quint is sixth, although he left quite a gap.


What I am actually quite pleased about, is that they are using the module line to write adventures that can easily fit into one particular AP, without losing its stand-alone potential. I'd love to see more of that. Maybe even a high-level module that can be used to continue a particular campaign (or that possibly ties into several campaigns), but works just as well as a stand-alone module.

Let's say they did an adventure on finding/fighting Runelord Sorshen under the mastaba in Korvosa. This adventure could easily be linked to Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne or Shattered Star. This tie-in to several APs at once could also result in better sales figures for high-level modules.


Well, I see two possible solutions:
- he converts to another deity (but you don't see that happening);
- he becomes an enemy himself. This might actually make for great gaming if your players are up for it, but it will end in the character's death, so your player will have to make a new PC.

In fact you could even leave the choice to him. Let the high priestess contact him to try and recruit him for her plans. Now your player can make up him own mind: play along with her or oppose her (in the latter case, his god will probably denounce him, forcing him to pick another patron deity).


Indeed, not a lot of information on this one yet. I just noticed that Matt Goodall is writing this thing (or at least one of the three adventures). He definitely proved his worth with the Islands of Plunder plug-ins. Those are great to use with Skull and Shackles. I'm curious to see how he tackles this one.

The only thing I find strange is this: Paizo went from 32 pages to 64 pages in its adventures, only to divide those into smaller parts again in this module. I certainly hope that the running plot is compelling enough to pull the scenarios together.


Ah, a new one out! Nice. Just bought it, can't wait to read it ...


Unit_DM wrote:


I think it's that they don't feel to involved in the adventure plot right now. "We went to the free city looking for clues to this worm thing. Not worth dying for, let's go back to Diamond Lake." So whenever anything goes wrong they just decide to go home and I have to try to drag them back in. The same thing happened in Whispering Cairn when Alastor Land wouldn't just let them in the door and when they were all caught in the windy hallway trap. Also in Blackwall Keep after breaking the siege. We don't know this Marzena, let's just go home.

None of the PCs really have an interest in adventure for adventure's sake. So unless they have a very personal involvement in the plot, the attitude tends toward just going home whenever things get a bit tough. I think they all overplay the "neutral" alignment to the point of "I'm neutral (or CN) so that means I care about nothing except myself."

I also realize that's partially on me. As the DM it's my job to get them roped into the adventure by hook or by crook. I'm glad we've made it to Champion's Belt. I think from this point on the adventures have more of a singular plot and the PCs are more intimately involved.

Well, when I read that, I think that my adaptation of And Madness Followed might actually work for you.

In the adventure as written, a mad bard wants to open a link between the Material plane and the Far Realm. The tool she has created to achieve that goal is a play, entitled "The King in Yellow", which she performs with three allies. During the performance they open a portal to the Far Realm which spreads its madness over the audience and turns some of them into half-Farspawn abominations.

The adventure itself has three stages:
- The PCs arrive in the very small hometown of the bard in the aftermath of her first performance. They confront some half-spawn creatures and find clues to what is going on, including the bard's next target, a bigger town.
- The PCs travel to the bigger town, but are too late again. They only find the madhouse that the bard's play has left, as well as clues to the next target: the big city.
- In the big city the PCs crash the bard's performance in the playhouse and try to prevent her large-scale portal ritual, that might spell doom for the entire city.

In my version of the story I changed the Far Realm references to Kyuss and his worms. The mad bard has learned from Ilthane that Kyuss performed a ritual in a distant past that was meant to change him into a god. In his headquarters he ordered the construction of the Spire of the Long Shadows and placed a black monolith there as the central focus of his ritual. Then he sacrificed almost all his undead minions and living followers to feed the monolith and thus gain divine powers. But the sacrifice did not suffice and his plan failed, leaving him locked up in the black stone.

With Ilthane's guidance, the bard has created her own ritual in the form of a play called The King of Worms, which opens a portal to that fated past. At the end of the play the doomed portal opens and sends in a sea of worms, that transforms the audience into Kyuss undead, whose essence is shortly thereafter sucked up by the portal, slaying the newly formed undead. If the bard succeeds in sending enough energy to the past, she might be able to turn Kyuss' failed ritual into a success.

The bard did a first trial performance in her hometown in front of a small audience, which worked, but sent only a few souls through the portal. Some of the Kyuss undead survived the massacre, because they stumbled out of the theater before their essence was harvested. These undead surprised and infected some travelers the next day, so there are now about a dozen Kyuss undead wandering about town.

The bard teleported to a bigger town, Diamond Lake, for a second test the next evening, performing for some eighty people, including some acquaintances of the PCs (the governor-mayor, some mine managers, the sheriff, the garrison commander, the highpriest of Heironeous ...) and even some loved ones (such as one of the PC's mother). This time the portal was stronger and sent more souls to the monolith, but again some undead managed to escape the absorption. The bard and her allies teleported to the Free City, leaving the handful of undead to plague Diamond Lake. Lieutenant Trent sent some troops into the Emporium theater to fight the undead, but his men failed and they were turned as well.

