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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
27 Arodus 4708
That morning Balian, Puk and Quint enjoy the finer things in life. After an elaborate hearty breakfast they have their tired muscles and aching backs rubbed by an experienced masseuse and take a long, scented bath. They feel totally relaxed when they join Sjo at the small temple of Shelyn and accompany Lady Merisse Bromathan and her son to the rebel base in the Gray District. Illrem Bromathan is very happy to see his family safe and is relieved to learn that his brother is still alive, even though he is locked up in Longacre’s deepest dungeons.
The companions can use Illrem’s improvised study as their own conference room. They amass all the facts they know about the Acadamae, where according to the information they gathered, Ileosa’s infernal contract was forged.
Prestigious and highly esteemed, the famed Acadamae trains some of the finest wizards in all of Golarion. Isolated from the rest of the city and the world, the faculty opens its doors but once a year to outsiders, during the notorious Breaching Festival. The school attracts students from all over the world, as far away as distant Geb, and even - to the annoyance of the far-more ancient colleges there - Cheliax. The ten-year education is said to cost hands full of money, so only the privileged few make it to its classrooms. The Acadamae trains specialists in all eight schools of magic, but its primary focus lies in conjuration. Regardless of an apprentice’s focus every student at the college must pass a grueling exam in conjuration in order to graduate. Thus, the college does not allow its students to forsake learning of conjuration. Despite its towering tuition only seven out of ten students actually survive their decade of instruction. Rumors speak of those attempting to quit the school becoming test subjects for students of necromancy, but to date no one has verified these stories.
Nearly a town unto itself, the Acadamae provides its students and faculty with everything they need to live. The only people normally allowed within the Acadamae either teach at or attend the college. Instructors live in apartment suites within the walls for free, while the rent for students’ tenement flats and studios are included in their already expensive tuition. Students rarely venture outside the Acadamae’s imposing walls. Those who go out do so in groups as part of their studies, to shop at the Golden Orery, consult the Leroung library or attend service at the temple of Asmodeus. On rare occasions, students slink into one of the many taverns in the city to relieve stress, although it is far more common for them to sneak alcohol or drugs back onto campus. Since the state of emergency was declared in Korvosa following Eodred’s passing, even fewer people have left the school grounds. While most of the schools work together in relative harmony, an increasing animosity between students of conjuration and necromancy has led to several duels over the last couple of years. Since they are strictly against school policy, these magical combats also take place outside of the faculty walls. Students who attend the Acadamae usually have no interest in doing good works. Generally, they seek power at almost any cost. Many become swayed by the honeyed words of the devils they summon, and most of these lose any morality they had and slip inexorably into evil.
Shrouded in secrecy, the campus’s 30-foot-high walls only barely conceal the grand Hall of Summoning. This imposing building is one of the largest structures in all of Korvosa. Rebuilt only a quarter-century ago, the Hall of Summoning has only recently returned to full use as the primary locus of instruction. All students receive at least some tutoring at the Hall of Summoning, and it is in the massive, central summoning chamber that students must face their graduation exam. Surrounding this grandiose edifice are a number of ‘smaller’ buildings, including a hall for every school of magic. Each of them houses classrooms specially designed to facilitate their area of study. For the most part, these buildings architecturally reflect the nuances of the schools they house.
As the companions have already witnessed on several occasions a great number of imps make their homes on the Acadamae’s campus. These imps frequently take to the air, flitting about above the campus and across Korvosa. They tend to travel in groups, as the city’s pseudodragon population views them as foul representations of evil and petty sadism.
Each year, as spring turns to summer, the Acadamae of Korvosa holds the Breaching Festival: a day on which a dozen hopefuls try to enter the famed magical university’s Hall of Wards by whatever means they can, and in doing so earn extravagant wealth and the praise and admiration of an entire city. Yet no one has emerged victorious from the Breaching in over a century and a half, and a great many contestants have gone missing entirely after trying to bypass the school’s defenses. The dean of abjuration at the Acadamae sends out the invitations to the contestants. The top students from each of the seven other schools receive one, as do the leaders of the thieves’ guild and four other worthy candidates chosen at random. In addition to the invited participants, the annual event draws hundreds of onlookers, who fill the Acadamae’s grounds and stare in wonder at the secretive college’s otherwise closed campus. Students manning the gates prevent beggars and riffraff from entering the grounds, and as a rule no human child shorter than a dwarf may enter. These visitors are only allowed into the yard, where they witness the introduction of the participants to the festival and attend the start of the competition. The onlookers are not permitted to loiter about freely.
Since the first festival in 4544 only one competitor has ever succeeded in passing the test. Only 7 years into the contest, Dyson Fordyce (the fourth son of the lord at that time) managed to step half a shoe beyond the building’s threshold, granting him a small fortune. Dyson donated half his winnings to his father, allowing House Fordyce to rise to the status of Great House (a title it only held for a century), and used the other half to ensure for himself a life of quiet luxury in the hills outside Veldraine. The next 157 never saw a new victor. Every year in which no one succeeds in breaching the Hall of Wards, the prize grows by a thousand gold sails, filling the current purse with over 150,000 gold sails.
The school of abjuration’s building looks relatively mundane when compared to the others, but its plain exterior hides the best-guarded building in Korvosa. Even the Mint of Abadar’s myriad defenses pale in comparison to those in place around and within the Hall of Wards. As such it is believed that the Acadamae’s biggest secrets are hidden in this building.
Armed with this information the companions realize that there are two more avenues to gather more intel: the Fordyce family and the thieves’ guild. Contacting the first source won’t be a problem, since the companions spent just last night in the company of one of the Fordyce nobles. Getting in touch with the Cerulean Society will prove harder, though. The companions have never dealt with this secret organization in person and have to rely on the rumors they know. The Cerulean Society is the only ‘legally recognized guild’ in this otherwise guildless city. They pay a hefty vice tax which allows them to conduct activities that border on the edge of the law. In exchange for this significant stream of tax income the city provides the guild immunity from prosecution as long as none of the crimes committed turn violent. Guild activities include a strong protection racket as well as drug trade. They also deal in sensitive information.
The thieves’ guild is not always the most powerful underworld group in the city. On occasion, a larger or more powerful group rises up and challenges the reigning thieves’ guild. The resulting gang wars pit the entrenched guild and its allies against the potential usurper and its supporters. This actually benefits the city, as it keeps both the Cerulean Society and its potential rivals from becoming too powerful.
The guild as it exists today is rumored to be in somewhat of a downward spiral. The current guild master, a man known as Boule, struggles to keep the organization from collapsing. More brute than brain Boule is respected by few, but feared by many. The man is noted for his bad temper and iron fist discipline. He’s a bad drunk with a strong desire for the mild stimulant from the Storval Plateau, Qat. His rule in the guild leans heavily upon his sense for sadism and cruelty. Never one to shy away from a fight, Boule can crush a man’s skull with his bare hands.
Some believe that Boule’s incompetence to lead is a clear sign that there is another power behind his throne. The name that is sometimes whispered is that of Glorio Arkona, whom the companions have dealt and allied with before. In their earlier transactions with the illusive noble from Old Korvosa he has alluded to underworld contacts himself, so the thought of him being the true ‘godfather’ of Korvosa’s Cerulean Society might not even be so farfetched.
The party decides to approach Glorio Arkona once more, but first they swing by House Zenderholm again, hoping to gain an audience with Lord Anaster Fordyce. Unfortunately the man is out for business, but his daughter Belinda kindly receives the heroes and turns out to be well versed in her father’s ancestral history, a trait not uncommon among nobles. Belinda confirms that ‘uncle Dyson’, as her ancestor’s younger brother is still called in the family, won the Breaching Festival 157 years ago, in 4551, when the competition was only seven years old. Dyson Fordyce was an Acadamae graduate who had specialized in illusion magic. He set a foot over the Hall of Wards’ threshold, thus technically fulfilling the stipulations of the contest rules, even though he never actually entered the guarded hall itself. Since his victory the rules for the Breaching Festival were tightened: they now require someone to actually enter the Hall through the front door and exit at the back. These stricter conditions have ensured that no one has won again.
Quint senses that Belinda is not revealing everything she knows and prods her to continue. It takes some subtle help from Sjo to get her to talk. Belinda admits there is more, but she swears the companions to secrecy. Uncle Dyson never actually won. Being a cum laude graduate in illusions, he somehow managed to use his guile to make it seem like he went over the threshold, but he never really did. His trickery worked and that is how he won. So, Belinda concludes, in the 163 years since the competition started, no one has ever managed to triumph, not even Dyson Fordyce.
The party’s next stop is House Arkona. The companions use a dimension door to get into Old Korvosa, so they can avoid the Gray Maiden patrol on the bridge. Lord Glorio is as hospitable as ever. He has heard rumors, he smiles, of remarkable things that happened in the city during the last few days and compliments his guests on these achievements. Sjo returns the compliment by expressing his admiration for how well Lord Arkona is always informed.
“In fact”, the healer states, “we have come to take you up on your kind offer of help and possibly use this intelligence network of yours. You see, we’d like to learn more about the Acadamae and ways to get into this secluded bastion of magic. Survivors of the Breaching Festival would be a great source of information and if we understand correctly, the thieves’ guild sends a competitor every year. No doubt their century and a half of experience must have amounted to a great pool of knowledge. Is there any way in which we could benefit from this know-how? Could you get us in touch with someone within the guild?”
Glorio smiles confidently. He will contact his sources and arrange a meeting, he states. He will let the companions know when it is set up. Balian says he can leave a message at Tenna’s B&B. Quint almost spoils the party’s good relations with Lord Arkona by indirectly suggesting that he is the thieves’ guild real kingpin, earning his party members’ angry glares in exchange. The bard’s diplomacy was definitely off today, maybe the perfumes of this morning’s bath got to his head. Fortunately Arkona ignores this remark and merrily sends his guests off.
Another dimension door gets the party back to the mainland, where they reconsider their options for finding out more about infernal contracts. The temple of Asmodeus is still under lock-down and our friends seriously doubt whether priestess Tyresha will still be in place. Although she did not take part in their raid two nights ago, she was partly involved by instructing the Gray Maidens at the door to let the mysterious ‘inquisitor’ and his bodyguards pass. Since the queen will be most displeased by the destruction of her blood clone operation, she might very well direct her rage at Tyresha, lacking the real ‘culprits’. They finally decide to go with Balian’s earlier suggestion to seek advice outside the city and head to Kaer Maga instead. This way they won’t risk more exposure inside Korvosa.
28 Arodus 4708
The next morning Quint uses his last scroll of teleportation to zap the party to Kaer Maga. They make for The Flame that Binds, the magic shop where they conducted some business before. Its owner Carthagos is a powerful magician of his own right. Being a bloatmage he is definitely not an Acadamae graduate, but he might still know more about infernal contracts in general or be able to refer the companions to someone else in Kaer Maga he does. They are lucky, because the obese man is actually quite knowledgeable in planar matters. If the visitors promise him more business, he freely offers them what he knows about deals with devils.
An agreement with a contract devil can only be broken in two ways. When a contract is signed, a second copy manifests; one copy is retained by the devil and the other is given to the mortal. Mortals are free to do whatever they please with the lengthy, obviously evil documents, while contract devils typically keep active contracts with them at all times. Should both copies of a contract be reunited, they can be destroyed. Any effects caused by the contract are canceled or reversed and the mortal's soul goes to its normal place of rest after death and can be resurrected as normal. Merely absconding with both copies of the contract is not enough to break it - as long as the copies exist, the signer's soul remains forever damned.
Alternatively, a second mortal might be allowed to adopt the terms of a contract - with its soul replacing that of the original contract signer after death. The mortal who seeks to pay the debt of another must contact the contract devil who holds the relevant contract. The contract devil has a choice of whether or not to allow one mortal to pay another's debt, but values religious and good-aligned souls over others. Shrewd manipulators, contract devils often only agree to allow one mortal to pay another's debt in return for some service or proof of worth. If a contract devil agrees to accept another soul in payment, the original contract signer retains all of the benefits of the contract, but is released from damnation and may be resurrected as normal. The new signer, however, receives no benefits, cannot be returned to life upon dying, and spends an eternity in Hell after death.
Carthagos also reveals more on contract devils, also known as phistophili. They are immune to fire and poison and possess a high resistance to magic and weapons that are not enchanted with ‘holy’ magic. When confronting one of them, the opponent had better prepare!
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
As Puk and Balian walk through the North Point District, they notice Ileosa’s blue dragon on top of the Longacre Building. Questioning one of the workers on Jeggare Circle, they learn that this creature has been here since it was revealed to the city yesterday, and is now apparently guarding the courthouse/prison. Balian rewards the worker with one gold sail. Afterwards they complete their trip to Third Street, where the Bromathan residence is situated. The house is surrounded by a stone wall, leaving only the iron wrought gate to peek inside. Walking past, Puk and Balian see two Gray Maidens standing guard on the balcony above the front doors. Since hanging around the gate would quickly arouse suspicion, the two scouts decide there is nothing much to do for them around here anymore. They do remember, however, that Lady Zenobia Zenderholm, the Hanging Judge, lived in Fourth Street, and establish that the garden of her house actually partially adjoins House Bromathan’s backyard. Maybe they can gain more information from the Zenderholm family. As they head over there, they are surprised to see two Gray Maidens guarding the judge’s residence as well. They don’t recall having heard that this family has been placed under house arrest, so they assume that these guards simply act as ‘security’. Balian informs about judge and learns that she is at work in the courthouse. She won’t be home for a couple of hours. The two companions take their leave, glad to have gleaned from the guards’ behavior and accent that they were not blood clones, but real humans and real Korvosans to boot. Then the two young heroes rejoin their friends.
After his refreshing conversation with Dame Nesia’s double (or rather original), Elvira Campert, Quint joins Sjo at the old courthouse, close to the temple of Asmodeus. Sjo hasn’t done any scouting yet, since his limited vision of 60 feet makes that difficult. While Quint informs him how his meeting with the actress went, Balian and Puk arrive and report on their findings as well. Spying on the temple seems quite pointless too: the building is obviously closed to any visitors. A young man is denied entry by the Gray Maidens at the doors and when the companions intercept him, he claims that he couldn’t get in because the star-shaped building was shut for ‘temple business’. The youngster looks like a student from the Acadamae and his accent clearly betrays his Chelaxian background.
With their scouting mission over, Quint takes his friends to Tenna’s B&B, where he booked a room earlier. The owner is a great cook and conjures up a delicious supper for the party. Puk and Balian rent a room as well, and order a scented bath and massage session for tomorrow morning. Sjo is the only one who won’t be staying here, preferring to sleep with his fiancée at the temple of Shelyn. He is envious of the fact this his friends will have a personal valet here, named Bertol.
Around nine in the evening the party returns to House Zenderholm, hoping the find the judge at home now. The streets, which have more or less reclaimed their normal liveliness during daytime hours, are still very quiet at night. They companions make sure not to encounter any patrols and quickly find their way to Fourth Street. Two new Gray Maidens stand watch at the front doors now, but they do not keep our friends from knocking. Zenobia’s husband, Anaster Fordyce, answers and heartily invites the party inside. The complete family is gathered in the grand salon, judge Zenobia, her daughter Belinda, and her two sisters, Valesca and Almira, both spinsters who are in charge of the household. Quint accepts the offer of a cup of tea and asks to speak to Lady Zenderholm in private, while Puk and Balian agree to something stronger and entertain the rest of the family with funny anecdotes and jokes.
Zenobia takes Quint to her study. The bard quickly deduces that the judge still has her heart in the right place: she regrets that the queen has taken justice into her own hands, but does her best to stay on as head judge, to ensure that the law is still upheld as much as possible. Quint is quite open about his own recent findings, explaining what he discovered in the Temple of Asmodeus and revealing the Shoanti’s plans to wage war on Korvosa. He also confesses to freeing the Leroung family from house arrest, admitting that this endeavor did not go quite as planned and resulted in the assassination of Lady Leroung. Now he would like to extract Lady Bromathan and her son as well, but he wants to avoid bloodshed. Lady Zenderholm agrees: the Bromathans are the perfect example of the Queen’s self-righteous conduct. Although no real charges have been brought up to accuse the core family, they have been detained for being allied to House Endrin and the Sable Company. Lord Valdur IV, the head of the house, pines away in a cell beneath the Longacre Building, while his wife and son have been confined to their villa. And all of this without a fair trial! Lady Zenderholm supports Quint’s plans to free her neighbors, especially when she learns that Illrem Bromathan himself requested this. She would even let the companions use her house to do this extraction, as long as they do not betray her involvement to the Gray Maidens. The two guards at the front door saw four men come in and they are expecting four men to come out again! Still, the Zenderholm house can provide an advantage. Since Zenobia’s study is situated at the back of the house on the first floor, the window offers a great view over the dividing wall to the Bromathan residence. Lord Valdur’s and Lady Merisse’s bedroom is at the back of the Bromathan house, so Quint can clearly see their window from here. When Lady Merisse appears to draw the curtains, the bard casts message to magically whisper to the woman in the adjacent house. After her initial surprise, she confirms that she is eager to get out. The fact that her brother-in-law Illrem requested her rescue sets her at ease even more and she is overjoyed to hear that her husband (even though he is imprisoned in Longacre) and her daughter Aurelia (whom the party saved from the temple of Asmodeus) are still alive. She says that her son is in his own bedroom at the front of the house. There are eight Gray Maiden guarding the residence, but no devils. Quint tells the woman to sit tight; he will try to smuggle her and her son out without the guards even finding out!
