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After the end of our Savage Tide campaign, my friends and I started play Curse of the Crimson Throne. You will find here the tale of our brand new group of heroes.
If you are playing Curse of the Crimson Throne or intend on playing it in the future, please be aware that this thread will contain many spoilers! Also, since my players might be reading this, if you want to post spoiler-y comments or questions, please be sure to put them in spoiler tags.
I am the GM this time around. I’ve stayed pretty faithful to the campaign in general, but you will surely find here and there some things that I changed to make it run (in my opinion) more smoothly, to foreshadow events and people from later adventures earlier on, and also to better fit my player’s way of playing and their characters’ identities.
I will begin with a brief description of the newest group of Korvosan heroes (more detailed descriptions will follow later):
Manius Alazario, Male Chelaxian Fighter, Lawful Neutral.
Played by Ulfgar’s player from our Savage Tide campaign.
Manius is an extremely strong man who was born in the slums of Bridgefront. He spent several painful years of his childhood serving Gaedren Lamm. After escaping such torment, he joined the Hellknights and is now one of their most skilled and promising armigers in Korvosa.
Kindrasius Edelbark, Male Shoanti Bard/Ranger, Chaotic Neutral.
Played by our Savage Tide DM (also the player of Navan and Ruh from my Rise of the Runelords campaign).
Kindrasius is a strange and sinister man who lost all memories of his childhood. He now lives in Old Korvosa, where he works as a performer at the theater called Exemplary Execrables. He hears voices in his head and possesses strange powers that even he doesn’t fully understand. Perhaps they are linked to his forgotten past, or an unusual ancestry?
Hipazia Vipsania Leroung, Female Chelaxian Wizard, Lawful Good.
Played by Lagaan’s player from our Savage Tide campaign.
Born in one of the city’s wealthiest families, Hipazia led a sheltered life. Gifted with a brilliant mind, she studied at Theumanexus College for several years. Recently, she was framed for a murder she did not commit, which caused her to be expelled from that wizard school.
Kaeso, Male Human (Chelaxian/Varisian mix) Rogue, Chaotic Good.
Also played by Lagaan’s player from our Savage Tide campaign.
Kaeso is a servant of the Leroung family; more specifically, he acts as a personal servant and bodyguard to lady Hipazia. Kaeso is a clever and fun-loving young man whose heart beats with a forbidden love for a young woman belonging to a noble family considered the rivals of house Leroung.
Zeeva Foxglove, Female Chelaxian Cleric of Pharasma, Neutral Good.
DM-PC played by me (yes, I’m playing a female human cleric again :) ).
This quiet woman is haunted by a sinister past of death and ill fortune. As the last living member of her family in Korvosa, she’s worked hard to maintain her uncle’s business after his death at Gaedren Lamm’s hands a few years ago.
Oathday, Pharast 13th, 4708
There was no logical reason for the presence of the Harrow card, but there it was. I had found it in my prayer book that morning. For many years already, I’d been praying to Pharasma for the salvation of my soul and those of my kindred. Perhaps if you belonged to a cursed family whose members tend to suffer untimely, ghastly deaths, you would pick up the habit as well.
How had the card gotten inside the book? Who had put it there? Had they broken into my house? It wasn’t that hard, I guess. Locks could be bypassed and I had neither traps nor any fancy magical wards to protect my belongings. I didn’t even have any guards to protect my residence, unless one counted Heldrin Blackbarrel, the grizzled old dwarf who had served my family for decades.