Enter the PCs: the next day the PCs travel from the Free City to Diamond Lake, passing the mad bard's small hometown village on the way. They encounter several Kyuss undead and find 38 dead husks of former villagers in the inn, in front of a small stage. There is a poster on the wall, promoting the opening of the local bard's new play: The King of Worms. When the PCs search the bard's house, they find more clues: notes that, when puzzled together, reveal the plotline I introduced above (about Kyuss, the Spire of the Long Shadows, the monolith and the failed ritual). There is also a list of every villager of this small town, titled "Invite". All the names have been ticked. The note also says: "Probably not enough, but sufficient for a first try. Diamond Lake will be my first real test! Then onto the Free City!" Other notes include the purchase list of barkskin potion (meant to make the bard and her allies immune to the worms by boosting their natural armor), sketches of the Spire of the Long Shadows and of Ilthane. One scrap of paper has these lines: "Ilthane will be pleased. Her gift has opened my eyes. The portal to the past will feed Kyuss with innumerable souls. His time is near!"

There is also a sole survivor, a shepherdess who was late for the show because one of her sheep ran off. She hid and can tell the PCs that the bard has three allies: three men.

The PCs rush to Diamond Lake, finding out the play was already performed yesterday. The garrison is guarding the Emporium with the undead, but they are afraid to enter it after their failed attempt last night. Lieutenant Venderin is in charge now, but she's afraid to suffer the same defeat Trent did. Instead she suggests burning the place down, something which Balabar Smenk opposes. The crafty mine manager argues that several important people were inside and no one knows their fate, they might still be alive. He then asks the PCs to infiltrate the building. (Smenk mainly wants to strengthen his own position in the eyes of his fellow villagers: if the governor-mayor did not survive, Smenk hopes to take his place!)

The PCs find several Kyuss undead in the Emporium, including some infected soldiers and Emporium employees, as well as Captain Tolliver Trask, who has become a more powerful Sword of Kyuss (see Dungeon # 130 p. 86 for stats). Most of the spectators are dead, though, but were infected by worms before they truly died.

The PCs already know from the mad bard's notes that her next target is the Free City. By the time they get there and track down the evil performers, the play is already in full swing. The actors have already fascinated the entire audience and are working up to opening the portal to the past. The PCs will have to act fast to prevent this. Stats for a worm swarm that comes through the portal are in dungeon # 130 as well, on page 89. You could even have the bard turn into a worm naga upon her death, which is in the same issue, on p. 88.

Using this scenario serves several purposes: it foreshadows the Spire of Long Shadows and the Black monolith, it makes Ilthane a more active player in Kyuss' schemes and it works up the PCs' personal vendetta with Kyuss and his worms (and Ilthane as well), as their home town and loved ones were all victims of the worm god's evil.


edxerox wrote:

I prepared four categories of encounters a) ship ahoy! b) monster encounters c) side quests d) something to see, and threw in one or two of those per day depending on where the party was in the AP.

Ships included some of those in the S&S APs which were brilliant when fleshed out, but I also threw in a few merchant ship encounters for my players to trade and buy stuff whilst on the open sea such as a floating bazaar and some Locathah on aquatic mounts trading for ceramics and metal utensils. The Locathah had something they didn't value but the PCs did.

I kept monster encounters to a minimum so as not to boost XP too highly and many of the really good sea monsters are too high level

Side quests included things like:

- sirens on a rock in a shipping lane
- a lantern archon asking them to deal with a nearby hydro-daemon
- someone flying in on a flying mount or carpet asking them to do something for them (like providing water breathing for the PCs to dive for a wreck in the vicinity)
- a random small atoll with a shipwreck and an NPC survivor who has a plot hook elsewhere in the Shackles
- a Nereid bathing on a rock to which some crew get rather attached and dive in after her. The PCs must get them back or be under-crewed e.g. using skill checks. The Nereid could be on an Orca or Giant Octopus.

Things to see included things like:

- a huge swarm of jellyfish with a dead hammerhead and other dead sea life caught by the swarm
- whales
- a large herd of Hippocampus on the surface then going under, only then for a large fish to emerge with one of them in its mouth
- some dolphins swimming with the boat with a mermaid swimming with them
etc

My players really liked some of these and got a sense of a living aquatic world around them

I love the way you think. If it's not too much trouble, I'd love to hear more about these encounters.


Mikaze wrote:
Tels wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Paladinosaur wrote:
Kintargo is house to the Order of thr Torrent, right? So I guess we'll se plenty of hellknights action in #98 =)
Correct. There's not much yet about the Order of the Torrent, but that does indeed have something significant to do with the title, "Turn of the Torrent." It's a play on words as well... in at least 3 ways...
So it's time for the Order of the Torrent's turn to rule. To do so, they must turn against their home city, Kintargo, and turn away from their roles as man hunters and rescuers of the kidnapped to conquerors.

Hmmm...

Turncoats?

Turning the tide?

Turning like vampires?!

I was rather thinking that '3 way' the word play referred to the word torrent, something with the torrent of the river, the order of the torrent and the hint at illegal downloads from torrent sites.

Anyway, I didn't chime in till now, but I'm super excited about this AP:
- urban: check!
- staying in the same place: check!
- political intrigue: check!
- set in Cheliax, a country I'm familiar with and like: check!
- more focus on interaction and roleplay: CHECK!!
- a super list of writers: check!

Really, it's all down my alley. Also thanks to James for answering so many questions already. That only adds to the excitement and anticipation.