Quint gathers his friends and leaves the Zenderholm house. He casts two invisibility spheres, one on himself and Puk, and another one on Balian and Sjo. The party now makes for Third Street, where they can stand in front of the iron gate without being seen. The son’s room is next to the balcony where two Gray Maidens are standing watch, so the heroes will have to proceed with caution. Using ghost sound inside the boy’s room, Quint lures the lad to the window, so he can cast another message. The bard whispers to young Valdur that he will be rescued at the behest of his uncle Illrem. While Sjo and Balian remain in the street in front of the house, ready to come to their friends’ aid if anything should go wrong, Puk and Quint use dimension door, one of Quint’s new fourth level spells, to teleport into young Valdur’s room. A second dimension door takes them to Lady Merisse. Quint renews his invisibility sphere, to include Valdur and his mother, and with Puk’s cloak of the pixie king, they can dimension door back to Balian and Sjo. From there they retreat to the temple of Shelyn, which is the closest safe place they know. Sjo’s fiancée Larella is happy to provide the saved nobles with a bed for the night. Sjo will remain there as well to watch over them, while his friends go back to Tenna’s B&B, to spend the night in a soft featherbed.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
I'd go with the Reaper dwarven wizard as well, 77075: Khael Stonekindle, Dwarf Wizard. With the plastic Bones mini, you'll be able to cut back his hat easily to make it look like the flat-topped brimmed hat. The pipe could be recut into a flask-like thing, so you'd have the alchemist element covered as well. The staff can be retrimmed as well, although I don't know what is appropriate for the character.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Guide to Korvosa has been designed so that it is safe to read for players, except for the last chapter, which contains the secrets of the city for the GM only.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Well, there is not much official information on the Cerulean Society, which means it is open for your interpretation. There are several pages on the obsidian portal network that describe the thieves' guild with a mix of official material and homebrew stuff:
There seems to be a concensus in these pages that the word 'Cerulean' refers to the blue uniforms the gang members wear.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
After having found out the basics on infernal contracts from Keppira d’Bear, the companions realize that they need to learn more about these devilish dealings if they want to stand a chance against Ileosa. The temple of Asmodeus is their best bet, but the place will be in state of alert after last night’s raid, so getting more information from someone like priestess Tyresha will prove very tricky right now. The Acadamae probably houses a fair number of scholars who have a keen interest in the planes, but as the place is off limits to the public and closely guarded, it will prove even trickier than the temple of the Dark Prince. The Leroung library used to have a chamber dedicated to planar studies, but when the party was there two nights ago, they were told that imps had overrun the room and destroyed all tomes referring to Hell. So this is not a viable option either.
They call in professor Sirtane Leroung to ask her who in the city were regular users of the library’s planar section. Unfortunately, she states that only Asmodeans and residents from the Acadamae frequented this particular reading room. So who else in Korvosa might know more about infernal contracts? The various devils themselves perhaps, but how would you go about getting them to talk? No, it feels like Korvosa will not offer this information freely. Balian suggests using the teleport scroll to go to another city to gather this knowledge: Janderhoff, Kaer Maga or even somewhere in Cheliax itself. Quint rejects Balian’s idea, at least for the moment. The bard proposes to stake out the temple of Asmodeus to find out how things evolve there. He still sees the temple as his best option and feels it would be unwise to simply dismiss this possibility without making sure it truly is impossible.
The bard also remembers Illrem Bromathan’s plea for help to free his sister-in-law and nephew from their home, where they have been placed under house arrest. Since the party’s first ‘rescue mission’ at the Leroung house didn’t end so well, it seems like a good idea to stake out the Bromathan villa as well, before actually moving in to free the prisoners. Illrem provides the heroes with a sketch of the house and looks pleased that the party will heed his personal request, as the truly fears for the safety of his kin.
The companions decide to use the rest of the day for scouting. Sjo and Quint will watch the temple of Asmodeus, while Puk and Balian will keep their eyes on the Bromathan villa. Traveling to these two destinations will take them to the northwest and northeast of the city respectively. This means they have to part ways at the Gold Market, so they might as well have dinner there first in one of the restaurants. After all, it is no fun staking out a place on an empty stomach.
The Gold Market is unexpectedly booming with activity. A large crowd has gathered in front of a podium. Asking around, the companions find out that there will be a free theatrical performance, with free food and drink to boot. It looks like Ileosa is working hard on her public relations with another offering of bread and games. Deciding that they don’t mind paying for a good meal, the companions find a great spot on the terrace of the exclusive King’s Table restaurant, from where they have a good, albeit somewhat distant view on the stage. Only moments later the play begins.
Korvosa always rises
The opening scene shows Eodred’s harem: beautiful girls who keep the king occupied. After an exotic dance a smart-dressed man with a haughty attitude walks in and sends the girls away. It is the seneschal. The kings asks how his people are doing. Kalepopolis assures him that all is well and that his subjects are happy. The king does not need to worry, his seneschal has everything under control.
Balian recognizes the actor who plays Kalepopolis. It is Marco Ebhart, who was part of the Passion of Saint Alika cast, in which he played the Shoanti assassin who gave Alika her first vision.
Kalepopolis retreats to his chambers where he meets up with the Chelish ambassador Amprei. Amprei offers the seneschal a painting of a nude young woman, which Kalepopolis likes very much. He is especially fond of her boyish looks. Amprei claims it is a self-portrait of an up-and-coming new artist, named Trinia Sabor. Knowing the seneschal’s love of the arts, he is willing to introduce the two in exchange for his help. He wants to have the king sign a new decree, forcing poor people who can’t pay their taxes into slavery, as is the custom for halflings in Cheliax. Slavery will offer great business opportunities, as will the property market: slaves will be forced out of their homes and these empty houses will be up for grabs.
Kalepopolis likes the deviousness of Amprei’s plans, but he seriously doubts Eodred will sign such a decree: the kind-hearted king loves his people too much. Amprei says he has already thought of that. He calls in a woman whom he introduces as Lady Andaisin, high priestess of Urgathoa. She can brew a potion that will make the king do anything they want. They will simply have one of his harem girls slip the potion to him. Kalepopolis is easily convinced, but says they will have to wait until after the Founding Festival tomorrow, for the can hardly send a drugged king into the city to greet its citizens.
During his ride through the city on Founding Day, the king sees how a young noblewoman from Cheliax gets thrown off her horse and he saves her from being trampled. He learns her name, Ileosa, and offers to take her to his castle to have her rest. A mother with a small ginger-haired child watches as the king and the noblewoman ride off. “She is beautiful, isn’t she, mother?” the boy says. “She is, Tommy, she truly is”, the mother replies.
There is something strangely familiar about Ileosa’s voice and countenance. Studying her closer Puk sees that she looks and sounds exactly like Dame Nesia, the blood clone experiment who lived with the companions for a time before she exploded in a pool of blood. This woman must be Nesia’s original!
Kalepopolis is talking to Amprei and Andaisin. The seneschal is furious: Eodred has sent his harem away because he is infatuated with this new girl. The king has also decided to take a more active interest in ruling the city to impress his new conquest. Without the harem the conspirators won’t be able to slip the king the potion. Amprei admits this is a great setback. Now they will have to find another way to force the poor out of their houses, so he can buy big building blocks cheaply. But Kalepopolis needn’t worry, Andaisin has more tricks up her sleeve. After all, the best weapon against a woman with a gentle soul, is a woman with an evil one.
Eodred and Ileosa get married. The king promises to be a good husband to her and an even better king to his people. Naturally, he is concerned for his wife’s safety and he gives her a personal bodyguard, Sabina Merrin and a handful of queen’s guards, called the Gray Maidens.
Kalepopolis has another meeting with Amprei and Andaisin. The seneschal is malcontent because he has lost a lot of influence over the last five years, since Eodred and Ileosa got married. The queen has made Eodred a better man and king, thwarting the conspirators’ plans. Amprei whole-heartedly agrees, although he has the funds to buy up land in Korvosa’s poorer quarters, prices are still too high. Andaisin says Urgathoa has the answer: the king will have to be killed. She takes out a potion bottle with a big white skull painted on it. But who will give it to the king? Kalepopolis smiles, he knows just the person. After all, it is high time the king adds his portrait to the gallery of monarchs.
Eodred and Ileosa are in their chambers, joking about what pose the king should assume on his portrait. Eodred wants Ileosa to be on the portrait with him, but she kindly refuses, saying tradition demands a state portrait of the monarch by himself. Then Kalepopolis interrupts, walking in with the artist, Trinia Sabor. Ileosa kindly greets her, but Trinia scoffs at her and demands to be alone with his majesty: there can be no distractions.
The woman playing Trinia looks familiar as well. Quint recognizes her as one of the Exemplary Execrables’ former actresses. He even recalls her name, Greta. She was the young girl who portrayed the vessel for Donodarr’s seed in Lucian Lycan’s (Lick’s) play The Hell Mother. Several of the other cast members belong to Greta’s gang of drug-using friends, whom the companions met as well.
Ileosa is talking to Kalepopolis. She is concerned for the king. Trinia has kept him locked up in his room for weeks now. Ileosa feels her husband should come out for some fresh air, the current situation is not healthy for him and it has also kept him from doing his royal duties. Kalepopolis wipes the queen’s worries under the rug. Eodred is just getting older, he claims, and Korvosa does not need him to exert himself; Kalepopolis is perfectly capable of taking those heavy duties off the king’s hands. Ileosa disagrees, she wants to take Eodred out for a walk on the terrace, but Kalepopolis blocks her way. “Not yet,” he grunts, “be patient, my queen, Trinia will finish her business soon enough!”
After Ileosa leaves, Andaisin crawls out from behind the curtain. She asks Kalepopolis why the king still isn’t dead. The seneschal says he might have misjudged Eodred’s charm, he fears the silly painter has fallen in love with the king.
Trinia puts the final touches on Eodred’s portrait. She walks up to the king and gives him a hug. Then she tries to kiss him, but he wards her off, saying those frivolous days are long behind him. He is happily married now. Trinia is obviously disappointed and asks the king if they can at least toast to the finished portrait. Eodred accepts. Trinia secretly pulls out the poison and pours it in Eodred’s drink. Then they empty their glasses and Eodred drops to the floor. The king is dead.
Ileosa runs into the throne room and falls to her knees, crying because her husband is dead. Kalepopolis follows a few moments later, saying “so it goes”. People grow old and then they die. Then he sits down on the throne, shouting: “The king is dead, long live the king!” As Ileosa looks up in despair, he smirks at her. If she is a good girl, he might find some room in his bed for her. “Never”, Ileosa screams in reply. The seneschal jumps to his feet again and draws his weapon. He claims that in ancient civilizations, wives joined deceased kings in the grave. Maybe it is time to revive these customs. He walks up to Ileosa threateningly, but Sabina Merrin shows up just in time to parry his blade. She wounds Kalepopolis badly and the man flees, swearing this is not over yet.
Amprei and Andaisin are toasting the king’s death, when a wounded Kalepopolis stumbles in on them. He tells them his plans to usurp the throne have failed: they underestimated Ileosa and her protector Merrin. Lady Andaisin calls this only a minor setback. All the conspirators have to do is prove to the people of Korvosa that Ileosa can’t rule. Urgathoa will help them, she claims. She just needs some time to prepare a very devious plan, nothing short of a ‘masterpiece’. Meanwhile she wants her allies to undermine the queen’s authority. Kalepopolis cries he can’t do anything for now, he’s badly wounded! He will seek refuge with his Sable Company brothers to get well first. So it’s up to Amprei, who promises to do what he can to incite the people to rebel against Ileosa.
Amprei is talking to Trinia, who is angry with Ileosa for being the true cause of the king’s death. She calls Ileosa a Chelish wh*re. Amprei chuckles at this insult and tells Trinia to teach it to the filth in the streets.
Little Tommy, the kid with the ginger hair (now five years older) is walking with his mother, talking about how sad they are about the king dying. Suddenly they come across a group of people who are protesting against Ileosa (or the “Chelish wh*re”, as the call her); Amprei and Trinia are in the first ranks, shouting the hardest. Korvosan guards try to calm the demonstrators down, but Trinia draws a knife and skewers a guard. Sabina Merrin arrives on the scene, cradles the stabbed guard in her arms as he dies and then tells the protestors to return home. Amprei tries to stab her in the back while she is trying to defuse the situation. She manages to sidestep his vicious attack, knocks him out and then she draws her sword and holds it to Trinia’s throat. She arrests the painter while she sends the rest of the rabble home. When everyone has left the scene, Little Tommy and his mother remain behind. Tommy asks his mother what a “wh*re” is. She claims it is hard to explain, but whatever it is, she is sure Ileosa isn’t one. “What is she, then?” the boy wonders. “She is the one who is going to take care of all of us, as queens do”, his mother assures him.
Merrin brings Amprei and Trinia before the queen. Although she is still in mourning, Ileosa makes the right decision: she sends Amprei back to Cheliax, telling him that his title of Chelish ambassador is all that is keeping the axe from his neck. She tries to show some sympathy for Trinia, but the painter blames Ileosa for everything and refuses to show any remorse. With a heavy heart Ileosa condemns her to death.
As Trinia is being lead to the chopping block, Ileosa gives her another opportunity to confess her sins and repent, but again the girl refuses. Suddenly Blackjack appears and rescues Trinia. Merrin is frustrated, but Ileosa seems relieved: she is happy the gods helped her not to sink to Trinia’s level and take a life. She is sure the gods will see justice done.
Lady Andaisin is working in a dark laboratory, injecting a rat with a green fluid inside a large syringe. Suddenly Blackjack and Trinia walk in. Blackjack removes his mask. It is Kalepopolis. Andaisin wonders why he bothered saving Trinia, she is a failure! The priestess claims to be holding the key to their success in her hand, showing the rat to her visitors. Trinia mocks the priestess: “You’re going to take down the queen with rats? How will you do that?” “Like this”, Andaisin replies, as she lets go of the rat, who runs over to Trinia and bites the girl. Trinia is shocked and runs for the door. Kalepopolis intends to stop her, but Andaisin orders him to let her go. If the people don’t kill her, the rat bite certainly will, she smirks.
Balian notices that the rat is not actually a real animal, but rather an illusion. He also briefly picks up a flash of the person casting the magical rat image: it is Rimando Lumenos, the gnome prankster who used to work in the Marble Dome for The Passion of Saint Alika.
Little Tommy comes home to find his mother chase off three rats. He tells her he found something outside. He leads his mother out to a haystack where Trinia Sabor is in her death throes. Tommy’s mother goes over to comfort Trina. With her dying breath the painter finally confesses: “It was never Ileosa’s fault, it was always mine.” Then she dies. Tommy’s mother closes the dead woman’s eyes and gets up with a cough.
Ileosa receives a number of plague doctors in her throne room. The physicians claim to have been sent by the Chelish government to help. Ileosa is grateful for their assistance, but after the doctors have left, Merrin tells the queen she does not trust them. The queen orders her personal bodyguard to keep a close eye on them.
Tommy brings his sick mother to the doctors’ hospital. The beak-masked healers put her in a bed and give her medicine. They order Tommy to leave, as he will only get in the way. When the boy is gone, they laugh: no one knows their medicine will only make people worse. Sabina Merrin is standing behind a pillar, eaves-dropping. When one doctor leaves and only one remains behind, she knocks him out.
Sabina Merrin takes the doctor she captured to the queen. She forces the man to confess, but his acknowledgement does not contain a grain of remorse. He is happy to die for Urgathoa as his work in the city is done. Merrin gives him his wish and cuts him down. Ileosa is in shock. She feels guilty for allowing the physicians into the city and orders Merrin to put an end to their vile practices immediately.
Sabina Merrin and her Gray Maidens invade the Hospital of the Blessed Maiden. They kill the doctors in the sick room and save the patients, including Tommy’s mother, who is burning up with fever. She asks Merrin where her son is. The Gray Maiden commander tells her she will see him soon enough. She’ll be safe now. Tommy’s mother thanks Merrin, but feels that she will not survive. She is too sick. Then another Gray Maiden interrupts the conversation, saying she has found a way down to the underground temple of Urgathoa.