I recognized the card immediately as belonging to a deck of Harrow, those strange cards used by Varisian fortune-tellers. On one side of it I could see a short, plump woman holding up a newborn baby. “The midwife”. I was puzzled by this; the other side of the card held a hand-written message that was much clearer, yet which still brought a number of questions to my mind. Whoever had placed this card in my book knew about Gaedren Lamm and what he had done to me. My heart began to beat faster with fear, anxiety, anger…
I had never met the man, but I had heard about him. An old, wrinkled, washed-out criminal as dirty and despicable as the slums of Korvosa where he could seemingly lose himself, out of reach of the authorities. Gaedren Lamm had killed my beloved uncle Nelkren, who had taken care of me and my siblings after our parents’ death. Uncle Nelkren had been like a second father to me, and I had loved him more than anyone. Now he was gone, and it was all Gaedren’s fault.
Well… That’s not entirely true.
I didn’t have any tangible proof, but I very strongly suspected that the brunt of the guilt actually lay on the shoulders of the person who had hired Gaedren in the first place to kill my uncle and make it look like an accident. That dastardly individual had hoped to claim my uncle’s inheritance with this treacherous murder. But that miserable cur, my brother Aldern, was now dead. My mind still reeled from the tragic circumstances of his death, back in that lonely old house where our parents had died so many years ago. Recent events threatened to push me over the edge and straight into a chasm of insanity. Better not to reminisce too much at this point.
So Aldern was already dead. His soul had already moved to the Boneyard where Pharasma, in her infinite wisdom, will judge it according to the weight of its many sins.
Therefore, the only remaining target of my so-far impotent rage was Gaedren Lamm.
I was scared, of course. This could very well be an ambush. When I spoke of it with Heldrin, he shared similar thoughts, and offered to come with me at sunset. But I turned down his offer. I sensed I had to do this alone. I had to trust in fate; I had to trust in Pharasma to guide me on a path to avenge uncle Nelkren.
Others like you
I arrived at 3 Lancet Street some time after sunset. It was already dark; I had probably taken too much time getting ready. I had hesitated for some time about what to wear: should I dress up for battle and don my breastplate? It was a beautiful piece of armor, one I had only worn on a few occasions. I would hardly look lady-like wearing it, though, and since I am always far too concerned with what other people think of me, I elected not to wear it that night. Instead, I went dressed in one of my finest gowns of green silk. In retrospect, that was perhaps not the wisest thing to do. I did bring my spear with me, though. I’m not completely stupid.
The Midland house looked very ordinary, not too fancy but in a state of good repair. I heard voices inside and shyly knocked at the door. A moment later, it swung open, revealing a tall, thin man dressed in a dark coat. He had the tanned skin of a Shoanti, and long black hair hung down from underneath the wide brim of his black hat. He looked very sinister, but there was an amused light in his eyes. He invited me inside, and as I did so, this odd fellow hummed an eerie little tune. Strangely, I felt like I had already met him before, but I couldn’t remember where.
The room itself was very unusual, but I quickly understood that it was the parlor of a fortune teller – which made sense, given the invitation I had received. Tapestries adorned the walls, and they were at once disturbing and magnificent. A curtain of beads hid the way to the back of the house. There were several chairs in the room, and some of them were occupied by other people – apparently those who had been mentioned on the back of my Harrow card. As it turned out, they had all received similar messages, but on the back of different cards. One of the people was a large man with short black hair. He looked very powerful and intimidating, and I recognized his chainshirt uniform as one worn by Hellknight armigers. A heavy flail hung at his side.
Thankfully, the other two people were not only less scary, but also more familiar. I immediately recognized Hipazia Leroung, an acquaintance of mine. I have no illusions that the Foxglove family is anywhere close to the Leroung’s in status (especially since I am its only remaining member in Korvosa), but Hipazia and I did frequent the same circles. Tall and beautiful, with long blonde hair and wearing an elegant midnight blue dress, Hipazia was a woman known for her keen mind. She taught some courses at the University of Korvosa; most members of her family were outstanding scholars. I knew, however, that she had other talents as well: it was rumoured that she had studied the arcane arts for several years at Theumanexus College, but that she had been expelled under mysterious and scandalous circumstances. At her side was her servant, a young man who clearly had at least partly Varisian blood.