Unit_DM wrote:
Well, I spoke too soon. They were wanted for murder (it was actually a doppelganger who did the murder) and decided to turn themselves in. At the end of the session they were in a holding cell awaiting their fate. Perfect opportunity to get them into the next adventure . . .

I agree, a perfect opportunity to launch your PCs in an excellent adventure.

If you feel your PCs are too 'whimpy' or die too easily, you could insert an extra adventure to have them gain an extra level, so they can tackle the rest of the AP with some added power. I remember inserting an adaptation of "And madness followed" from Dungeon # 134 after "Champion's Belt". I suppose you have that issue, since it contains another chapter of Age of Worms.


A halfling on a dog should fit easily into all inside and outside locations. The Shingle chase is hard on a lot of classes, so he won't be the only one struggling. On the other hand, if he'd be a halfling on a medium-sized riding cat, well then he'd be flying over those roofs ...


Raincloud9 wrote:

Ah, see I'm excited for my party to get to Scarwall, because I'm curious as to how they'll handle it.

I'll have to check out Academy of Secrets and The Harrowing, that sounds like a great place to get some more ideas.

I certainly understand your enthusiasm for Skeletons of Scarwall; as far as dungeon (or rather castle) crawls go, it is definitely one of the finer examples.

My group is just not that much into long crawls, and with Castle Korvosa coming up in the next chapter, it would be too much. We also invested heavily in roleplaying with many of the players on the Korvosan scene, so returning to the city faster and diving even deeper in the NPC interaction pool will fit our campaign better.

Academy of Secrets is set in Korvosa, but takes place during the Breaching Festival, which occurs on the last Sunday of Desnus. This timing might not fit your campaign (although you could just change the date) and the motivation to join in the festival can be hard to fit in as well. The module has the PCs join the competition of trying to break into the Acadamae to gain a big monetary reward. Since the PCs in Curse of the Crimson Throne have more urgent goals (stopping the BBEG) and are possibly on Korvosa's most wanted list, joining the festival could seem out of place.

That is why I changed the approach to this module.

My take:
When the PCs learn of Ileosa's infernal contract, which was forged with a contract devil in the Acadamae, they realize they have to destroy it to weaken the queen. One copy of the contract will be with Ileosa somewhere, but the other one is with the contract devil. To find him (or to find out more about him) the PCs need to infiltrate the Hall of Wards, where the Acadamae's best kept secrets are stored. As it happens, breaking into this ward is also the goal of the Breaching festival, so this allows you to insert an adapted version of the module. I broke down my version of the adventure in the following chapters:

- The PCs find out more about infernal contracts and the Acadamae through research and information gathering.

- Since the Cerulean Society, Korvosa's thieves' guild, is probably the most experienced at attempting to break into the Hall of Wards (they get a yearly invitation to join the festival), the PCs contact guildmaster Boule with the help of Glorio Arkona. He can tell them more about the way to get into the Hall of Wards, advise them on which approach best to take and he can even arrange for an inside contact.

- The Acadamae is heavily populated by imps, who are everywhere and see everything. They are the best 'alarm' imaginable. So the PCs will have to devise a way to distract the imps, by enlisting the aid of the city's pseudodragons. The PCs convince the pseudodragons of Dock Trade (see 'Guide to Korvosa', p. 24-25) to help them draw away the imps.

- The PCs infiltrate the Hall of Wards, pretty much as described in 'Academy of Secrets', but preferably without getting noticed. Inside the Hall of Wards they discover the demiplane Belzeragna, where the contract devil resides. From him they can get his copy of the infernal contract Ileosa made.

Of course the PCs will also have to find the BBEG's copy of the contract and destroy both version to take away the infernal advantages.

The Harrowing is even less obvious to insert in the story.

My take:
In my version of the story the PCs do not go to Scarwall and so they do not get a hold of Serithial to combat Ileosa. Instead the Shoanti - at the end of 'A History of Ashes' - tell the PCs to find the grave of the Shoanti shaman who helped Mandraivus defeat Kazavon and who hid the dragon's teeth in the mastaba. He should be buried somewhere in Korvosa, and when the PCs find him they have to breathe a magical flame in his bones to revive his ghost. He will be able to give them strength to fight Kazavon (or whoever is wielding his power = Ileosa). The problem is that the site of his grave has been lost to the ages, but Zellara - being a ghost - should be able to feel it out and guide the PCs to it.

When the PCs get back to Korvosa, the heavy infernal influence that has taken hold of the city, is too much for Zellara to take and she is 'swallowed' by her Harrow deck, which is actually a gateway to a demiplane, the Harrowed Realm, as described in the module 'The Harrowing'. It will take Zellara a while, but at some point she is able to contact the PCs and open the gate to the Harrowed Realm for them. The PCs enter the demiplane and manage to free Zellara from the clutches of its Harrow card residents, most notably the blue dragon Zassrion, the lord of the realm who was fashioned after the Tyrant card. Afterwards Zellara will be free to guide the heroes to the shaman's grave, which I placed in the sinkhole below the Kendall Arena.

The obvious tie between 'Curse of the Crimson Throne' and 'The Harrowing' is the Harrow deck. By making Zellara's help indispensible to fight Ileosa, the PCs have no choice but to free her, which gives me the opportunity to use this module as well. I will be adjusting the CR of the NPCs, because the adventure as written is aimed at level 9, while I'll be using it at level 12. Still 'The Harrowing' is a fantastic module, so I'm happy I found a way to include it.