Kalepopolis and Lady Andaisin are in a state of panic, the Gray Maidens have discovered their hideout. Their sanctuary is under attack! Kalepopolis waves around papers which hold the recipe to the cure. He also has crates full of the medicine, which the doctors have been using to keep from getting infected themselves. Andaisin orders him to destroy the potions and papers, as she retreats deeper into the sanctuary, to the shrine of Urgathoa. There she will make her final stand.
After Andaisin leaves, Kalepopolis wants to burn the documents and smash the potion bottles, but Sabina Merrin arrives in time to stop him. Kalepopolis refuses to yield, shouting the throne should have been his. Merrin finishes him off by plunging her sword in his chest.
Lady Andaisin is praying to a golden statue of Urgathoa. Sabina Merrin walks in and the two of them engage in combat. During the fight, the golden statue animates and joins Andaisin in the fight. Merrin is hard pressed, but she wins out in the end.
Tommy runs to his mother’s sickbed. She is really happy to see her son one more time and tells him to be strong, for her time is up. Then the queen herself walks in. She ignores her guards’ words of caution and joins Tommy at his mother’s side. She takes the woman’s hand in hers and promises her she will save her. Merrin gets back and gives one of the potions to the queen, who immediately administers it to Tommy’s mum. The woman suddenly regains her breath and feels better. Tommy is overjoyed. Ileosa asks Tommy if there is anything else she can do for him. He tells her to take care of everyone in the city, as queens do. “I will”, Ileosa promises.
Ileosa accepts the crown of Korvosa out of Little Tommy’s hands, finding it only fitting to receive the royal headband from her own people. The boy is now perfectly dressed and Ileosa hails him for being everything a true Korvosan should be: brave, never-relenting and loyal to the city. In the rest of her speech she praises the citizens for surviving. The cure has turned the plague into a dark memory and brighter days are ahead. Ileosa swears to protect the people and serve the land of Korvosa. When the people on stage burst into cheers of “Long live the queen!”, their cries are taken up by the spectators. The play ends with Korvosa’s new anthem: ‘Gods save Korvosa, Gods save the Queen’.
After the play Quint makes his way backstage. He casts glibness and innocence on himself and weasels his way past the guards by calling out to his ‘friend’ Marco Ebhart, who is hanging around behind the podium. Marco does not know who wrote the play, explaining that the piece was provided by the magistrate of Expenditures, Syl Gar, who also hired the cast. He can tell Quint the name of the woman who played Ileosa, however, Elvira Campert, a student from the Acadamae. She is in the building behind him, which has been confiscated to act as the dressing rooms for the cast. Quint makes his way inside the house and finds Elvira in an upstairs bedroom, where she is removing her make-up. She has taken off her red Ileosa wig, revealing her lush blond hair. Now there is no denying it anymore, she is the spitting image of Dame Nesia! Quint introduces himself as a fellow actor and Elvira recognizes him from The Passion of Saint Alika, which she claims to have seen. This is actually her first time on stage, she explains, and Quint showers her with compliments on her performance. She confirms that she is a student at the Acadamae, the Hall of Charm to be exact. As an arcanist specialized in enchantment, she has always felt a great affinity for the theatre, even though she never actively pursued this profession. She claims that she was asked to play the part of Ileosa by ‘the castle’. When Quint pushes her to expound, she tells him that she has no real connections in the castle, apart from the new seneschal, Togomor, who is also the head of the transmutation department in the Acadamae. Although she did not study under him, the professor had a soft spot for her and tried to woo her in the past, without success. The man is powerful, which some girls might find attractive, but not Elvira. She is even repulsed by his appearance, which makes Quint smile. Togomor is not a good-looking man by any standards: old, balding and fat with a greasy skin. Not the type a pretty girl would fall for. Quint on the other hand is a handsome devil, and he feels that there is a spark between him and Elvira. He asks her if he can see her again. She says she would like that, but it is hard to get out of the Acadamae. She’s not sure if there are going to be other performances of the play, none have been planned so far. So she asks Quint where she can find him, if she manages to get out. Since the bard can hardly tell Elvira he is staying at the resistance hide-out, he has to resort to quick thinking, claiming he is staying at Tenna’s, a luxurious bed and breakfast establishment in Citadel Crest.
Next Greta - Trinia in the play - knocks on the door, asking Elvira if she is ready. Quint greets her and tells her he actually met her after Lick’s (or rather Lucian Lycan’s) play The Hell Mother, but she does not remember him. The bard is not surprised, recalling that Greta was ‘high’ when they met. Before he slips out, Quint manages to grab one of the cotton pads Elvira used to remove her make-up. This might be useful to scry on her in the future.
Before he joins up with Sjo in the old courthouse, Quint swings by Tenna’s to book a room in his name for several days. He leaves instructions at the desk to take a message for him if people come by when he is absent, which might happen often, he says.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Great update as always, MrVergee. I wonder where this stuff with the blood clones comes from. It isn't part of the actual AP, is it? So did you make it up on your own or was it proposed somewhere as a possible side trek? Blends in quite perfectly with the rest of the plot.
I can't claim credit for the blood clone idea; I stole it from Moonbeam's excellent Curse of the Crimson Throne's journal, which was a great inspiration for my campaign. Moonbeam is the one who introduced the early blood clone experiment Dame Nesia, as well as the full blown Gray Maiden versions.
I ran with his idea because it provided several great opportunities:
I think Moonbeam got his idea from the AP's last installment: the Everdawn Pool in the Sunken Queen. As I won't be using that chapter in my own campaign, the blood clone Gray Maiden alternative sounded perfect. I guess Star Wars might have had an influence as well ...
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Wow, your guys did a lot in one session. sounds like all kinds of fun. I especially liked this detial:
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
We use Hero Points and I must say that they were all but gone by the end of the fight. In fact Jacen, who plays Silas, made the comment that anybody with full Hero Points after the fight would have some explaining to do! ;)
We use hero points too, real life savers. For me as a GM, hero points are a blessing, for they allow me to throw serious challenges at the party.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The creature is featured in the bestiary section of Crown of Fangs. In my campaign, I've used this soul-sucking construct in an alternative way, turning it into an infernal engine that can drain skills from an 'original' and infuse these powers into newly created blood clones. The individual being drained was actually Cressida Kroft.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The stairs lead to the bowels of the crypts below the temple of Asmodeus. A strange construct floats in the center of a burning five-pointed star. The grim statue quietly hovers, its slow, seemingly weightless bobbing belying its obvious bulk. Sculpted in the shape of a grim, horned angel, gigantic wings and terrible, long clawed arms jut from a legless body that tapers into a blunt, blade-like trunk. Crucified upon the ominous form's breast hangs the drained body of Cressida Kroft, Korvosa’s field marshal. Five large vats stand in the points of the star; blood drips from the ceiling into these container. The crimson fluid churns and bubbles as it is slowly molded into human shape. The sanguine women are in different stages of development, with the most advanced specimen trying to tear loose from the scarlet goo. Off to the right is archbishop Ornher Reebs, the temple’s high priest, and his bodyguard Mallas.
Quint still poses as an inquisitor of Asmodeus and forcefully orders Reebs to cease these bestialities immediately, as they go against Korvosan rule. Reebs is not fazed in the least by this display of jurisdiction, he is not opposing the law, as a matter of fact, he’s acting on behalf of the city’s highest authority, the queen herself. On top of that his practice, albeit somewhat unusual, fits perfectly in Asmodean doctrine: sacrifices for the greater good and promotion of Asmodeus’ devil kingdom. In vain Quint tries to contest Reebs’s claims, but the high priest simply calls out to his god: “Asmodeus, show us who is right here!” His bodyguard takes this as a clue to draw his sword, but the real response to the archbishop’s calling is given within the burning star: with a sudden jut the humongous statue snaps to life and two of the vats burst out into horrible humanoid shapes that ooze and weep blood from every part of their body; their hands end in sharpened claws.
These fresh blood wights are the first to act, charging Balian and Quint. Vencarlo tries to counter, but finds that his rapier has difficulty piercing the creatures’ viscous skin. Reebs calls a wall of swirling blades into existence on top of Vencarlo, Balian and Quint, cleverly cutting off Spyder, Puk and Sjo from the rest of the room. Fortunately the three heroes in the blade barrier manage to jump out of harm’s way. Puk tumbles forward through the wall, relying on his roguish skills to avoid the hacking swords, and focuses his attacks on the same blood wight that Balian is targeting. Next the akaruzug flies closer, wipping its bladed underbody at Quint. The bard makes a converse movement and steps back to look for cover on the other side of the blade barrier. He suffers some cuts, but now finds himself in a relatively safe position to cast spells and try to influence the battle. He boosts his friends with haste and starts his satire to debuff his enemies, using the infernal language to do so. It looks like his effort fails on the construct and on Mallas as well, who is probably too stupid to know the tongue of his patron deity. Sjo attempts to hold the broad-shouldered bodyguard in place, but the temple warrior withstands the magic. Spyder joins the fight on the other side of the barrier, but suffers the full strength of the blades while jumping through. The poor dog is badly hurt and its bad luck continues as both the akaruzug and Mallas bear down on it in full force. Mangled and bleeding from many wounds the canine drops to the floor. Ornher Reebs calls down a large pillar of fire on the center of combat, catching most heroes and the two blood wights in the flames. One of the latter does not survive the fire. The heroes now press the attack on its sibling, but the akaruzug claws and slashes its way through them without mercy, taking Puk down as well. Sjo heals his friends with a mass cure light wounds and calls down his own flame strike on Mallas and Reebs. At the same time Quint casts good hope and drops his satire in favor of inspire greatness for Balian and Puk. The halfling’s luck picks up as he slips under Mallas’s fierce swing and Balian shares in the good fortune when his armor protects him from the blood wight’s claws. Vencarlo finally manages to finish the wight off, but still finds himself and his allies cornered by the hovering akaruzug. Puk uses his cloak’s dimension door power to teleport himself, Balian and Vencarlo to the other side of the room, next to Reebs. The high priest has just enough time to summon a look of surprise and panic on his face, before the halfing’s daggers and Balian’s greatsword end his miserable existence. Sjo now manages to freeze Mallas in place with a hold person, but just for a few seconds. Vencarlo darts around the floating construct, taking an attack of opportunity ‘for the team’, so he can provide flanking to Puk on Mallas. The fencing master gets hit even more by the akaruzug, but the seasoned warrior is tough and makes his stand. Mallas is not so lucky; when Puk and Balian charge him, he does not survive.
Now the companions can at last focus on the flying statue. Quint uses his new dimension door spell to zap Sjo and himself to the other side of the blade barrier, where the healer can finally restore Puk’s faltering health. When the heroes deliver their first blows to the akaruzug, they notice that Cressida Kroft’s crucified body seems to share in the agony of the wounds. Balian activates his boots of flying to take to the air and cleaves through the chain that binds the field marshal to the construct’s chest. His attempt succeeds and has an unexpected bonus. As the commander of the Korvosan Guard tumbles to the floor, the floating monstrosity suddenly freezes to a halt, giving the champions of Korvosa the opportunity to finish it off. Sjo heals the ailing field marshal and nurses her back to consciousness, although she still feels weak and hollow.
The companions take a few moments to recover from the fight, gather some loot and brief Kroft. Then they head back to the floor with the cell block and free the imprisoned girls. After they reveal their true identity, some of the girls recognize them and realize they have indeed been saved. One of the prisoners is Aurelia Bromathan, niece to the leader of the rebellion, Illrem Bromathan. She is in a separate cell with eight other girls who look like they have been in here longer than the others. It turns out that they were considered ‘impure sacrifices’, as they have all given birth. (This confirms older rumors that Aurelia Bromathan, who disappeared from the city for a year, was indeed pregnant and shipped off to give birth the her ‘bastard’ in secret.) Quint convinces the girls to put on Gray Maiden armors, which are readily available in a well-stocked armory, so they can move through the city in disguise. He has no problem leading them past the guards at the front temple gate and after a quick stop at the old courthouse to pick up Keppira d’Bear, they make their way back to the Gray District. Using Puk, Balian and Vencarlo as scouts, the troop manages to avoid real Gray Maiden patrols and makes it to the other side of the city safely. When the finally reach the halls of the resistance, the companions get some much needed rest.
26 Arodus 4708
By the time the party gets up it is already past noon. Illrem calls the heroes into his makeshift office to thank them for rescuing his niece and get a full report on their rescue mission. When he learns about the infernal contract that Ileosa supposedly closed in the Acadamae, he is very worried. It seems that the queen has garnered even more superpower than the crown gives her. The leader of the resistance feels that this intel certainly deserves more attention. He summons Keppira d’Bear from the temple of Pharasma to shed some light on these diabolical dealings. The archbishop’s knowledge is limited, though. She knows that such deals are usually forged by contract devil, also known as Phistophili. Apart from taking care of hell’s bureaucracy, these devils seduce desperate, arrogant or foolish mortals to make a deal with Hell itself. Infernal contracts can provide several boons, but to gain those the mortal has to sign over his soul, dooming himself to eternal damnation after his death.
While numerous types of infernal contracts exist, the following three are those most often offered to mortals:
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
In my camapign the time between the first and the second adventure was even shorter, just one week, during which the PCs escorted Trinia to Vencarlo’s friend in Harse.
You can read in my journal how I solved the sinking boat question, but I’ll give you a short summary here:
The ship (rebaptized the Delivery in my campaign) was used by the Urgathaon cultists to sail from their hidden base to Korvosa and spread the plague there. They set up shop in Lost End, an abandoned villa on the southern shores of the Bay of Korvosa (called Verloren Eind in my native language, as you can see on this map). The villa used to belong to the Porphyria's, the family that tried to take the throne from the Arabasti’s in the past and was banished for it (this was a good reason to have the villa be deserted and it gave the PCs another possible suspect on whoever was behind all the trouble in Korvosa, the Chelish Porphyria branch - a red herring).
The Urgathaons used the old villa to do experiments and develop the plague. When they were done and had infected a great number of rats with the disease, they set sail for Korvosa. All but one of the people aboard left the ship before it reached the city, one ‘chosen’ fool sailed the vessel into the harbor and sank it after releasing the rats, who swam to shore and spread out over the city through the sewers to infect the population.
When the PCs confronted the wererats in the sewers, they found out about the rats and investigated the sunken boat, where they found the map. They traveled to Lost End over land, through the barren lands south of the bay (where only Hellknights come nowadays, going to or coming from Citadel Vraid). When the PCs split off from the road to the Citadel, they took the old, abandoned and overgrown path to Lost End. Along the way they passed the Porphyria’s old hunting lodge (based on the Graul homestead from Rise of the Runelord’s adventure # 3, The Hook Mountain Massacre). There they had to deal with the hillbillies from the Graul family. Then they reached the Porphyria villa Lost End, which I based upon Foxglove manor (a.k.a. Misgivings), also from Rise of the Runelord. The villa was abandoned, but the PCs found traces of the cultists, including plague masks and important notes from Doctor Davaulus (renamed Dave Saulus, because, Davaulus is too much of a give-away for Devils) and their nemesis Rolth the necromancer, who was aiding the cultists in exchange for their help in creating a flesh golem (which the PCs encountered in the villa’s underground sea cave).
Armed with the knowledge that the queen’s doctors were actually the creators of the plague, the PCs returned to the city to stop the Urgathaons.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The adventure assumes that something like two or three months transpire between the adventures. If you want to keep a tight timeline, like I did in my campaign, you might have to find a different solution to explain how the Direption can get to Korvosa in such a short period of time. In that case Veldraine is a good option.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Since Milani is the CG deity of hope, devotion and uprisings, she is a perfect fit for PCs in this AP: she is the goddess of freedom fighters after all. As such her priests would be quite far removed from priests of Abadar, or even other major Korvosan deities like Pharasma or Asmodeus. Sarenrae or Shelyn, the other two gods who have their own temple in Korvosa, are closer to Milani in spirit, although they do not encompass the thought of freedom fighters. So I'd be inclined to have my player stay with Milani.
Any faith could have warpriests, I guess, they'd just be the church's faith militant branch. Of course, gods who actively fight for their causes, would be a better fit for the idea of a warpriest, so Sarenrae who stands for peace or Abadar who promotes law and civilization would probably be less inclined to have such warrior-priests in their ranks. Again Milani seems like a better patron diety for warpriests than any of the gods in Korvosa.