Tels wrote:
MrVergee wrote:
You can also skip the card thing, just have her walk in and ask the PCs for help, which is what I did, check my posts dated August the 3rd.

August 3rd.

If you click on the time stamp next to the 'Flag' 'Delete' 'Edit' options, it will change the url to link to that post.

Thanks, another messageboard secret uncovered.


You can also skip the card thing, just have her walk in and ask the PCs for help, which is what I did, check my posts dated August the 3rd.


As my group is not really into too long dungeon crawls, I also want to focus more on the rebellion and helping the city. For that purpose I will skip Scarwall completely and take the PCs back to the city instead, where they will aid in the rebellion and get ready to face Ileosa (my conversion includes both an adapted version of Academy of Secrets and The Harrowing).

I've outlined my alternative storyline in this thread. Maybe you can find some inspiration there.


Yes, the AP as written is not very mount-friendly, a lot of close-quarter encounters. If you can live with that, okay, but I would not recommend it, unless you go halfling on dog style ...


Feros wrote:
Thanks! I am enjoying using 'Spices and Flesh'...though I have an obvious soft spot for Tarin's Crown and am hopeful that the crew will decide to go there. :)

We'll keep our fingers crossed.


Congratulations!


Congratulations!


Congratulations! Two victories in this category!


Congratulations!


After some quick healing the companions enter the tumulus into which the burly bugbear disappeared. Quint supplies some much needed light with a simple spell cast on his buckler. A tunnel leads under the hill, immediately splitting off in three directions. A quick examination of the left and right passage reveals two round rooms, where the moisture in the walls has worn away any marking that might have once adorned them. The chamber to the right is being used as a private bedroom with some hides on the ground and a makeshift shrine of old bones and skulls; the room to the left has a big hole in the ground which serves as a waste pit and toilet.

The main tunnel leads deeper into the tumulus and provides access to the ancient burial chamber, with eight alcoves lining the walls. Four bugbears are waiting for the heroes in here, one of which has taken up position on a stone table in the middle of the room. He forms the perfect target for Jasan's first arrow, which kicks off the fight. A bugbear in the back of the room seems to master some magic and reacts by casting a spell on Balian. The ranger feels his breastplate growing hotter, but Sjo's quick thinking provides the perfect 'antidote' for his scorching heated metal in the form of resist energy. Quint demoralizes the opponents with another satirical performance, while Puk jumps into the fray on top of a barrel. His tiny blade does not penetrate his adversary's armor, but the halfling has put himself in a precarious position, taking two firm hits from the bugbears that face him. Balian and his dog Spyder also charge forward, but their attacks go wide. Despite his fierce growls and sharp teeth, the canine is no match for the bugbear leader, who steps in and mercilessly hammers the dog with two main hand hits and one off-hand swing. His morningstar and light hammer drip with blood as the dog drops to the floor. This hulking creature delivers a mean punch, Sjo understands. His hold person outside the entrance on this brute was even more valuable than he realized. He tries the spell again, but this time the hairy beast resists his magic.

Meanwhile Balian draws his first blood of the fight by cleaving through the two bugbears that are pressing Puk. The halfling cannot get into an advantageous position without putting himself in even more risk and takes a defensive stand, which makes his opponents miss their attacks. In the meantime Jasan fires another arrow in the bugbear on the stone table, who just received some healing from the druid in his back. With Spyder down, Balian is now the leader's next target: the hulk steps forward and pummels the ranger twice with his morningstar, reserving his backhand swing for Quint. The creature snorts out a hysteric laugh to celebrate his success. Quint feels that it is high time to swing the momentum of the fight and decides to use another of his tricks. He pulls out his whip and lashes it around the ankles of the bugbear on the table, pulling the creature's legs out from under him. Balian interrupts its attempt to rise with a deadly strike and takes its place on the stone table, finally gaining a flank with Puk on the other bugbear. The halfling takes full advantage of this position and pulls out two vicious sneak attacks that cut the unfortunate mutt down. At last the battle seems to turn for the better. Sjo engages the druid, who pulls out a sickle that glances off the Shoanti's plate. The fire-wielding healer retorts by spewing forth a sheet of flames that scorches both enemies that are left standing. Still, the fierce bugbear leader does not give up and continues bashing Sjo and Quint. He also proves to be very hard to hit, so the fight ain't over yet. Sjo uses heroic inspiration (we use hero points) to recall a hold person, but again the towering monster resists. Next Quint also fails to trip him. Puk and Balian now flank the creature, but the halfling cannot get through its defenses. Balian fares better and cuts deeply into its flesh. The ranger continues the arc of his blade and slices through the druid as well. Despite the bleeding gash, the leader seems unimpressed and pushes the attack, wounding Balian, Puk and Quint with his whirling weapons. A second attempt by Quint to topple the bugbear champion succeeds, leaving the being prone between the bloodthirsty halfling, the fuming Shoanti and the enraged ranger. The companions exploit the opportunity to the fullest, literally hitting their enemy while he's down. Balian hacks heavily into the hulk's frame and Puk's flashing blades finally finish the brute off. The druid is helpless against superior numbers and swiftly follows his brethren to the grave.

The companions take a few moments to catch their breath. As they are healing up, two young voices call out from one of the alcoves that has been blocked by a heap of stones. Farmer Barold's sons, Vern and Sender, have been locked up there. They are overjoyed when their rescuers inform them that both their father and cow Bianca are still alive. Puk leads the search of the complex and unearths a hefty pouch with gold, while Quint discovers that the bugbear leader's studded leather is magical and Sjo finds an old Shoanti pendant around the druid's neck. The engraved runes spell Storval ekbitel nalharest, which is Shoanti for We walk the land as brothers. Other markings in the stone table identify this tomb as a Shundar-Quah grave, another of the Shoanti tribes that once roamed this country. Sjo is disgusted at the bugbear sacrilege of this holy place and asks his friends to help him remove them from the tumulus.

The companions drag the cadavers of their enemies outside and build a funeral pyre. They also take out the bugbears' supplies from the tumulus and give them to Barold, along with 100 gold sails from the loot. This small gift is a true fortune for the simple farmer, who is very grateful for the safe return of his children, his cow Bianca and the heroes' generosity. It is already a few hours past noon when the companions head back to Korvosa. Fortunately they now have horses, so they should be able to make up for the time they lost.


Nice to read a log on 'Spices and Flesh'. I'm hoping to use the scenario in my campaign too.


Sarenith 4708

While Jasan takes his guests around the ranch to select his best mounts, a simple farmer woman stumbles onto the porch of his house. She looks desperate. Jasan hurries over, explaining she is his neighbor Mia, and inquires what is wrong. Mia falls into his broad arms crying and sobs that her husband Barold and her boys did not return from the field last night and are nowhere to be found. Jasan asks his wife to see to Mia and happily accepts the companions' offer to join him to Barold's farm. Trinia wants to come as well, but no one feels comfortable exposing her to potential danger, so she has to stay at the ranch.

Jasan leads his new allies to his neighbor's place, some fifteen minutes away. The farmhouse is much more modest than Blackbird Ranch, but still looks like a decent dwelling. Jasan has a quick peek around and then heads to a field down the path. "It seems like they were working the northern field", he states as he takes the companions further. While he gets off his horse to check for tracks, Puk notices a throwing spear in a nearby tree. When they move in to examine it, the companions find an unconscious man with a bloody wound to the head in the bushes. It is Barold, Jasan's neighbor. After he has received some healing, he explains that he and his two sons were surprised by four mean-looking bugbears last night. They knocked him out and left him for dead, but there is no trace of Vern and Sender, his sons, or Bianca, his cow. Jasan orders his horse to take Barold to the ranch and continues on foot, following the tracks of the bugbears into the wood, who obviously made no effort to hide their footprints.

After two hours the adventurers happen upon an open spot in the forest, backed by a rocky outcropping with a cavelike entrance. Barold whispers it is an old Shoanti tumulus, from back when the barbarians still roamed the lush lowlands and buried their dead in hillside graves, a custom they have long since abandoned as the inhospitable Cinderlands are more suited for burning the deceased than burying them.

Puk scouts ahead and spots four bugbears around a campfire in front of the tumulus entrance. A cow is tied to a tree off to the right. The companions waste no time and take the feral brutes by surprise. Puk and Balian charge the creature to the right, inflicting bloody cuts, but he still stands and returns the favor by viciously clubbing Balian with his morningstar. Sjo picks out the biggest warrior, who is wielding a morningstar in his right hand and a light hammer in his left, and casts hold person on him, freezing him in place. Then the Shoanti moves in to engage the left bugbear. Quint demoralizes the opponents with his satire while Jasan peppers the creatures with his arrows. The wounded beast facing Balian is felled with one more mighty blow and the two other bugbears get beaten, bitten and shot from various angles while getting in only minor hits themselves. As they both sink to the ground dead, their leader snaps out of his paralysis and opts for the safety of the tumulus. Despite his hulking build he is no fool, realizing that facing five opponents out in the open spells certain death.


17-19 Sarenith 4708

The next morning Quint helps Trinia into his own clothes and fixes her face and hair to make her look like him. As she will be playing a hung over bard, she will be able to keep to the background and hang her face low. Meanwhile Sjo writes a letter to Larella Semyr, his beautiful priestess girlfriend, and another missive to Field Marshal Kroft. He asks the boys to deliver the first note to the shrine of Shelyn, but keeps the second letter on his person, taking it with him as he heads for the Bloodsworn Gate with Puk, Balian, Spyder and Trinia. There is a small line of people waiting to get out of the city, and the guards do a scrutinizing job of checking everyone who leaves. When the companions are up, the soldiers visibly relax: these are the trusted heroes of the city! They chuckle at the hung over bard and easily accept Sjo's explanation that they are traveling to Heavenguard for a birthday, you know how halflings like their parties ... The Shoanti also hands the guards the letter for Kroft, asking them to deliver it to their commander since he didn't have the opportunity to inform the Field Marshal of his and his friends' absence himself. Feeling honored the guards quickly let the heroes pass. Quint has no trouble slipping through the checkpoint a couple of minutes later - as no one is looking for a single man - and meets up with his friends at the next crossroads.