Hellknights are lawful and allow any lawful alignment in their ranks: LG, LN or LE. The order of the Nail holds members of all these alignments, although LN and LE are definitely represented more than LG. As far as divine Hellknights go, any lawful god will do. The Hellknights will just play up the lawful aspect and tune down the good or evil side of their alignment. Having a Hellknight PC is a possibilty, as several GMs have allowed it, but it is difficult to juggle. The PCs will 'fight the power' in this AP, which tends to conflict rather heavily with Hellknight rules.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
There is a prepainted tiefling warlock from Dungeons and Dragons miniatures that might work for you, especially the promo repaint. It has a mace in its hand and it's wearing a leather armor (which is brown in the promo version, grey in the original). Several US-based ebay-sellers have the miniature on offer. It is definitely the closest to your description that I could find. His off-hand is even in a great position to add a shield, if you wanted to do that.
Pathfinder's Faxon might also do the trick after some customization.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
I created a roleplaying quest in which the PCs had to try and unify the temples' efforts to combat the plague. Depending on their success, a certain number of lives would be saved.
- The temple of Sarenare was already fighting the disease, but needed bigger housing and would be able to do more good if all the temples were working together.
My PCs got all the churches to cooperate and found new housing for this coordinated effort, thus saving hundreds of lives. They also installed gift boxes to generate some funds for this new hospital.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
All Chelish titles remain in the hands of (distant) relatives in Cheliax, such as the famous count Varian Jeggare. Thus the Korvosan nobles bear no titles, other than 'lord'.
As far as the Arkona's go, they are probably the only noble house that doesn't have a lot of members to draw from. In the AP as written, the Korvosa Arkona's have been replaced by you-know-what, and according to resources, they don't have family in Cheliax left.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ileoas buried the king in private, using the roits in the city as a convenient excuse to do so. Althoug she kept up appearances of the grieving widow, she did not respect Eodred after he died. You can read in Crown of Fangs what she did to his body (p. 21, A3 - the royal crypts).
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Being the cunning man that he is, Rolth will probably know a secret way into the Gray District, some long-forgotten tunnel that only he knows about. He also knows some of the body carters and has a few of them on his payroll. They bring him the corpses of loners and beggars who died and have no one left to bury them. If he goes into the city, he can buy things and have one of these deliver the goods to him. Apart from that, he also knows dimension door.
In my campaign Rolth set himself up as an early recurring villain to the PCs, when he bought one of the PCs’ sister in the prelude adventure, in which the PCs were young teens in Lamm’s lambs. In the five years she spent under his tutelage, he thoroughly brainwashed her to become his obedient servant and bodyguard.
When the PCs started the AP, they immediately went looking for Rolth, so I had them hear a report that he had left the city by boat. He joined up with Lady Andaisin to help her create the plague, aiding her in her alchemical experiments and delivering a dozen young girls he bought from Lamm to experiment upon. In exchange Lady Andaisin helped him create his first real flesh golem.
The PCs first confronted Rolth in battle in the temple of Urgathoa, where they conquered him and imprisoned him (and the PC’s brainwashed sister). Rolth escaped and tried to take revenge during Escape to Old Korvosa. He abducted the young boys who were living with the PCs after being rescued from Lamm and used them to lure the PCs into a series of traps, culminating in a final battle atop the tower of Korvosa’s old city hall. The PC’s sister proved beyond saving and was killed, as was Rolth, who made an attempt to get away, but was caught anyway by our flame oracle, who grabbed the necromancer and burned him alive by sending blast upon blast of fire through his wiry body. If you want to learn about this in greater detail, you can read all about it in my journal on these boards.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
If you use the 'official' guidelines, you'll find yourself falling short when trying to create a city that offers enough to challenge your party from level 1 to the top tiers. Also keep in mind that Korvosa is more than a city, it also includes all the hinterlands and is basically a small kingdom. This might give you some reasons to enhance its citizens somewhat.
In my campaign, I have the following breakdown of soldiers and clergy. I actually used the guidelines to work out the churches, but I slightly went over them to keep things interesting. The military/police forces are just based on my 'hunches' and my take on the Gray Maidens was aimed at making them very powerful.
Bank of Abadar
Temple of Asmodeus
Temple of Pharasma
Temple of Sarenrae
Shrine of Shelyn
Pantheon of Many
Temple of Aroden (in Old Korvosa)
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The sun has just set over the horizon when Quint and his friends return to the Gray district to prepare for the raid on the temple of Asmodeus. They decide to keep up the ruse of being Asmodean agents from Cheliax, sent here to put an end to the excesses of Archbisshop Ornher Reebs. As they make their way south, they encounter a Gray Maiden patrol. The officer asks them what they are still doing out, so they pretend to have been celebrating the queen’s announcements. They lost track of time, but now they are on their way home. The soldiers buy their story and let them pass.
The party heads straight for the rebel base and informs the rebel leaders of what they have learned. They plan on invading the temple of Asmodeus tonight, but they have come here to get ready. Vencarlo offers to join the young men and Illrem offers them the use of his arsenal, from which they can get some helmets to cover their faces. Next the heroes pay a visit to Keppira d’Bear in the temple of Pharasma. The high priestess has a number of spells prepared that can help the companions in their quest against Reebs and his devils, but she does not dare enter the temple of Asmodeus with them out of fear of blowing her cover: although Pharasma supports the rebellion in secret, the church is trying to uphold a neutral position in public. She prepares a heroes’ feast and sends one of her men to the Marble Dome opera house, to get a number of Asmodean theater outfits. Cloaked in tabards, capes and holy symbols of the Lord of Hell, the party returns to the old courthouse, just outside of the star-shaped temple of Asmodeus. This is as far as Keppira d’Bear will go. She casts other buffs on the party: greater magic weapon on Balian’s holy greatsword, magic vestment, protection from evil and true seeing on Quint, air walk and align weapon on Puk and magic circle versus evil on Sjo.
In the dead of night the party makes for the temple doors again. The Gray Maidens at the door let the ‘inquisitor’ and his bodyguards pass, as they were ordered to do by Tyresha. The church itself is abandoned, but Tyresha has put up a torch next to the door to the basement, showing the ‘inquisitor’ the way down. As they descend the stairs, the heroes pick up a sacrificial chant. Peeping around the corner, Puk sees a horrible scene. A girl is being bled dry on a stone slab. Her blood flows into an enormous pool, in which several amorphous shapes with half-formed limbs and dripping tumorous faces mill about, mixing the sanguine fluid with their own blood. These hideous lemure devils are the lowliest of the low in the ranks of hell, but even their inferior life energy contains the taint of the infernal. Two Asmodean acolytes are actually performing the ritual under the supervision of four Erinyes devils. Two Gray Maidens complete the picture. Quint sweeps into the room, taking up his role as inquisitor once again. He forbids the ritual, as it goes against the rules of this city. He wants to single out Ornher Reebs, but he notices the archbishop of Asmodeus is not here.
The acolytes and even the Gray Maidens are taken aback by this sudden incursion, but the Erinyes are not fazed and open the fight. One of them casts fear on Balian, but the buffs on the ranger aid him in shaking off the spell. A second Erinyes throws unholy blight on the party, while a third wraps her entangling rope around Sjo. The fourth charges Quint from the left with her longsword. The bard ducks under the blade and mumbles the words of good hope to further strengthen his friends. He also starts a satire to throw his enemies off balance. Vencarlo, Puk and Spyder jump to Quint’s aid and engage the Erinyes, Balian wards off the Gray Maidens on the other side. One of them challenges him, but her swing misses him by an inch. Sjo tries to maintain his position in the center and boosts his companions with blessing of fervor. Through his shield other he also takes half of Balian’s damage. The Gray Maidens, obviously blood clones, still prove tough opponents, but they fall short against the well-prepared and thoroughly buffed ranger. They manage to give him some nasty cuts, but a fireball and a critical sword swing later, one of them explodes in a spray of blood. Without her ally, the second maiden is severely at a disadvantage.
In the meantime Quint has cast haste and feinted one of the Erinyes, giving his friends there the opportunity to cut her down. From across the pool two Erinyes are still hurting the party with arrows and unholy blights. One moment later a door to their right opens and the barbed devil joins the fray from what looks to be a prison block filled with young girls. Another powerful opponent is not exactly good news, but Quint is happy to see that there is still a fair number of ‘recruits’ alive, making this rescue mission even more valuable. The barbed devil hurts the party with an alternative spell, that does not target ‘good’ characters, but rather ‘chaotic’ ones: order’s wrath. Balian takes another hit before he can take out the second Gray Maiden and turns to face the barbed jailor. Sjo is hurting from his own wounds as well as from half of Balian’s, and gives himself some much required healing. Another unholy blight on Vencarlo and Puk in the left flank takes down the halfling and leaves the sword master barely on his feet. With his flashing rapier Vencarlo kills a second Erinyes and stumbles back to Sjo’ side.
The two Asmodean acolytes have not contributed anything to the fight so far, clearly being outmatched. One of them desperately prays to his god for aid as he stabs the sacrifice on the stone slab one more time, but the girl was already gone. The other one opens the left door, freeing the two wild otyughs who are there to dispose of the cadavers. One of the aberrations rewards the stupid priest by eating him alive, while the other monster turns on Sjo, who has is trying to patch up Vencarlo and Puk. The otuygh’s tentacle grabs hold of the healer, but now the monster opens itself up to sneak attacks by Puk and Vencarlo, cutting its life short.
On the other side of the room Balian withstand a hold person from the barbed devil and seriously hurts the infernal creature with three heavy blows. This being has probably lived a thousand lifetimes and knows when it is time to retreat, so it steps back and teleports away. The two remaining Erinyes, who are now facing Puk and Balian, see how their more powerful ally has chosen to flee the scene and do the same. Quint walks up to the one acolyte who is still left and shouts at him: “Where is Reebs?” Totally intimidated the priest stumbles back: “Below us, in the cellar!” Then Spyder jumps at him and ends his miserable life. Puk and Balian take care of the second otuygh, while Quint decides to close the door to the cell block. He desperately wants to tell the caged girls they are free, but cannot spare the time as he wants his buffs to remain intact to confront Reebs. The party heals up and prepares to descend the stairs to deliver justice to Reebs.
Level up: level 10
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
If you want to keep using Devargo, you'll definitely have to give him a level boost. I'd have him look for revenge by going after allies, friends or family instead of the PCs themselves. You already have one perfect opportunity with Trinia. Devargo has the PCs followed to Zellara's shop and ransacks the place when they are absent. He discovers Trinia and delivers her to the queen, gaining some kind of favor in the process (maybe she gives him an old naval ship to replace the one he lost).
By having Devargo go after people the PCs care about, you'll feed their hatred of the man, fueling his impact as a recurring villain.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
You have several options on how to proceed:
- Kroft wants to do her duty. Since she knows the PCs have Trinia, she has them followed to find out where they are hiding the girl. When the PCs are absent, she has the girl extracted.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Just make sure your players don't focus too much on who the 'assassin' was, because normally they won't find out until book 6 of the AP. If the PCs do not hand in Trinia, the adventure will tell you what to do, so I suppose you're going that way now, are you?
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Have you considered a Balin figurine? There is a nice Warhammer version of him, that looks like this. If you're looking for a pre-paint, you could go for the Heroclix version. I've never held this particular mini in my hand, but I have some other Heroclix dwarves and they stand quite tall for a dwarf. I guess you could even have them pass for a small human. His blade could be cut back to look like a wand or something, if you'd wish.
If you want a human, Heroclix also has this Harry Leland mini; he's the guy on the left. He has the fancy clothing you want and you could easily give his beard a repaint, but it isn't a huge beard ...
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Vencarlo talks to the distraught Leroung family and convinces them to join the heroes to the rebel base. They place Lady Eliasia’s body on a hand drawn cart and make their way to the graveyard in the Gray District as a funeral procession. Puk scouts ahead and Vencarlo follows behind; both of them are on the look-out for possible sources of trouble, ready to interfere when necessary. Still, since the streets are a lot more crowded today than they have been in weeks, it is rather easy to get south undisturbed. The Leroung family take their dead mother to bishop Keppira d’Bear, to make arrangements for her burial. In the meantime Vencarlo leads the party to the rebel hideout, underneath a crypt in the graveyard. He tells them the church of Pharasma is in on the conspiracy, supporting the rebels as best they can without compromising their own safety.
The hideout is cramped with people who have fled prosecution, a fair number of young girls who were drafted for the Gray Maiden forces among them. Vencarlo introduces the party members to Illrem Bromathan, the leader of the resistance, a former Sable Company officer. Illrem is brother to Lord Valdur IV, who has been arrested for being allied to House Endrin and being a staunch supporter of the Sable Company. No one has heard of him since his arrest, and Illrem can only hope that Valdur’s position as a priest of Sarenrae has kept him alive so far. Valdur’s wife and son have been placed under house arrest and are still residing in the family home under Gray Maiden guard, much like the Leroung family was. Illrem’s second-in-command is a young man whom the companions already know: Aaron Endrin, the son of the former commander of the Sable Company, Marcus Endrin, who was killed at the hands of the Queen herself. Sjo tells the rebels about the blood clone Maidens, which gets Illrem quite worried. The girls who have been recruited have all been brought to the temple of Asmodeus. Quint remembers from their earlier meeting with Archbishop Ornher Reebs of Asmodeus that the high priest seemed to know more about the cloning process, when they took Dame Nesia to the temple. The party and their rebel friends now fear that the recruits are being sacrificed in the temple to create the blood clone army. If this is the case, they will have to put an end to this vile practice as soon as possible.
Balian questions this approach, though. He wonders if it is worth it exposing themselves, when most recruits are probably dead already. This practice must have been going on for weeks already. How many girls can be left to save? Quint argues that getting revenge for such an enormous evil in itself is worth it, even if there is no one left to save. Balian agrees, but asks for ‘carte blanche’ when they invade the temple to kill anyone he wants. He fears that capturing someone like Reebs is dangerous, only killing him will prevent him from escaping. Although Quint feels it is very likely that Reebs will lose his life in the raid, he finds it wise to try and question enemies first. If Reebs is one of Ileosa’s most powerful allies, he could be a valuable source of information. ‘Kill first, ask questions later’ does not work, so the bard suggests to ask the questions first. Killing the man afterwards is a very viable option!
Suddenly Sjo looks like he’s slipping into a mini-trance. He hears Thousand Bones’ voice in his head. The Shoanti shaman tells him preparations in the Cinderlands are still on schedule and asks if they should proceed according to the agreed-upon timing. Sjo answers that there is no trace of the ancient shaman’s grave yet and that things are chaotic, but the timing is still okay.
After Thousand Bones’ sending, the companions decide to stake out the temple of Asmodeus. They head to the other side of the city during the evening hours. There are six Gray Maidens in front of the temple doors. Their military stance and synchronous movements suggest they are blood clones. In the next half hour, no one enters the temple, but seven Gray Maidens come out and head into the city. Quint wants to try and get inside, preferably under cover. The Old Courthouse, where the companions spent one night of horror a couple of months ago, is the only safe place nearby he can think of to change into a disguise. Quint finds an old barrister’s robe in the building, cleans it up with prestidigitation and puts it on over his clothes. He also puts on make-up to change his appearance. Now he looks like a lawyer, a perfect disguise to gain entry to the temple of the god of contracts. Quint approaches the Gray Maidens at the gate and convinces them to let him through.
The temple itself looks empty inside. Quint sits down on one of the pews and starts praying. A few minutes later a woman exits from the side chapel and walks up to the late guest. She questions him about his identity. The bard claims to be a lawyer who has recently arrived from Cheliax. He is looking for clients and wouldn’t mind defending people who are not goody two-shoes … after all, everybody has the right to a good defense. You’d be amazed at what the law allows, even in bureaucratic places like Cheliax and Korvosa. The priestess smiles, but she strongly recommends that he read up on the many Korvosan laws and charters, for they are ‘many’ indeed! When Quint asks about the guards at the door, the priestess explains that things in the city have been quite hectic of late. The church of Asmodeus has openly joined the queen’s side and is possibly in danger from the queen’s enemies now, so they have been granted a number of royal guards.
When Quint enquires about the church’s leader, Ornher Reebs, he notices some malcontent in the woman’s eyes. She tell him the archbishop is not available at the moment. Quint presses the matter and tries to find out more about the high priest, especially from the priestess’s perspective. The woman, whose name is Tyresha, does admit that she might see herself following in Reeb’s footsteps one day, but for now the man has things tightly under control in the temple. Quint suggests that there are other ways to help fate along, but Tyresha shies away from the idea of killing her leader. “It is not killing I refer to,” Quint quickly clarifies, “but using the law.” He links back to one of Reebs’ earliest deeds here in the city: the sacrifice of thirteen virgins. True, Asmodeus does consent with the occasional sacrifice, but he also has the sense to follow the laws of the land first. Such a sacrifice is indeed possible in Cheliax, but not in Korvosa. The city’s reaction to his imprudent offer almost got Asmodeus kicked out when he had just managed to get his foot in the door. If it hadn’t been for Queen Domina’s interference and the resurrection of most of the girls at her expense, Asmodeus would have been ousted from here before his temple was completed.