The journey north takes three days, during which Trinia proves to be a spirited little girl. Despite the traumatizing experience she has been through, she is excited and thankful to have escaped with her life. She recounts with gusto how she fled with Blackjack over the rooftops of Korvosa, down small allies and even through the sewers. The caped crusader knew his way around the city well and led her unerringly to Vencarlo's fencing school in Old-Korvosa. While she waited outside in the shadows for a few minutes, Blackjack went inside to convince his friend to take in the girl. She witnessed their brief but heated discussion, before the grey-haired swordmaster invited her in and offered her his protection. He turned out to be the perfect gentleman and host, worrying over her like a father-figure.

Trinia suspects that Neolandus Kalepopolis, the missing seneschal of Castle Korvosa, is behind Blackjack's mask. His position allows him to dethrone an illegitimate or unjust monarch in times of need, but that power also makes him a target of such an individual. Trinia is convinced that Queen Ileosa is a false and dangerous snake who forced the seneschal into hiding. Since his life would be in danger if he appeared publicly, Kalepopolis had to resort to his Blackjack alter ego to fight the treacherous usurper. Being an ex-officer of the Sable Company, Neolandus Kalepopolis certainly has the skill to be the caped crusader, heck, he's probably even hiding in the Great Tower, the headquarters of the black garbed guards. That would definitely explain why commander Marcus Endrin has been so suspicious of the new queen as well ...

The young painter also unfolds that painting was not her first profession of choice. Being the daughter of a Varisian couple of traveling acrobats, she originally trained in her parents' skills at tumbling and jumping, which explains why she was so agile fleeing from the companions over the shingle rooftops. When her parents froze to death during the terrible hunger winter six years ago, she decided to quit her life on the road and focus on another talent: painting. She settled down in the poorer parts of the city and made enough to survive, although she admits that she is not very good with money. She never had a lot, but whenever she had some, she spent it quickly, not only on herself, but also on her neighbors, since there were always people around who needed it more than she did.

The companions can also witness with their own eyes that the Korvosan Guard no longer patrols the Korvosa's holdings outside the city walls, although they do not run into any of the highwaymen that are supposedly plaguing the countryside.

By the end of the third day, the travelers reach the Falcon River and take the ferry across the water. They ignore the town of Harse completely and head straight for Blackbird Ranch, some thirty minutes north of the village, off the beaten track. The horse ranch sits comfortably in the cleft of two low hills topped with copses of fir trees. A barrel-chested man, flanked by two youths, greets the companions as they approach. His bow is strung, but hangs idly over his shoulder. Still, it looks like it is within easy reach. The man's initial apprehension instantly evaporates when he learns that his friend Vencarlo sent these travelers to his doorstep and Quint hands him the fencing master's coded letter as proof. He warm-heartedly welcomes his guests into his home. Blackbird Ranch is a large place, but also houses a large family: Jasan Adriel himself, his wife Lisanna, his sons Ted, Gerald and Bruno and his daughters Mariën and Romy. The rancher takes the visitors to the basement, where he keeps a couple of spare beds and brews his own beer, which he offers freely.

Jasan informs about the situation in Korvosa and when he learns of all the recent trials and tribulations, he explains that such troubles are exactly why he chose to relocate down here and not in the city. At least here he can talk frankly without worrying about his family, because, just like Vencarlo Orisini, Jasan can be quite critical about people in charge and likes to speak his mind.

After a couple of pints the retired adventurer also talks about the past he shared with Orisini. The two of them were members of an adventuring party known as the Blackbirds. They broke up more than two decades ago over an unfortunate argument involving the rights to treasure looted from a dwarven tomb - while Jasan and Vencarlo wanted to return the weapons they recovered from the haunted grave to the dwarven offspring in Janderhoff, the others in the group wanted to keep the loot and sell it in Korvosa. The conflict came to blows and in the end Jasan and Vencarlo opted to retire from the adventuring business altogether. The remaining Blackbirds vanished without a trace in the obscure dungeons below Kaer Maga not one season later, so both the ranger and the sword master counted themselves lucky at having quit while they were alive. The two former party members have always stayed in touch, writing each other as often as possible, using the secret code they developed in their adventuring days, more out of fun than any real need to hide their messages, although it allowed them to be critical of Korvosa's government without the fear of anyone else reading about it.

Since the companions changed their plans on how to get out of the city, they never needed Vencarlo's money to set up a merchant guise, so now they offer the pouch to Trinia. The girl sees no need for the gold while she is hiding in a basement and suggests to give the money to Jasan instead. Although the ranger is pleased with his guests' generosity, he responds that he requires no payment for helping his best friend and only agrees to take the money if the companions accept riding animals in exchange. Since Jasan Adriel breeds some of the finest horses around, this sounds like a great deal, but it will have to be concluded tomorrow, as the hour has grown very late.


So how do you smuggle a wanted murderer out of the city? The best way is probably right under the noses of the guards. The first plan the companions come up with is to leave Korvosa as merchants. Rather than joining a real caravan as bodyguards and subsequently abandoning these people once they are outside the city, our friends deem it wise to impersonate traveling traders themselves. They could buy a couple of mules and get some goods they can sell in Harse, like salt, painted cloth or tools. Of course they would have to be disguised, which might cause a problem when trying to hide a Shoanti who is six and a half feet tall, a halfling, a dog and a young girl ... well, the plan might need some adjusting.

A couple of hours after sunset Puk knocks on the door of the Orisini Academy. The fencing master sees his four nightly guests inside and offers them the comfort of his living room, where they take a seat in the large sofas by the fireplace. When he calls in Trinia, the girl eyes the companions with suspicion, but Quint quickly puts her troubled mind at ease by reassuring her that he and his friends continue to believe in her innocence, a statement that Vencarlo is eager to confirm. When the bard asks Trinia why she confessed to the murder, she claims to have no memories of the fact. She remembers being taken to a cell in the Longacre building. Only hours after her imprisonment the queen herself visited her in her prison cell. That is the last thing Trinia remembers ... everything after that is a big blur, until she was thrown into another cell, somehow knowing that she had been convicted to die. The next 24 hours awaiting the execution had been the most desperate in her life.

Vencarlo Orisini asks the companions to smuggle Trinia out of Korvosa and escort her to a good friend who lives outside of the village of Harse, on a horse ranch. His name is Jasan Adriel and he and Vencarlo used to be in an adventuring company together more than twenty years ago, called the Blackbirds. The fencing master also has a coded letter for his friend, which he hands to Quint. He encourages the four heroes to act fast: as a known critic of the government Orisini is on the list of the usual suspects and Trinia remains in danger as long as she stays under his roof. Some guards already did a cursory search of his academy today and he suspects they will be back soon for a more thorough investigation. He also gives the companions 500 gold sails when he learns they will try to impersonate merchants, but still need to buy pack animals and merchandise. Before they leave Vencarlo warns the companions to be very careful: the Guard is looking everywhere for Trinia, the Sable Company controls the skies and the river and the sword master has even picked up a rumor that the accursed Hell Knights have been called back to aid in the manhunt.

The companions hide Trinia in the old fishery for the night and finally decide on a different plan to get her out of the city: they will leave as themselves, with Trinia taking the place of Quint, whom she resembles most closely physically. The bard will disguise himself as a regular John Doe and leave Korvosa on his own, meeting up with his friends outside of the city walls. To facilitate Trinia's impersonation of him, Quint hits the town heavily that night, making sure to show up in every bar that frequently hosts soldiers of the Guard, buying them drinks and getting really drunk with them, all the while complaining about Puk. Apparently his small friend wants to leave civilization tomorrow to head to the backwater halfling hole of Heavenguard for a someone's birthday. How dull is that? And of course the little bugger promised his cousin that the great Korvosan performer Quintillian would accompany him, leaving Quint no choice but to join him on this uncomfortable trek into the wilds ... The bard also picks up the general sense that most Korvosans believe Trinia to be guilty. It turns out that he and his friends certainly succeeded in restoring faith in the monarchy over the last few weeks, as people tend to trust Queen Ileosa now and share her hate for the late king's killer!


Looking forward to it.


It is the return to Sandpoint AP.


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Curse of the Crimson Throne: chapter 2 - Seven Days to the Grave

16 Sarenith 4708

A visit to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft does not yield more useful information. Quint maintains his doubts concerning Trinia's trial and confession, but Kroft can only reply that the city and the Guard are using all their resources to find the escaped girl and her cloaked rescuer. The castle has spread wanted posters all over the city, offering a substantial reward for Trinia's and Blackjack's capture: 5 000 gold sails if either of them is taken alive, half that if they are dead. Information that leads to their arrest is still worth 1 000 gold pieces. This prize money is enough to sweep most people's doubts off the table, but not the companions', who return home to ponder on how to proceed. It turns out the answer is already waiting for them.

Seated in a chair of their own sitting room is Vencarlo Orisini, the fencing master. He says he has picked up rumors that the companions have serious doubts about Trinia's guilt, which he more than shares. When the adventurers confirm their position, Vencarlo entrusts them with the fact that Trinia is hiding in his academy. Blackjack brought her there after saving her from losing her head. Orisini and the mysterious daredevil have worked together on more than one occasion in the past and they trust each other in times of need. Master Orisini also spent most of last night talking to the shaken young painter and has become completely convinced of her innocence. When Quint inquires how she was made to confess, Vencarlo urges him to ask her himself, tonight after sundown. That is when he wants the companions to come to his house, to hand over Trinia so they can smuggle her out of the city. The fencing master would do it himself, but his past criticism on the government has already made him one of the usual suspects, and he does not want to risk being caught and losing Trinia in the process. He asks the heroes to take the girl to a friend, who lives outside of the village of Harse, at three days travel from Korvosa. Of course, the four friends agree to help, after all, how can they refuse a lady in need?


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15 Sarenith 4708

Just like the coronation three days ago Trinia's execution takes place on the terrace of the Castle overlooking Ramp Boulevard. Once more the toast of Korvosa is in attendance, for a more macabre show this time. Quint and his friends are among these honored guests and, although they seriously doubt that justice is being served today, they don't see how they can stop the event. An impressive host of Gray Maidens stands guard, using their wall of silver shields to keep the visitors back. The streets below are filled with people as well, who have read about Trinia's crime and confession in today's edition of the Korvosa Herald. They do not seem to doubt the painter's confession and are eager to see her head drop.