“I just hope Reebs isn’t repeating the same stupidity before Korvosa –and especially its laws – are ready for it”, Quint goes on. Again he detects a hint of doubt in the priestess’s eyes. “In the eyes of the father church, such deeds would be considered ‘wrong’, not necessarily for being against church policy as such, but for discrediting the name of Asmodeus in a place where his worship is – let’s be honest – barely allowed. If this leads to the church being abolished from these lands, Asmodeus loses. And our Lord does not like to lose. Those responsible would have to be brought to church justice, which is actually the real reason why I am here.”
“You are an inquisitor, then?” Tyresha gasps.
“Indeed, I am”, Quint bluffs, seeing that the priestess totally buys his bluff.
“Well, suppose I could give you information about the archbishop, could you make sure it serves my purposes as well?” she asks.
“I do not have the power to name a new archbishop, but I would make sure that the father church knows about your loyalty. As you know, the Prince of contracts is a big fan of loyalty, I have no doubt it … you would be rewarded”, Quint tells her. “If the wrong-doings of the past were to repeat themselves, it would not bode well for Reebs, I can assure you.”
“I suggest we move to the chapel”, Tyresha whispers. “It has been protected from eaves-dropping, if we want to negotiate contracts with potential ‘clients’, you see. It will be safer to talk there.”
The priestess leads Quint to the side chapel to continue the conversation: “So, to make sure I understand you correctly, if I could confirm ill tidings about Reebs, you could help me rise to power in Korosa’s temple?”
“I will definitely use all my influence in the church to see that happen”, Quint confirms.
Tyresha smiles. “Well then, there is much I can tell you. The archbishop has been executing very extreme rituals in the basement, even for Asmodean standards. He’s been sacrificing numerous young girls, bleeding them completely dry to use their life’s blood to create an army of clones. He infuses these creatures further with devil blood and uses a special construct, called an ‘akaruzug’, to draw upon the talents of an accomplished ‘original’ and turn his creations into very skillful fighters.
He has four Erinyes and one hamatula - or barbed devil - aiding him in this process. These servants have not been provided by Reebs himself, though, but rather by the queen, who has secured the servitude of a fair number of devils through an infernal contract. Judging by the number and strength of these devils alone, this contract must be one of the most powerful ones I have ever heard about. And her majesty did not sign it here, either, but at the Acadamae. Our school of wizards is known for its intimate dealings with devils, as I’m sure you know.”
“You wouldn’t happen to have seen a copy of said contract?” Quint wonders.
“The queen would be stupid to show this precious document to anyone. She probably keeps her copy hidden away in the castle, in a place no one can get to. The other copy is, obviously, still in the hands of the contract devil who made the agreement. I can’t even guess who he is, though someone in the Acadamae must know.”
“Naturally”, Quint nods.
“We all know Asmodeus works in mysterious ways. His contract dealers might indeed sign papers that allow an individual to control devils and command them to act in whichever way he or she desires, even if this would not be Asmodeus’s chosen path. On the other hand, in such cases Asmodeus would support efforts to see the contract fail its owner. After all, isn’t that why he likes to include loopholes in his contracts? Fooling mortals into thinking they gain great power, only to have the contract bite them in the ass and reap their souls prematurely?”
“You understand our Lord’s teachings well. You would make a great successor for Reebs, indeed”, Quint acknowledges. “You will understand that I did not come to this city alone. I have a number of bodyguards waiting outside. I’m afraid I will have to return to bring Reebs’s wrong-doing to justice. Is there any way you can facilitate our entry?”
“Of course there is, master inquisitor. I will leave the front doors unlocked and I will tell the guards at the door to let you through. You will find Ornher Reebs in the basement. I suspect he will be there all night”
“Excellent, you should make sure you are nowhere about when we come in. It would be best if your role in this mess remains unnoticed. It is enough that I know of your loyalty so I can relay it to our leaders in Cheliax when the time is right”, Quint finishes.
Confident she has struck a great deal, Tyresha shows the disguised bard out and informs the guards at the door that they should let the inquisitor in whenever he wants. After that Quint disappears into the night and reunites with his friends afew moments later. He feels quite happy to prove Balian wrong: words often are more powerful than the blade! Now at least the companions can prepare for the challenges ahead.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
25 Arodus 4708
The companions spend the night with the distraught Leroung family in the old fishery. The next morning they deliberate with the nobles on how to proceed. It is clear that the government will hunt down the Leroungs, so they’ll need a place to hide. Getting them out of the city to a safe haven like Magnimar would take too much precious time, so while that option would probably be best, it is not viable at the moment. Quint suggests taking them to Glorio Arkona, but Christine Leroung does not trust the man in the least and blocks off that idea. The best alternative seems to be the rebellion. If they can locate the rebel hideout, the Leroungs could take shelter there. Christine Leroung is still fuming at the young heroes for getting her mother killed and walks out of the meeting. Only Sirtane Leroung, the late lady Eliasia’s sister, retains enough clarity to talk to the party. Quint leaves the books they took from the library with her and makes for the city to try and find out where the rebels are hiding. He takes Balian with him for added security. Sjo remains in the fishery to guard the Leroung family and Puk returns to the library to see if their nightly exploits have been discovered yet. It turns out they have: numerous Gray Maidens are walking in and out of the building, obviously upset by the murder of so many of their sisters. The atmosphere crackles with nervous energy and anger.
Quint and Balian scout the harbor, only to come across a town crier, who announces a big parade to be held in the streets - including the palace square - around noon. He invites all citizens to attend. This parade will apparently take off in the harbor, where an enormous festive wagon is being prepared. The front of this float holds a podium and the back sports an impressive loading area with some kind of dragon-headed crane. Our friends notice the heavy-bodied new seneschal of Korvosa, the Acadamae master of Transmutation, Togomor, floating above the deck of a ship. He uses his magic to lift a humongous box out of the hold and attaches it to the dragon crane on the wagon. It is unclear what the box contains exactly, but it most certainly holds some kind of ferocious animal that growls and struggles inside the iron walls. Next a half-orc with a vicious whip leads out six large white-furred and four-armed gorillas and harnesses them up one by one to pull the vehicle. By noon a group of entertainers arrives, most of whom Quint knows as rather mediocre artists. They will form the music band that will lead the march through the city. Next several warrior-like types get off the boat: a fierce-looking ettin and ogre, a broad-shouldered human carrying two blades at his belt who moves with a grace that belies his muscular build. There are also a tall and proud Shoanti barbarian, two bugbears in armor who look like twins and an orc with a heavy halberd. The two-headed giant takes up position behind the box, the ogre follows the band and precedes the girallon train. The other humanoids climb on the podium or crane, ready to wave at the audience as they pass.
When the parade finally gets moving, a fair number of people have come out of their houses to watch. Young boys runs about handing out flyers, announcing the reopening of the old Kendall Arena. Queen Ileosa offers her subjects the wonderful opportunity to see the greatest gladiators in Golarion fight monstrous beasts and even each other to the death. Chief among these champions of the arena is the mighty Maxor from Cheliax, the handsome human with the two blades.
Balian and Quint follow the parade all the way to the palace. Along the way they hook up with Puk, who has come down to see the show as well. A mild feeling of wonder and enthusiasm has taken hold of the crowd, which increases when the parade reaches the palace, where the troupe halts to greet the queen. Ileosa is standing on the palace terrace overlooking the spectacle. The band burst out in a song that turns out to be the new Korvosan hymn, honoring the city and its queen. Quint takes mental notes on the composition, so he can replay it if a future occasion calls for it. When the anthem is over, the crowd cheers wildly. Ileosa’s charm offensive seems to be working, though her display of power still has to reach its climax. From behind the castle loud screeches ring out as one, then two and finally three mighty dragons rise up. The crowd falls silent when it sees the awe-inspiring red, blue and black winged serpents land next to the queen. Then the buzz takes up again, leading to an overwhelming applause and cries of ‘the mother of dragons’.
Ileosa takes in the reverence for a few moments, waves once more and then takes her leave, joined by the three scaly cbehemoths. Her majesty definitely has a flare for the dramatic, giving the people just enough to be dumb-struck before disappearing. The parade gets moving again, continuing down Ramp Boulevard to Kendall Plaza. Puk follows to see how the wagon sinks into the catacombs below the arena. Meanwhile Quint and Balian head to the market to grab a bite and feel the pulse of the city after Ileosa’s latest stunt. Quint fires up a discussion about the rebellion and quickly finds out that the citizens stand divided. Some long for a return to law and order, and they are convinced Ileosa can provide this. Others claim that this so-called order comes at too high a price: daughters are being torn from their families and taxes bleed everyone dry. Balian immediately agrees, taking part in the conversation like never before. The ranger is such a heartfelt tax-hater that he cannot keep quiet. Quint suspects some people of sympathy for the rebellion, but he does not get the feeling there are actual rebels among them. The two companions spend the rest of the afternoon gathering more information. While it becomes clear that the rebels must indeed have a secret hideout somewhere, no one seems to know where: rumors seem to point to every corner of the city.
Late in the afternoon the two friends return to the fishery. Across from the building is a small bakery: a couple women walk out just as the heroes arrive. From a nearby ally a group of thugs appears and assaults the unwary customers. They pull the fresh loaves from the women’s hands and grab at their skirts. “This is bread for the rebellion!” they shout. “Or don’t you support the freedom fighters? Fans of that wh*re on the throne, are you? What do you say, guys, shall we teach these little sluts a lesson?”
Before Quint and Balian can react, a shadow appears on the roof above the scene. His cape flutters in the wind. He’s wearing Blackjack’s outfit! “Well, well, buffoons! How about leaving these good citizens alone? Is this the great cause you are fighting for? Robbing and harassing people in the streets? Why don’t you try and take on someone your own size?” At that the caped man leaps down to the street, landing lightly on his feet. He whips out his rapier and swirls through the thugs with gusto. Quint studies the savior’s movements and immediately determines it is not Vencarlo. Although the rapier-wielding hero moves with incredible grace and speed, his style definitely differs from Vencarlo’s. Not only that, Quint seriously doubt the man is a human altogether. Despite his obvious prevalence in battle, the caped savior does not really hurt any of the thugs. He knocks the daggers from their hands and hits them with the pommel of his sword or beats and kicks them with his free hand and feet. Before long the thugs slinks back into the ally, leaving ‘Blackjack’ laughing in the street. Balian can’t help but feel that this combat was completely staged. He runs into the ally after the fleeing bandits. Puk, who heard the fight from the old fishery, joins him. From around the corner they hear the hooligans talking amongst each other. “Damn, that Blackjack dude hits harder every time, that’s not what we signed on for.”
In the main street Quint walks up to the ‘caped crusader’, who is just helping the robbed women to their feet and hands them some money to replace their lost bread: “Blackjack, what an honor to finally meet you! I have always been a fan!” Quint greets.
“Thanks, I do what I can to restore order and squash these rabble-rousers in the bud!” Blackjack replies. His accent betrays that he is not native to Korvosa.
“You did very well indeed,” Quint continues, “but didn’t you fight against her majesty until recently? I remember you saving that girl from being executed by Ileosa just a few months ago!”
“A man is allowed to change his mind when he realizes he was wrong”, Blackjack states. “I’d give you some coin as well, my friend, but you don’t look like you need it, not like these good people.” At that Blackjack whips out a piece of rope to a support beam along the edge of the roof and climbs up the wall of the bakery. “I’ve got more citizens to save from these stupid rebels!” he cheers as he disappears from view.
In the ally Balian and Puk are still eavesdropping on the thugs – who were clearly pretending to be rebels - when suddenly, they hear someone whistle ever so gently behind them. Sitting in the shadows of a chimney on one of the lower houses in the street is a figure that beckons them closer. Balian activates his boots of flying and Puk quickly scales to wall with his slippers of spider climbing. It is Vencarlo Orisini, the former fighter to breathe life into the Blackjack persona: “Is there anywhere we can talk in private?” he asks.
The company retreats to the old fishery and expresses its joy at seeing Vencarlo again. The sword master is equally pleased at seeing his friends safe. He confirms that a false Blackjack is running loose in the city. He’s been trying to follow the imposter, but the man seems to appear and disappear out of thin air. He always uses the same thugs to assault innocent citizens in an attempt to tarnish the rebels’ reputation and promote the queen’s order. Quint gives Vencarlo a full run-down of their latest adventures and discoveries, explaining how Ileosa’s crown is made from an ancient evil artifact. To fight her, the companions need the know-how and help of a long-forgotten Shoanti sun shaman, or at least, they need to find his bones, preferable before the Shoanti army arrives from the Cinderlands. Quint also tells Vencarlo that the party infiltrated the Leroung library, hoping to find books on old Shoanti burial sites. Things did not go as planned, however, and the heroes were forced to fight some Gray Maidens, most of whom turned out to be very accomplished blood clones.
If the ‘good guys’ want to succeed at stopping Ileosa, they’ll have the best chance of success when they simply cut off the serpent’s head, but seeing how well the queen has surrounded herself with powerful allies, and knowing how much she’s strengthened her mental powers as well, won’t make that an easy task. Vencarlo proposes to go to the rebels’ secret base first. Illrem Bromathan, brother to the imprisoned Lord Valdur IV and normally next in line to become the Sable Company’s commander, leads the underground resistance. He will be happy to see mighty allies like the companions join the good cause.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The new Gray Maidens in the shrine to Irori do not only prove highly resistant to Quint’s mind-affecting tricks, they also possess superior fighting skills. One of them challenges Balian and hits him extra hard, while her colleague makes her sword burn with black flames which bite at the ranger. Moreover, the two women fight in perfect unison, putting up a shield wall when the get attacked. Balian also finds that his special sense to fight ‘humans’ does not kick in when he faces these guards; his new sword’s holy damage on the other hand flares up when his swings connect. With Spyder blocking off the third of these special maidens, Sjo and Quint are left with the two guards they encountered initially. These girls are definitely of a different kind than the three new Maidens, more within the limits of what you’d expect a Gray Maiden to be: human soldiers who possess some skill at battle, but who are by no means superwomen. This gives our friends the chance to cast some spells first: Sjo mumbles a prayer, while Quint enhances the party with haste and starts up a satire performance to debuff the enemy. Puk tumbles behind one of the super maidens, but sees his first stab deflected by her neighbor’s shield. When he manages to get a cut in, he also finds that his tiny blades are partially resisted. Balian exchanges more blows with the supermaidens and is happy to learn that Sjo’s magic of shield other gives him much more staying power. He delivers a tremendous critical blow to the maiden on his left, just as Puk’s many vicious slices take down the woman on his right. When the halfling delivers the final blow, the creature inside the elegant full plate splashes out in one huge burst of blood. The various pieces of her armor drop on the floor, soaked in red fluid … but no body remains.
This brings back memories. The party recalls Dame Nesia, the naked girl they found in the streets, who had lost any and all recollection of who she was or where she came from. As it turned out, the girl was some kind of blood simulacrum or blood clone. Balian suspects that these women are the same, albeit of a perfected nature. Sjo, who is badly hurt from taking half of Balian’s damage, heals himself as Quint tries out his new rapier’s powers on one of the ordinary maidens. The weapon’s inspire ability allows him to use his bardic performance to enhance his swings with his charisma rather than his strength, making the bard a more formidable fighter in melee. Just when the companions seem to be getting the upper hand, the door ahead swings open and three more maidens join the fray, two of which fight like twins again. The third acts as somewhat of a tactician: she can guide her fellow soldiers in battle. Sjo recognizes a good opportunity when he sees one: the new and old opponents are all on the far side of the room, with only Puk in their midst. A perfect chance for a fireball! The explosion tears through the enemy, while the little halfling rogue manages to evade all the flames, laughing as another clone bursts out in a splash of blood. His joy is quickly suppressed, however, when a red skinned devil appears behind the fresh forces, in the next hall, with Lady Eliasia Leroung in his clutches. “There they are, milady, your rebel friend! I knew they would show up! I knew it”, the creature cackles, just before slicing his knife across Lady Leroung’s throat. Her dead body drops to the floor. Quint is furious and shouts out threats to the murderer: “You filthy leprechaun, you’re gonna wish you’d never left Hell!”