Drums roll as the queen emerges from the castle, closely followed by her bodyguard shadow Sabina Merrin. Having fully accepted the mantle of monarch, Ileosa carries herself with a graceful pride, showing off her beauty in a magnificent gown of green and white silk. The icy glare in her eyes totally ignores the elite that has gathered on the terrace. In her wake follows a towering, muscular man with a hood covering his face and an enormous axe in his hand. The drums suddenly change their beat to a more ominous tune as a young manacled girl with a bag over her head is herded out of the castle. Gray Maidens deliver her to the executioner's block, before pulling away the bag to reveal a frightened woman who can barely keep back her tears. While one of the soldiers unlocks the shackles, another pulls back Trinia's hands and binds them behind her back with a leather cord. Then she forces the girl to her knees, her head looming over the block.

Ileosa walks over to the podium overlooking the crowd and addresses her subjects: "Fellow Korvosans. The past few weeks have been hard on all of us. We have suffered greatly under the sea of trouble that washed over our city. I feel your suffering, for not only have I lost a beloved husband, but with each riot, each burning home, each act of anarchy and each victim my heart bled a little more. This has been a trying time for us, yet your torment is at an end.

Before you is the cause of all this misery. Do not be deceived by her innocent nature - she is a black-hearted assassin, a seductress and a sinner, a viper amidst us all. I offer you her head as a salve against the hatred and hurt you have suffered. Her death will not rebuild Korvosa, nor will it bring back the king. Yet tomorrow will be a new dawn - a dawn over a city ready to rise from the edge of anarchy to become stronger than ever before!

And so, without further ado, let us usher in this new dawn with an act us justice! Off with her head!"

As the headsman slowly lifts his axe overhead, the crowd freezes in anticipation. His muscles bulge under the weight of the weapon. Quint, Balian, Sjo and Puk stand only a few yards away, disheartened but unable to interfere. Just as the executioner wants to swing down his axe, he gives a grunt and staggers. He lowers his weapon, reaching with his left hand to the small of his back, which is hidden from the spectators on the terrace. When he brings his hand to his face, the companions see that his fingers drip with blood. Puk then notices the flash of a slender dagger through the air that embeds itself in the headsman's right hand, forcing him to drop his weapon. Trinia raises her head, glancing up at the executioner who doubles over in pain, now revealing his first source of pain: a throwing dagger in his back. A scream echoes through the crowd: "By the Gods, it's Blackjack!"

From the towers of the Castle, swinging at the end of a slender crimson banner, a cloaked figure sails through the air and lands on the podium between Trinia and the axeman. As his feet touch the block where the young painter's head was meant to be separated from her body, his rapier flashes forward, slashing through the bonds on Trinia's wrists. While the girl rises to her feet, the masked crusader shouts: 'Yes indeed, Queen Ileosa! Let us usher in a new dawn with an act of justice - but true justice, not this deceit with which you try to blind Korvosa!"

Everyone stands stunned for a moment. Then several onlookers burst into action at the same time. The queen whispers something to Sabina Merrin who quickly orders her troops to seize the assailant. Quint sees no path through to crowd and yells out words of discouragement to the Gray Maidens, using bluff to disguise his satire as a warning to be cautious of this skilled killer. Being a court bard Quint can use his performance to undermine the confidence of enemies rather than bolster his friends' courage with a power called satire that replaces inspire courage. Sjo just starts bumping into the nobles to his left and right, trying to distract them, while Puk deftly slips through the crowd and the line of Gray Maiden shields, screaming to the surprised guards to guide the queen to safety. Balian climbs the battlements and leaps forward, braving the steep drop from the castle walls. As he lands in front of the podium, he clumsily brings down two female soldiers who were about the charge Blackjack and apologizes profusely, as he is only trying to help. Meanwhile the executioner has regained his bearings and picked up his axe again, threatening to strike Blackjack from behind. Yet it seems like the cloaked scoundrel has eyes in the back of his head, for he jumps over the axeman's deadly chop before he quickly grabs Trinia by the arm, ordering her to hang on. The next moment the caped crusader sails through the air again on the crimson banner with the young woman clinging to his side, first swinging back to the castle, then running over the wall to gain extra speed. As he swerves back down, he pushes off, propelling himself and his proxy to the roof of a nearby building. He glides off the tiles, but somehow manages to halt his momentum and regains his feet. Once more he looks up at the castle to see the queen flee inside. He raises his rapier in salute to the crowd on the terrace and in the streets (and possibly to the companions who aided his escape). With a swoop of his cloak he turns around and disappears with Trinia over the rooftops.

Meanwhile the Gray Maidens push back the elite visitors on the terrace, ordering them to go home and showing no respect for the station of the people in front of them. Quint makes an effort to reach the executioner, offering to heal the man's wounds, but he gets driven back with the rest of the guests. He decides not to push his luck, realizing that Trinia is safe for now, and follows the aggravated nobles and dignitaries down the steps of the great mastaba that supports Castle Korvosa.

The companions head directly to Trinia's apartment and her friend Nisha's flat to see if either of the women are there, but find both places empty, which does not come as a big surprise. The streets in the city are filled with people who are flabbergasted by the spectacle that just transpired. Most citizens question Blackjack's motives and harbor little sympathy for his reckless rescue, as formidable a feat as it may have been. It feels like rest or peace are just not in Korvosa's cards. The Gods only know what will happen next ...


The first installment, Edge of Anarchy, is finally nearing its end. I've posted a little preview of Trinia's impending execution on deviantart. Wonder if my players will notice before next week ...

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