In the meantime Puk and Balian take out another blood clone, Sjo continues healing and Quint cuts down one of the ‘normal’ Maidens. The devil zaps behind Sjo, but cannot do much damage before falling to Quint’s wild attacks. The bard even makes sure the creature is truly defeated, by stabbing the corpse through the neck once more. Balian and Puk’s efficiency takes care of the rest: two more blood clones and two human Gray Maidens bite the dust. One of these real maidens is still bleeding and Sjo makes sure she survives by stabilizing her. The victory does not grant joy, however, since Lady Eliasia lies truly dead and her children now run down the stairs to mourn her loss. Christina Leroung, her eldest daughter, is enraged at the companions. She lashes out at Quint for invading her home and getting her mother killed. When Balian mutters something about a possible resurrection she starts hitting him. This was an assassin devil, its victims cannot be brought back! She is also desperate about her family’s future. Where should they go now? They will certainly be punished for this! The noblewoman keeps slapping Balian frantically, until he grabs her in a big bear hug to calm her down. Her sisters, Siri and Aisha (the opera star) and her aunt Sirtane (the alchemy professor) kneel down by Eliasia’s body. Aisha and Siri are crying with great despair over their dead mother, while Sirtane does her best to whisper words of comfort. Cyril Fordyce, Eliasia’s husband, the history professor and editor of the Herald, is staring with blind apathy.
Quint whisper some apologies, but Sirtane take shim to the next room to talk to him, as she is the only one who is in control of her emotions at the moment. Quint explains why they were here, they need to locate an ancient Shoanti grave somewhere under Korvosa. The tomb holds the corpse of a shaman who fought the evil that has now taken hold of Queen Ileosa. If they want to face her, they will need the shaman’s aid. They were hoping to find clues in the library as to where the tomb might be situated. Sirtane understands and takes Quint to the ‘history’ room in the library, selecting a good number of books that the bard tucks away in his bag of holding. She also reveals that the library section on the ‘planes’ has been overrun by devils, imps, who are destroying a lot of the books. Still the companions deem it unwise to attack the critters; if one escapes it could warn the enemy of the party’s involvement and bring down hell on them, both in a figurative and literal sense. Quint and Balian also take a peek in the printing room, where Ileosa’s new seneschal Togomor has already been preparing the next issue of the Korvosan Herald, an edition that lauds the queen’s efforts to save the city and serves as royal propaganda.
The companions decide to hide the Leroung family in the abandoned fishery that used to be to Gaedran Lamm’s hideout. It is nearby and safe. They travel there under the cloak of invisibility, taking the corpse of Lady Eliasia with them. Afterwards they return to the Leroung residence to interrogate the surviving Gray Maiden. She seems to be one of the soldiers who came from Cheliax a few months ago. She sees no evil in working with devils, as these creatures are summoned to serve, not to command. When Quint gets mad at her for being blind to her malevolent acts, she returns the argument by calling him a rebel who refuses to accept the rightful ruler and as such being the cause of all this unpleasantness. Quint’s anger gets the best of him: he draws his rapier and runs the woman through. His hope for finding redeemable Gray Maidens diminishes again, although he realizes that there must still be several women in their numbers who started out as good, normal Korvosans and who might only be misguided. Still, the uniforms and masks make it almost impossible to distinguish between the soldiers. How will he be able to tell who can still be saved and who deserves to die?
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Erik Mona wrote:
Go on, go on. Keep it coming. I'm happy about the two in this reveal.
I'm also hoping for a handmaiden devil, although there is no real great art to base a mini on, I'm afraid. A contract devil would be great as well. The other devils at least have (had) a version in other miniature lines, or can be bought in a Reaper version, which makes them slightly less urgent in my book.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The companions consider what to do. Should they dive into the library and look for more information on Shoanti graves? Is there a way they can bring Zellara back? Should they try and contact the resistance? Are the many young girls who are being recruited for the Maidens in need of rescue? And what should they use for an excuse if they need a good cover story? Mixing truth with fiction, they decide upon a tale that they have to return the ancient bones of a mythic shaman to the Shoanti to keep them from invading Korvosa with a huge army.
Maybe it is best to start with something easy first: suspecting that Vencarlo is hiding in Old Korvosa, the party heads for the island in the north of the city. When they cross Jeggare Circle, they happen upon the construction of a gigantic statue of the queen from black stones. The laborers seem little motivated, as do the members of the Korvosan Guard who have been tasked to watch over the site. The stone reaches twenty feet already, and it looks like it only goes up to Ileosa’s knees so far.
The only bridge over the Narrows of Saint Alika has a guard detail of Gray Maidens and all who want to cross are given a thorough inspection. The party goes west, wanting to get over the water at the westernmost point of the Narrows with the Dimension Door from Puk’s cloak. When they get there, they find out where the big black stones for Ileosa’s statue come from: the Great Tower is being torn down. A magic jump brings the companions to the other side of the water, to some of the poorest quarters of Old Korvosa. The upside of this poverty-stricken neighborhood is that it is almost free of Gray Maidens, making it easy for the party to get to House Arkona.
Glorio Arkona welcomes the heroes with open arms, once again offering to aid them in their quest to fight the evil in Castle Korvosa and inviting them to stay in his house, since their villa has been compromised. Sjo thanks him for his kindness, but says they have their own place to lay low. Lord Arkona denies being involved with the resistance, claiming the rebels are hiding somewhere in the south of the city. He hasn’t seen Vencarlo since he left the city and didn’t even know the fencing master had returned. When Quint tells him about the Red Mantis attacks, Glorio is worried. The assassins are not known for giving up, once the mantis are on your tail, they do not relent. The heroes confront Glorio with their own dilemma: they need to recover the bones of an old Shoanti shaman who was buried somewhere in the city long ago. What would be the best way to find his grave: magic or research in the library? Lord Arkona is not sure, but reckons that magic would definitely be easier. Still, Quint cannot think of an effective spell that would lead him to his goal in due time.
Finally the companions decide to check out the library. Quint tries to come up with a plan to infiltrate the occupied building, perhaps in the guise of some official who is on a royal mission. That might suffice to fool the Gray Maidens. The best course of action would be to stake out the place first. When darkness has fallen, Lord Arkona has the party taken back to the mainland in a small boat, but not after hosting an exotic dinner party and extending a helping hand once more for the future. By the light of the moon the party walks past the Acadamae; nothing can be seen beyond its great walls, except for the imps who flutter in the air above.
House Leroung is situated in the heart of Korvosa, on the university grounds. The splendid manor in gothic style houses the city’s biggest library on one side, and the family’s living quarters on the other. Since the nobles are under house arrest, they might have ample time to do research for the companions, so Balian wonders if they would be able to contact one of them and enlist their aid, like Aisha, the star from The Passion of Saint Alika, or professor Sirtane, the alchemist who cured the plague.
Puk circles the building, picking up noise and laughter from the corner room. Balian activates his flying boots and peeks inside, but the room is unlit, so the ranger cannot see a thing. Sjo remembers that Sirtane Leroung’s laboratory led out into a small patio area. This might be the perfect way inside. Balian flies everyone over and Puk tries to pick the lock, but finds it too hard to open. Quint pulls out the Key-Lock Killer’s bell and manages to get the way in unlocked. The heroes sneak inside and reach the central library, where books on history are stored. Quint wonders whether they should look through the books themselves rather than bother the family, but the party’s conversation alerts the two Gray Maidens who are guarding the public entrance. Apparently our friends forgot that you always have to keep quiet in the library. The female soldiers are not pleased at finding the nightly intruders, but Quint uses his bardic power of persuasion to convince them that he and his friends are on an important mission. They need to talk to one of the Leroungs urgently. His deception works and the guards lead the party to the other side of the building, where the Leroungs live. Unfortunately there are even more Gray Maidens in this part of the house, who do not succumb to Quint's mind games. They draw steel, threatening to drown the room, a private shrine to Irori, in blood.
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Using a newly acquired teleport scroll the companions magically travel to the gates of Janderhoff, the dwarven city. The guards recognize them and show them in, leading them to a beautiful manor house, where Neolandus Kalepopolis is now staying. The former seneschal is overjoyed to see the heroes again and offers them the hospitality of his dinner table. He is interested in every little detail of what has happened to them since they last met. Quint spins an enthralling tale, leaving out nothing. Kalepopolis delights at the party’s success, but the impending war with the Cinderland Shoanti causes him distress.
Kalepopolis has news as well. Although the Gray Maidens in Korvosa have been thorough in their efforts to root out the Sable Company, twenty-eight of the marines have escaped persecution and have been granted sanctuary in the city of Janderhoff. Some of them are even staying in the very manor where the young friends are now. The situation in Korvosa has greatly deteriorated over the last couple of weeks. The queen has tightened her iron grip on the city. Her maidens are ever-present and enforce the law without any measure of leniency. Anyone who even dares to utter a word of doubt concerning the new government is suspected of rebellion and immediately arrested. Most arrests quickly end in execution, often without a proper trial. Cadavers of these so-called traitors hang all over the city as warning signs. The common man is scared out of his wits and hardly comes out of his house, fearing the cruelty of the Gray Maidens. The queen’s guard terrorizes everyone without discrimination, whether they be low-born or of noble blood. Apart from the merciless manhunt for surviving Sable Company marines, the Maidens invade every house to demand taxes, look for young girls to bolster their own ranks and – a consequence of the Janderhoff dwarves’ decision to cease trade with Korvosa – to confiscate any and all objects made of iron, to have them reforged into ever more gray maiden suits of armor. The churches of Asmodeus and Abadar have openly proclaimed their support for the queen, while the temples of Sarenrae and Pharasma remain neutral. Vencarlo Orisini has returned to the city and stays in contact with Kalepopolis via carrier pigeons, sending him short messages in code. These updates are sparse and concise. Apparently Vencarlo has joined some kind of rebellion movement, but cannot provide details out of fear that his notes might fall into the wrong hands.
24 Arodus 4708
The next morning the companions are summoned to the palace of clan lord Ragnar Ironfist. Quint explains that an ancient evil has taken hold of queen Ileosa, and that he and his friends will try to fight this malevolence before the Shoanti come down from the Storval Heights to invade the Korvosan lowlands. He also reveals that his party has been to the great city of Koldukar, or rather Urgir as it is known now. Ironfist is excited to hear about the formidable dwarven sky citadel, but cannot hide his sadness at learning about the place’s decline. The dwarven lord offers his guests the chance to stock up once more in the temple of Torag, leaving them in the capable hands of its high priest, Bardin Bronzebeard. The companions buy some scrolls of heal and breath of life, and invest in some extra wands of cure light wounds. This might be their last chance in a while to do so. Their biggest buy, however, is an adamantine holy greatsword for Balian.
Another teleport scroll takes the companions straight to Zellara’s little parlor in Korvosa. Sjo immediately pulls out the Varisian fortune-teller’s Harrow cards and summons her spirit. Zellara claims that it is getting ever harder for her to manifest in the city. It is as if a dark veil hangs over the city, clouding and smothering her mind. She offers to read the cards again for the companions before starting her search for the remains of sun shaman Coja Eyes-Aflame. This time the reading is centered around the star cards. During the choosing, Balian’s hand falls upon the Winged Serpent, who cautions him to use more tact. The queen-mother tells Puk to aid the helpless and hopeless, while the carnival card warns Quint to plan ahead. The owl ushers Sjo to combat the unnatural state of things that has taken hold of the city.
The reading tells Balian to be careful of sinister and dark pacts that he will come across. Puk is told that he has been making the right decisions so far, though he is warned not to doubt too much and just act. The empty throne in Sjo’s cards is a hint that fighting the ‘powers that be’ should not lead to a vacuum at the top, but the courtesan clearly tells him that masks will have to fall. Finally Quint is shown that what once seemed beautiful, might be rotten at its core. The peacock teaches him that he should do well to stand aside when this thing of apparent beauty passes by, lest he be petrified by it.
After the Harrow reading, Zellara opens her mind to try and find a mental trace of the sun shaman. She spreads her arms and closes her eyes to expand her mind. Although spirits do not breath, she starts gasping and shaking uncontrollably. When she opens her eyes again, they have turned white. “Oh, no!” she heaves, “they have found me!” The next moment the Varisian spirit is sucked into the deck of cards, which falls lifeless on the floor. Using detect magic Sjo notices that the cards do not radiate magic anymore. When he picks up the deck, he doesn’t even feel a trace of the Varisian spirit. It seems as if she has disappeared completely. This turn of events is a huge set-back for the party, since Zellara was to be their guide to Coja Eyes-Aflame. How will they find his remains now?
Sjo is eager to see how his fiancé is doing and heads to the shrine of Shelyn. Walking up to Five Corners in North Point the party gets to experience the ominous atmosphere of Korvosa’s streets for themselves. Very few people are out and about, and those who are, hurry along with their heads hanging low. A patrol of Gray Maidens is making ‘house calls’ forcing their ways into people’s homes to collect taxes and confiscate iron goods. Since the queen’s guards have drafted so many new members lately, one would expect at least some of these female soldiers to look inexperienced, but Balian feels they all seem more than comfortable in their full plate armor. Perhaps the new recruits are still in training somewhere, leaving their more seasoned colleagues to patrol the city.
Larella is very happy to see her future husband alive. She can update him and his friends on the current situation in Korvosa. Fortunately the plague has been cured, even in Old Korvosa. The quarantine of the island has been lifted as a result, but that does not mean that things are going well in Korvosa’s oldest district. Big parts of Endrin Island have always housed some of the city’s poorest inhabitants, and the recent plague and quarantine have worsened their plight considerably. Moreover, current circumstances of fear and oppression offer little hope of improvement.
Balian wonders about the state of the noble families. Larella says that the Arkona’s have been even more withdrawn from society lately than the normally are. After commander Marcus Endrin’s failed attempt on the queen’s life, his family has been outlawed. His wife was executed. Larella has no idea what became of his three children. House Bromathan has paid dearly for its support to Endrin and the Sable Company. Lord Valdur IV rots away in the city’s dungeons, while his wife Lady Merisse and son Valdur V have been placed under house arrest. His daughters were both drafted for the queen’s forces. Like all recruits they have not been heard of since. Jeggare is still in place, but being one of the richest families in the city, they’ve had to pay huge amounts of taxes to the treasury. Members of House Leroung have also lost the queen’s favor. They showed quite a lot of criticism for the new government in the latest issue of the Korvosa Herald and have been placed under house arrest as well. Their university has been closed until further notice. Sjo wonders if they would still be able to consult the school’s extensive library, hoping he might come across more information that might lead to the discovery of the Sun Shaman’s grave.
House Zenderholm is still around, but Larella suspects that the extremely lawful nature of its head, Hanging Judge Zenobia Zenderholm, will not mesh well with the queen’s policy of playing judge and jury at the same time. House Ornelos is the only family openly supporting queen Ileosa. As a result none of the Ornelos girls have been forced to join the Gray Maiden army.
Explaining to the priestess of Shelyn how an ancient evil from the bowels of the mastaba under Castle Korvosa has taken control of the queen, it suddenly dawns on Quint that the ‘Teeth of Midnight’ might also have been the mysterious ‘muse’ that inspired several Korvosan artists in the past. These open, creative minds would probably have been quite susceptible to the dragon’s feeble influence, which would explain why the Korvosan art scene has always been so morbidly and sinisterly inspired. When queen Ileosa discovered the evil artefact, it must have shifted focus to her completely, suddenly leaving the artists without a muse. Quint fears that Ileosa might be beyond saving: if the ‘abandoned’ artists already felt so desperate that they took their own lives, how could the queen ever survive a hundredfold stronger hold on her mind being broken? This new insight does not bode well for Ileosa, leaving her virtually no chance of a future.
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A messenger arrives at the campfire, saying that the council has its answer. The party is guided back to the war-yurt, which is now almost empty, except for the leaders of the Quahs and Thousand Bones, who are still seated by the bonfire. Valkur has good news; the companions have convinced the council of their good intentions and are tshamek no more, they are now nalharest, brothers of the Shoanti who will be treated as friends for as long as they do not choose to oppose the tribes. The great chief goes on that he cannot reveal the Sklar-Quah’s biggest secret to the party, because even he does not know what it is. Only the mightiest shamans of his tribe share in this privilege. However, with all that is going on in Korvosa, the Shoanti have agreed to make an exception for the heroes and inform them. At that the Quahjothka points at the bonfire in the center of the war-yurt. “If you want to learn what is truly plaguing your city, you will have to step into the fire”, he states. Sjo is the first to step up. Staring in the flames he picks up the outlines of a humanoid shape, that beckons him closer. The healer does not hesitate and walks into the blazing fire, followed by his friends. The heat burns them hard, but then the pain resides and they feel only warmth.
The burning figure appears before them: “My name is Arunan Lives-Of-Fire, Sun shaman of the Sklar-Quah. Your tales of the jothka-woman in the stone yurt-camp Korvosa confirm our suspicions that she has unearthed the ancient ‘evil’ from Mashka-saht-puyuhoke, the great mastaba, an evil that was interred there by my predecessors many generations ago. The knowledge of what lies hidden in the mastaba has been handed down over the ages, from one Sun shaman to the other. Now I will reveal the secret to ‘others’ for the first time in history, for the need is great and you offer one of the best chances to stop the threat.
Hundreds of years ago, when my people still walked the lush meadows of the lowlands and lived on the shores of the great water, Sun shaman Coja Eyes-Aflame left his tribe to fight at the side of a legendary hero from the distant lands of Lastwall against a formidable ruler who was known for his unparalleled cruelty and thirst for conquest. When armies failed to halt his advance, the hero from Lastwall assembled a small and secret cabal of warriors, magic-users and mystics, Coja Eyes-Aflame among them. Using power and stealth the heroes infiltrated the tyrant’s stronghold. The atrocities they found there tested them to their limits, and when they reached the enemy’s throne room, a terrific battle took place. It was during this battle that they stripped away the tyrant’s human disguise, revealing a powerful blue dragon who had been empowered by the blessings of his dark god. Assuming his true form, the monster attacked the cabal, and a long and bloody battle ensued. His scales deflected most of their attacks and his claws and lightning breath made short work of many of their best and bravest warriors. In the end it was the hero from Lastwall himself who was able to slip through the dragon’s guard and deliver the fatal blow.
Yet even in death, the tyrant’s body shuddered and grasped. Fire and acid destroyed much of the dragon’s corpse, yet seven fragments proved impossible to destroy. These grisly relics were so suffused with evil and malignancy that they refused to burn or melt – and even as the heroes watched, the bones twitched and writhed as they tried to return to life. The cabal’s leader ordered his surviving brothers and sisters to each take one of these seven relics out into the world and go into hiding. None would know where the other members went, least of all their leader, who would remain in the tyrant’s stronghold to guard it against ever being used for evil again.
And so it is that my predecessor returned to his people, carrying the burden of the Fangs of Midnight, the blue dragon’s teeth. Coja was a changed man, his hands shook and his eyes bore an ever-terrified gaze. At night he often screamed out in horror. He shared his story with his fellow shamans and together they opted to hide the Fangs in the ancient Thassilonian monument on the shore of his people’s ancestral lands. They spent the rest of their lives guarding the monument, seeking to ensure that nothing dared enter the hidden chambers within, and when they died, they passed the task down to their successors. And so, for hundreds of years, the descendants of this now forgotten Shoanti mystic guarded and protected the Fangs of Midnight from discovery, teaching their people that it was their sacred duty to stand watch over the mastaba. During these centuries the Sun shamans learned much about the power of the artifact. Part of the dragon’s soul endured and tried to force its will on those around it. But the Sun shamans were aurochheaded and well-trained, and their strong minds resisted the dragon’s temptations. As long as no one actually handled the teeth, they lacked the strength to truly dominate anyone and cause further harm. But now I fear that, for the first time since they were entombed in the holy site of Mashka-saht-puyuhoke, the Fangs of Midnight have been touched by human hands, with unspeakable consequences.
The fragment of the dragon’s soul is like a plant: it seeks to take root in fertile soil, where it can blossom and grow to become a potent tree. Hearing your stories, I believe that this has happened to the Jothka-woman who you call Ileosa-Queen. If I understand you correctly I’d even say that she is wearing the Fangs of Midnight on her head. Her own cruelty and strength have been multiplied thousand fold by the evil artefact. On top of that the teeth will have given her supernatural powers. But the worst thing is that she now carries two souls in herself, which gives her tremendous control over her own vulnerability and mortality.
Knowledge of how Coja’s cabal defeated the dragon will be key to fighting her as well. But what my foregoers handed down to me is vague and fragmentary at best. I cannot give you the weapons to combat this evil, because I do not know them. Still, the fire of my predecessors burn within mel, just like it burned in the chest of Coja Eyes Aflame. Find his bones and rekindle his fire, then he will give you the insight you need to defeat his old nemesis.
I am unsure of where the Sun shamans from the days of yore lie buried. The ancient shores have been lost to us for so long that I cannot even begin to imagine what they looked like. I do know that they were not entombed in Mashka-saht-puyuhoke out of fear that the unnatural tendrils of evil would disturb their voyage to the eternal hunting grounds. Lore says that they were laid to rest in burial mounds within sight of the great mastaba, so they could guard over it even in death. Coja Eyes Aflame’s bones must lie there as well, somewhere, but if I understand correctly, your people have filled the shores with stone yurts, so it will be hard to locate the Sun shaman’s remains. I also fear that I cannot guide you any more than I have done just now. Still, my inner flame tells me that Coja’s bones have passed the test of time. Finding them will be your task.”
Then the burning shaman reaches into his own chest and pulls out a white glowing flame. He motions for Sjo to open his mouth and then places the ball of searing fire on his tongue. “Breath this flame into the glorious mystic’s remains and he will help you”, Arunan assures. “I’m sorry I cannot be of more help and that I cannot send the great spirits of my ancestors with you, they would only get lost in the maze that the mastaba shores have become. Only a spirit that knows the place as it exist today would be able to guide you.”
Upon hearing this, Sjo pulls out the deck of Harrow cards and summons Zellara’s spirit. “Maybe she can help?” he offers. Arunan looks pleased as Zellara’s ghost appears. “I find myself in strange lands,” she says, “far from the streets and alleyways I call home. But I feel you are among allies. Though no bonds of friendship have formed yet, mutual respect hangs around your shoulders like a warm blanket. How can I be of help?”
Sjo explains that they will need Zellera’s help in recovering the whereabouts of a buried Shoanti shaman, somewhere in the city of Korvosa. Arunan fills in as many details as he can. The Varisian fortune-teller is happy to oblige, but recommends patience: “The secrets of the Shoanti lie buried under three centuries of Korvosan history and hatred. Locating the remains of a long-gone mystic will be like finding a needle in a haystack. But I will do my best to help you, although I should warn you not to expect a speedy result. The search will be hard and might prove long. I can only hope that I can provide an answer in time. When we get back home, place my deck of cards on Korvosan soil, so I can begin my search.” The next moment Zellara’s spirit fades.
Arunan looks positively surprised. “You are truly blessed by those who have left us. You walk with the spirits, who honor us still with their presence and friendship. Go now with the strength of the spirits and the friendship of the tribes.” After these words Arunan disappears as well, his burning body melting into the bonfire. The companions step from the flames and face Valkur and the council again. The big chief regards Sjo carefully, nodding his head in respect when he catches a fiery glimpse in the healer’s milky eyes. “Now the might of the Sklar-Quah is truly with you. I wish you a speedy journey back and good fortune at the end of your path. We will follow in two weeks, to pick up the fight if you fail. But if you succeed, you should contact us, so we can discuss our people’s future together.”
Quint suggests they use magic to stay in touch during their mission. Thousand Bones will be happy to serve as a medium. Depending on the heroes’ progress or failure, the Shoanti might have to expedite or postpone their war movements. The companions certainly feel that now there is some room for flexibility on this front. The Quahs are placing a lot of trust in their hands, they hope they can live up to the challenges ahead.
23 Arodus 4708
Balian spends the night in the arms of D’ari Firehair, Saamesh’s sister, learning how hot Sklar-Quah women can actually be. The next morning the companions leave for Kaer Maga in horseback. They reach the cliff-top city by the afternoon, which gives them some time to sell off the loot they gathered over the last couple of days and invest in some scrolls and new equipment.
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An hour after the Red Mantis ambush the companions leave the Skull Clan camp, joined by both Thousand Bones and Saamesh. After about half a day of traveling the party comes across another group of Skoan-Quah warriors, who are making their way to the shadow of the Great Flame as well. Like the members of Thousand Bones’ tribe, they are following the call of the Sklar-Quah. The Burn riders who recruited them are still with them and do not seem overly pleased with the presence of Korvosan tshamek, but they accept the company of the strangers when Thousand Bones and Saamesh vouch for them.
22 Arodus 4708
Over the next two days the group traveling with the heroes grows even more, to about 250 men and women. By the end of the afternoon on the third day they finally reach their destination: an imposing pinnacle of red rock that rises from the earth to a height of more than 200 feet. Millennia of erosion have shaped the stone like a big flame. In normal times this landmark would be an eye-catcher, but now Balian finds his gaze being drawn to the enormous encampment at its foot. Hundreds of tents and campfires cover the landscape.
Upon approaching the camp the companions see a delegation of Burn Riders moving in to welcome the newcomers. Puk immediately recognizes the giant that leads them: Krojun Eats-What-He-Kills. When he spots the companions, the barbarian gives them a small frown, but as soon as he picks out Saamesh in the crowd, the towering Shoanti jumps off his horse. With big strides he closes the distance between himself and the former spy. Grinning widely, he pulls his much smaller friend in a bear hug: “Brother, have you come to join us in battle? My heart rejoices, you are more than welcome!” he smiles. “Although I see you have not brought the best of companions”, he continues, nodding at the Korvosans.
Saamesh returns the heartiness of the hug, but when he frees himself from the giant’s grip, he replies: “On the contrary, brother, my business in Urgir did not end well. These men saved me from the deadly clutches of the orcs. With the exception of you, perhaps, I cannot imagine being in finer company.”
Krojun grins at the party: “Then I welcome you as well, welcome to the brave warriors who will crush Korvosa and see justice done.”
Krojun leads Thousand Bones, Saamesh and their Korvosan guests to a huge tent, bordering the foot of the Great Flame. While they make their way through the camp, the companions feel the hostile gaze of hundreds of Shoanti. The forces that have gathered here are truly impressive: there must be over two thousand warriors here, if not three; hundreds of horses and Puk even spots a number of mastodons, immense eliphants. The halfling stares at the titans in awe: “Look, oliphaunts, no one at home will believe this!”
The war-yurt is the biggest tent the companions have ever seen, fully covered in animal skins and leather hides. In front of the entrance there are two rows of totems, decorated with different animals and symbols. A plume of smoke rises from a hole in the center of the tent. Quint quickly cleans up everyone’s attire with prestidigitation, casts glibness upon himself and tongues on Puk and Balian, who do not speak Shoanti. Krojun motions for the newcomers to enter. Inside a few dozen men and women are gathered around a bonfire. Most of them look like experienced warriors, but others bear the symbols and ornaments of mystics. Upon entering Krojun’s loud voice booms out: “Honored jothka’s and wise fathers and mothers, we have welcomed many guests in our midst of late, but these visitors will surely draw your attention!”
Everyone inside eyes the Korvosan heroes with a mixture of surprise and contempt. A broad-shouldered warrior with gray hair and a proud beard seems to share these feelings, but when Saamesh steps into the tent behind Balian, his face lights up. He walks up to the young man, places his hands on the spy’s shoulders and calmly speak in a very low voice: “So, son, you have finally turned your back on that stinking orc pit. Your father’s heart leaps at your return.”
“Jothka”, Saamesh answers with the same calm, “the orcs of the Hold of Belkzen are strong and many, but their eyes are not aimed at the Quahs right now. I was less lucky, however, and personally got to experience their false gazes and sharp claws. If it wasn’t for these men, you’d be short one son.”
The bearded man turns to the companions, looking each of them in the eye: “I offer you my thanks, tshamek. My name is Valkur Burns-In-His-Veins, the Quahjothka of the Sklar-Quah. I am the one who has called together the Shoanti to drive your people back into the sea. I take it that is why you are here. Speak, and we will listen.” Quint recognizes the word Quahjothka as the ‘chief’, not just of a single tribe, but the ‘chief of chiefs’ of a complete clan or Quah. This man is the head of all the Sun Clan people.
Valkur points to an empty place next to the fire where his guests can sit down. He squats on the ground a few yards further, between four other important-looking Shoanti: Laaron Strongbow, Quahjothka of the Lyrune-Quah (the Moon Clan), Fidru Glides-On-The-Wind, daughter of the Quahjothka of the Shriikiri-Quah (the Hawk-Clan), Akbat Whose-Tongue-Gives-Life, Quahjothka of the Shundar-Quah (the Spire Clan) and Durbeth Lifebreath, Quahjothka of the Skoan-Quah (the Skull Clan). The other Shoanti inside the war-yurt sit down as well, curious to witness this intriguing encounter. Krojun, Thousand Bones and Saamesh are among them, as is One-life, the chief of Thousand Bones’ tribe.
The companions also introduce themselves and Quint explains why they are here. After the death of King Eodred, the ‘Quahjothka’ of Korvosa, his wife Ileosa took control and has been showing ever more apparent signs of evil and madness. The party has tried to counter this malevolence, but they found themselves insufficiently equipped or skilled to succeed, especially after Ileosa displayed virtual immortality when she was shot in the head by an accomplished warrior who had discovered her evil as well. The arrow to her temple should have felled an auroch bull, but instead it hardly phased her, as she simply plucked the bolt from her head and attacked the warrior with it. The ‘feeble’ Korvosan woman grabbed the seasoned warrior by the throat and lifted the 200 pound man off the ground as if he were a twig, killing him with one single blow. The companions now suspect that the queen is under the influence of the ancient ‘evil’ that was supposedly buried under the mastaba. If she is not stopped, queen Ileosa will destroy both of their people, Quint continues, referring to Thousand Bones’ spirit quest and the vision of the shadow dragon swallowing the Shoanti horses and Korvosan wolves alike, leaving no one alive. “That is why we have come: to learn more about this evil and find out how they can fight it.”
Quint also knows that the Shoanti are wary of outsiders and only truly accept their own: other (full-blood) Shoanti or – on very rare occasions – non-Shoanti who have proven themselves worthy. That entails that the companions will have to try and acquire enough of the Shoanti’s respect through their past deeds. So the bard spins a story of who the party is and what they have achieved. Sometimes he finds it hard to explain, because many urban concepts are foreign to his audience. The Shoanti do have a word for children who’ve lost their parents, but the words lacks the undertone of being abandoned as the term ‘orphan’ does, because the tribes always take care of such children. His listeners also frown when Quint describes the many excesses of ‘corruption’ he and his friends have fought over the last couple of months in Korvosa, probably reinforcing the wildlings’ prejudice that so-called civilized society is actually anything but civilized and definitely not honorable. Throughout his tale Quint makes sure to point out that his party does not seek to cause conflict, but they do not avoid it when it slaps them in the face. Although they prefer a peaceful solution, they will resort to violence if necessary.
Sjo supports Quint’s story by singling out the deeds he and his friends have accomplished that involved Shoanti. He shows the token of friendship they received from Thousand Bones when they provided aid in dire circumstances in the city of Korvosa, he recounts the time they freed an ancient Shoanti tumulus of vile bugbear intruders and offers the medallion they retrieved from that tomb to Akbat Whose-Tongue-Gives-Life, the Quahjothka of the Shundar-Quah, whose ancestors were buried there. He also points out that he and his friends took the shape of natural animals in their journey to the spirit world, which indicated that their hearts were in the right place, and connects that vision quest to the rescue of Saamesh from the orc city of Urgir. He ends his intervention with the defeat of the Cinderlander and hands the Shoanti killer’s vicious weapon, his repeating crossbow, to the Quah’s leaders as a sign of closure. Balian also adds an argument by reminding the council that the companions recently accepted Krojun’s tests and – even though they did not beat the Sklar-Quah champion in these challenges – they did prove themselves capable. The broad-shouldered warrior confirms this claim with a smile of respect on his face.
When they have finished their plea, Valkur asks the companions to leave, so the council can deliberate what to do. He offers them the camp’s hospitality until the council comes up with an answer. Saamesh leads the companions out and takes them to one of the many campfires. There he is greeted heartily and the tribesmen around the fire immediately offer him and his guests a place by the fire and food. A sassy young girl with bright red hair and white paint around her eyes hugs Saamesh for a long time. When he introduces his rescuers to her, she is very grateful that they saved her brother. “My name is D’ari Firehair”, she says, as she turns to the fire and tears off a chunk of meat from the roast. She offers it to Balian: “Here, put some meat on those bones, you look like you enjoy a good piece of chow.” The ranger gratefully accepts and sinks his teeth into the savory flesh. “Seems like it has been a long time since you had yourself some fine meat. Don’t they like flesh in Korvosa?” she smiles, bowing forward and offering Balian a clear view into her cleavage. Then she reaches for the ranger’s shoulder, letting her hand glide to the hilt of his greatsword and pulling it out of its sheath. She weighs the heavy weapon, lets her eyes glide over the blade and then wields it in grand archers with apparent ease. Her final swing ends just under Balian’s chin. She pushes the tip against his skin: “Sklar-Quah women are as hot as fire, Korvosan, and as deadly as the rays of the sun.” With the gentlest of pushes she draws a single drop of blood from the ranger’s throat. Then she flicks the sword around and hands it back to its owner, hilt first. “Still, for my brother’s savior, I’m willing to make an exception”, she smiles. As Balian reaches for his greatsword, she pulls him closer and presses a fiery kiss on his lips. “Don’t ever say that D’ari Firehair knows no gratitude”, she teases, and gives the ranger a light slap in his behind. The other Shoanti laugh. Apparently this little show has served perfectly to break the ice.
During the meal Saamesh expands on his time in Urgir and explains how the party saved him from certain death. By the time the meal is done, the Korvosan heroes feel right at home. None of the Shoanti around this fire show any hostility, on the contrary, they seem to welcome the strangers in their camaraderie. D’ari remains at Balian’s side and continues to tease him the whole time. When the final rays of the sun almost sink behind the horizon, the camp bursts out in commotion. Three dark shapes in the sky close in fast against the dying of the light. Each of the giant eagle-like birds carries a rider on its back. These are the mighty rocs of the Tammir-Quah, the Wind Clan. Some enthusiastic young boys cry out in rapture: “The rocs are coming, the rocs are coming!” D’ari explains that they are expecting at least four thousand warriors and healers. Everyone should be here in two weeks’ time. That is when the army will leave for Korvosa.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
20 Arodus 4708
The next morning the companions gather for breakfast. Thousand Bones greets them and asks if they are ready for the journey. Off to the side, an older Shoanti woman is cooking up something hearty in a large pot. Suddenly a screech tears through the air. The sound seems to be coming from the north and ends close to the breakfast circle. The elderly cook buckles and tumbles to the ground, a bolt sticking from her neck. Out of thin air two red mantis assassins appear and attack the unwary party. Wicked-Claws, the wingless dragonne that protects the tribe, rears its scaly head when it sees a big leopard charging from behind one of the tents.
In no time the Shoanti camp is in complete chaos. Puk tries to get the people to hide in the tents, but panic has taken a hold of them, which makes some of them run around wildly instead of hide. The scarlet-clothed assassins are both joined by giant-sized red mantis insects and a few seconds later two other large monsters burst from the sand: these abominations have the upper body of a human, while their lower half is that of a humongous scorpion. Their deadly claws and poisonous stingers flash left and right, damaging Balian, but also making some casualties among the Shoanti commoners. Sjo tries to pinpoint the source of the ranged attack and finds it when three screaming bolts plant themselves in his chest, causing grievous wounds: a hitman is hiding behind a big rock off to the north. The pin-cushioned healer already has to resort to his magical cures. Thousand Bones’ venerable age has made him a fragile man, but he still possesses some powerful magic, and attempts to dispel one of the summoned mantises. The insect pops away as suddenly as it appeared. Quint takes up his support role and casts haste. Meanwhile Balian, Spyder and Puk launch their melee attacks and dish out serious damage. Puk already manages to slay one of the assassins and sees him poof away in red smoke as he falls. Saamesh, the rescued spy, also joins the fray, but his defenses are far inferior to the party’s, so he suffers greatly. Balian confronts a scorpionman, bearing down on him again and again with his greatsword. The creature loses three limbs in the attack, but still has enough legs left to stand and return the attack. It is aided by the sudden appearance out of nowhere of yet another Red Mantis assassin, a killer whose armor’s shape suggests that she is female. She delivers a vicious blow to the ranger. The surviving giant mantis turns on Saamesh, who bears the beating stoically, but falls to the ground when a bolt from the mysterious archer hit him hard. Another shot takes down Balian.
With two fighters out of the game, it is time for some battlefield control: Sjo freezes the female assassin in place with hold person, but the archer resists a similar spell and a cacophonous call from Quint. Next the bard makes the campfire explode in a bright flash, which blinds the male assassin, a scorpionman and the leopard, who is locked in combat with Wicked-Claws behind the main tent. Spyder suffers the same fate, but uses his instinct to continue his attacks anyway with surprising ease; naturally the blinded opponents try to do the same. Thousand Bones moves closer to the source of the deadly bolts and recognizes the Cinderlander hiding behind a rocky outcropping. The old medicine man finally manages to neutralize the danger by casting another hold person on him, which finally succeeds. Meanwhile Puk takes out a first scorpion creature and deals heavy damage to the frozen female assassin. The wingless dragonne leaves the sight-robbed leopard groping in the dark and turns on the second giant mantis. Gushing blood from one of his wounds, unconscious Balian is in danger of bleeding out, so Sjo helps his friend with a cure critical wounds. Quint and Thousand Bones provide further healing for the ranger, who tries to regain his feet. Despite his blindness Spyder manages to kill the female assassin next, who disappears in a puff of red smoke as well. Puk presses the final Red Mantis murderer, who takes down Sjo in turn. Fortunately Thousand Bones is close to lend assistance, one healer to another. Spyder continues his streak of good luck and finishes off the final assassin. Apparently the outdoor environment of the Cinderlands agree with the city dog. As the assassin pops away in red clouds, the giant mantis he summoned disappears as well. The only immediate threat left is the second scorpionman; the Cinderlander is still frozen in place and his blinded leopard pet is trying to find its way back to its master. Puk and Balian turn on the foul scorpion critter, drawing blood from many wounds, but still the creature persists and snaps and stings at the ranger with success as well. Fortunately Balian possesses enough fortitude to resist the poison. Puk is no big fan of the almost spiderlike way in which the giant scorpion creeps about, but with Balian providing flanking, he can duck between the creature’s many legs and deliver the final blow.
Wasting no time, Balian charges over to the Cinderlander before the man manages to regain control of his movements. Wicked-Claws is close behind, chasing the leopard back to the archer, who finally breaks out of the hold person, but is laid low by another of Thousand Bones’s spells. The old Shoanti commands the Cinderlander to ‘grovel’, making the enemy fall prone in the dirt. A storm of attacks from all sides ends his life. By the time Sjo arrives it is already over, the Cinderlander is dead. So this deadly opponent was his biological father, was he? The healer cannot muster any pity for the man, but still sends him off with a short prayer to Pharasma. That is all the mercy this killer deserves.
Quint turns to Thousand Bones and says he is very sorry. This attack was aimed at his party, and it cost five innocent Shoanti bystanders their lives. Thousand Bones accepts his apology and says that at least one good thing came of it: the Cinderlander, who has been plaguing the Shoanti for almost two decades, is finally defeated. It is a sad day for the tribe, but a good day or all the clans in general. The victims will be honored as heroes and their names will live on in song and legend.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Quint tries to make the most of the time he is given. He ushers his friends over to the other half of the room, where they can proceed unnoticed. Using Quint’s wand and Sjo’s curing spells the companions patch up again. Quint also hands Puk the bag of holding and the halfling picks out a number of Blackjack’s masterwork daggers for himself and Sjo. Since the enemies still haven’t returned, the party decides to set a trap. Puk drops back to the floor where he went down in battle. Since he is the one who will be in immediate view when the bad guys come back, they might not notice anything is wrong until they are close. Spyder, who has been healed as well, also lays down in a pool of his own blood and plays dead. Sjo hides next to Puk, behind a pillar, while Quint waits just around the corner.
The plan works! When the enemy casters come back a few moments later, chatting merrily about their victory, they remain relaxed and unalarmed until they reach Puk’s position. Sjo launches the attack by cleverly casting silence on a coin, while Quint casts haste on his friends from just outside the silenced zone. Spyder and Quint get behind the enemies, closing off their way of escape and Puk proves that a rogue does not need magical daggers to deliver serious damage. The figure in the purple robes draws his rapier and returns the favor, giving the halfling a nasty cut. Sjo finds out that wielding a dagger is not really his thing and misses his mark. The orc mage realizes that there is nothing he can do, being surrounded in melee in a zone where he can’t voice his spells, so he tries to make a run for it, but Quint trips him. His attempt to get back up is foiled and Puk’s quick little stabs make short work of him. It is astounding how much of a difference the circumstances make. Where the mage proved a formidable and illusive opponent in the last fight, he now turns into a complete push-over. The enemy bard lasts a few breath longer, as his defenses are actually quite decent. He also seems to have some skill with his rapier, slicing a few more gashes in Puk, but then the halfing gets lucky and finds three gaps in the man’s guard. The purple figure drops to the floor.
Sjo reclaims his heavy mace from the enemies’ sack of loot, and hands back Puk’s daggers as well, while Quint pulls off the Purple Worm’s mask. His face is human. He wonders whether this might be Arnois Belzig, the Pathfinder in Grask Uldeth’s service. Detect magic reveals that the men carry some potent magic. The party moves over to the next room, a large round chamber with a floor that drops into the darkness, deeper than Sjo’s 60 feet of darkvision. There is a stone platform that stretches across the room, leading to a blank wall on the other side, but a lever in the middle of the platform can make the whole construction turn 90 degrees to reach a stone door with a small porch in the left wall. Balian’s body lies on the platform, while another bound and unconscious figure lies on the porch in front of the door. The companions quickly restore Balian to full health and turn the platform to reach the prisoner on the porch. It is Saamesh, the Shoanti spy they were looking for. When Quint frees him and nurses him back to consciousness, he recognizes the companions from their previous encounter in the spirit world, even though they were all in animal form then.
Saamesh has been beaten and tortured, not just as punishment for being a spy, but also to extract information. The Purple Worm was after two things in particular: he wanted to know where the Koldukar key was and who Saamesh’s allies were. The Shoanti could only answer truthfully by denying that he had either of those: no key and no allies! His torturer obviously did not believe him and kept on tormenting the spy to get him to talk. Saamesh tried using an old Shoanti trick to detach his spirit from his body. That is how he entered the spirit world and was able to get a message to the heroes. But the Purple Worm quickly succeeded in breaking his mental escape.
The door behind Saamesh is made of stone and radiates strong magic. It is one of the Koldukar doors that can only be opened with the Koldukar key. Saamesh marvels at how absurd life can be sometimes. He came here looking for the Purple Worm, believing that man had the mysterious key, while the Worm captured him and was convinced that he knew more about this notorious dwarven unlocking device. The Shoanti also admits that he had seriously underestimated the Purple Worm’s forces. The man had more troops than expected and was actually quite powerful, as was his magic-wielding orc ally. In hindsight, that might not be such a bad thing, Puk jokes, as he glances over the mighty loot he gathered from the two casters’ bodies.
Anyhow, the spy realizes that his cover in Urgir is blown and that his role in the orc city has come to an end. He is happy to be alive and rescued, and now he just wants to return home. He does wonder, however, how four Korvosans came to save him. From his visit in the spirit world, he knows that he can trust his rescuers, but he does not understand why they came for him: the Shoanti and Korvosa are not exactly on friendly terms. Quint explains that Korvosa’s new queen is under the influence of something evil that she unearthed in the great mastaba, and they need the Shoanti’s help and insight to fight it. Saving the son of the Sun Clan’s most influential chief might go a long way with the people of the Cinderlands, who only accept non-Shoanti if they prove themselves worthy. Saamesh promises that he will aid their cause and plead to his leaders to help his rescuers. Sjo also has a question of a more personal nature. He wants to know if Saamesh knows his mother, Aithné. The young spy nods affirmatively. She is one of the famous burn riders, a proud and capable warrior. Her father (and Sjo’s grandfather), Sun shaman Yundur Firestorm, passed away some years ago, unfortunately. She has no children, though, at least, not in the tribe, the rescued Shoanti sighs.
While Saamesh begins to formulate plans how to get out of the orc city and travel back to the Cinderlands, Quint pulls out the scroll of teleport he got from Jasan Adriel. Saamesh is delighted: traveling home overland could take up to three weeks and the journey would be fraught with danger. This magical short-cut could both figuratively and literally be a life-savior. Quint decides to take the Skull clan’s encampment, where they found Thousand Bones’ tribe, as his focus point. The magic does its work and the next moment the heroes and their new friend are back in the Kallow Hills.
The camp is still there, but it looks emptier then when the party left here six days ago. Most of the able-bodied men and women have left for the meeting in the shadow of the Great Flame. Only the elderly, children and some women remain here. Even jothka One-life and shaman Ashdancer have joined the warriors. Thousand Bones, however, is still here, waiting for the companions. He is overjoyed to see them and find out that they succeeded in their quest. Now he wants to follow his tribesmen to the gathering as quickly as possible, suggesting the party joins him there. The companions agree and take the rest of the day off to recover and distribute the loot they recovered from the orc magic-user and the Purple Worm. There are two mighty cloaks of resistance, both caster were also wearing headbands of alluring charisma, which were more powerful than the one Quint is wearing at the moment. There are other magical upgrades as well: a good amulet of natural armor, mithral buckler and chain shirt, better rings of protection for some of the party members, but the nicest item is the Purple Worm’s silver rapier. The blade has small holes that whistle in a high pitch when the weapon is wielded and deliver sonic damage. But its most wonderful property is the fact that it allows a bard to use his bardic performance to charge the weapon, allowing him to use his charisma instead of his strength to guide his strikes and deliver damage. Quint is usually the last to join melee, but with this rapier he will much better at it.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Quint presses his back tight against the wall. His heart pounds furiously. How could everything go wrong so fast? He had not seen this coming: two powerful casters who could so easily dictate the course of the fight. And they are just around the corner, still under the influence of an improved invisibility spell, standing over the bodies of Quint’s fallen companions: one a magic-user who was mighty enough to conjure a cone of cold, the other one a bard who wielded greater power than Quint.
Quint casts an invisibility sphere on himself. Fortunately his voice is still being blocked by Sjo’s stone of silence on the floor, so the enemies can’t hear him. Then our hero quickly makes for the spot where Sjo dropped the stone and picks it up. From this position he has a clear view of the battlefield in the second half of the crypt. The two caster figures turn visible again. The first one is an orc dressed in gray robes with a red hand painted on his chest. Huge fangs jut from his jaw, mirrored by two fang-like pieces of bone sticking from his earlobes. He glances about cautiously, expecting the last surviving infiltrator to appear at any moment. At the same time he gathers Balian’s, Sjo’s and Puk’s weapons and checks their bodies for a pulse. He calls out something to his companion, the enemy bard, who is dressed in purple robes and whose face appears to be covered with a mask. Quint suspects this is Wyrnan Koch, the ‘Purple Worm’, whom he read about in Saamesh’s secret journal. This person pulls out a wand and moves over to the four orcs who went down in the battle. Two of them are still alive and the Purple Worm restores them to full health with the wand. The other two are beyond saving, it seems.
Quint repositions himself in the mouth of the stairwell. He still has a good view on the orcs from there, but can easily make his escape if he has to. He sees how the two orcs that have just been nursed back to life pick up their weapons and search the first half of the tomb, where Quint was hiding initially. Meanwhile the casters do another spell and focus on the bodies of Quint’s friends. They start stripping them of all lose magical items, from spare weapons to jewels and cloaks. Judging from the way the handle his friends, Quint can tell that they are probably still alive.
By now the two orc minions reach the end of the crypt and, having discovered no one, are about to return. Before they do so, Quint slips back into the crypt and hides behind a ruined dwarven grave. The orcs walk back - past the bard - and take the stairs leading to the next floor. Now only the two caster remain, who are still plundering the fallen heroes of anything but their armor.
Realizing that his invisibility will not last forever, Quint decides to find a better place to hide. A big sarcophagus sits in the overflow of the first and second half of this crypt. It stands a few feet from the wall, leaving just enough space for the bard to hide. It also provides a perfect view of both parts of the crypt and allows Quint to hear his enemies as well, as he now steps out of the silence zone. The casters are talking in Orcish, a language that Quint masters as well. They seems to be very pleased with the ‘fat loot’ on the intruders’ bodies, even though they will have to examine the items further to determine their exact powers. At the same time they are disappointed, because they can’t find ‘the key’. They wonder if the ‘one who got away’ might have it. The Shoanti ‘spy’ always denied having the key, but the men were never sure if they could believe him. Just imagine what they could do with that key! Open ancient doors and discover Koldukar’s hidden treasures!
Once the two casters have finished stripping down their opponents, they pull out some rope to tie them up. They obviously don’t feel like lifting up a heavy bloke like Sjo to wrap the ropes around him, so they settle for rolling him over and tying his hands behind his back. They also bind his feet together. The other fallen companions get the same treatment. The orc with the large fangs also jokes about cooking and eating Spyder later on, although Quint seriously doubts it actually is a joke. He’s seen dog on the menu in the market square.
Quint’s invisibility wears off, but he chose his hiding place well, so the two figures do not notice him and continue their tedious work. When they’re done securing the prisoners, they attach a length of rope to Balian’s feet and start pulling him to the end of the gallery, towards a set of double doors. The floor is covered in stone rubble, and even though they advance slowly, the casters laugh over the unconscious ranger’s rough ride through the debris. When they disappear through the exit, Quint finds himself alone in the crypt. He jumps to action, hurrying over to Sjo and Puk while pulling out his wand of cure serious wounds. Two gentle touches with the magic timber restore his friends to consciousness.