Hipazia and I warmly greeted each other: apparently, she was also relieved to see a familiar face. She introduced her servant as Kaeso, who bowed to me. The large Hellknight was named Manius, and the Shoanti introduced himself as Kindrasius. As part of our introduction, we examined each others’ cards. Hipazia had received the Hidden Truth, while her servant had gotten the Juggler. Kindrasius held up the Courtesan, and Manius showed the Forge.
I didn’t know much about Harrow, but Hipazia and Kindrasius explained that each card could be linked to the essence of a person. They theorized that these cards represented us. I was surprised that the Courtesan was linked to the sinister-looking Shoanti, and that the plump little woman on my own card was supposed to represent me, a slender unmarried woman with no children. But then again, it’s true that Pharasma is not only the goddess of death, but also of birth.
Perhaps most importantly, though, these people also had a reason to hate Gaedren Lamm. I questioned them as politely as I could, and it soon became obvious that they felt pain or shame at their situation. Kindrasius said that Gaedren had taken something very precious from him, that which he loved most. Manius had been abducted by him as a child. And it seems that Gaedren was the one responsible for Hipazia’s shameful exile from Theumanexus College.
The others informed me that whoever had invited us had left a note on the table saying she had to step out momentarily. I found that behavior very odd… How could she treat this situation so casually? The whole thing reeked of ambush and deception to me. But perhaps I was being paranoid.
Our host had left some bread and wine in a basket under the table. I was neither hungry nor thirsty, nor did I trust the contents of the basket. But apparently, Kindrasius and Kaeso were not as worried and had both helped themselves to some wine.
She finally entered the house: a middle-aged Varisian woman with a red scarf over her head. She looked like a typical Varisian fortune-teller, but there was a warmth in her eyes that immediately put me at ease. She thanked us for coming and asked us to sit down at the table as she herself sat down across from us. Conveniently, there were just enough chairs for everyone. The woman introduced herself as Zellara and asked for our names as well. Some of the others asked why she didn’t know them, but she smiled knowingly and spoke evasively of how the Harrow worked mysteriously. She seemed to view it as some kind of sentient arcane entity who had chosen the five of us, as if it were somehow aware of our shared hatred of Gaedren Lamm. I asked Zellara how she had managed to put the Harrow card in my residence, but she remained vague as well, saying that the Harrow had done it. I crossed my arms and remained quiet for a while, wondering how much I could trust her.
I admit that my defenses melted quite a bit when she told us her story. She showed us her Harrow deck, which she shuffled with amazing dexterity. A year ago, one of Gaedren Lamm’s young pickpockets had stolen it from her. Her son Eran had been able to track down Gaedren (a feat none of us had been able to perform) and returned the deck to her. But alas, he had later been assassinated by Lamm and his goons. Her eyes brimming with tears, Zellara told us how the Korvosan Guard had been unable or unwilling to help her; we all shared her frustration, as Gaedren had eluded not only us, but the authorities as well.
But now, she gave us an address: Westpier 17. She assured us that Gaedren could be found there, and we could finally get our revenge. Kindrasius immediately stood up to get going, but Zellara convinced him to sit back down. First, she said she would do a Harrow reading for each of us, to give us not only a clearer vision of our future, but also a boon in difficult events to come. I wondered how much Zellara knew about us and our future… And if she knew so much, did she really need to read the Harrow? I felt really torn regarding her, torn between the sympathy I felt for the loss of her son, and wariness about the potentially dangerous knowledge she had about us. We had all been searching Gaedren for so long now, in a way it seemed a bit too convenient that she could lead us straight to him so easily.
First, she placed nine cards, face down, on the table in front of us. Again, I was impressed with how nimbly she dealt and shuffled the cards. She explained that in our near future, agility would be essential for our survival. Therefore, she had selected all of the cards of the suit of Keys.
We all picked one. As we did so, each of us experienced a fleeting vision, perhaps of things to come? The card I chose was the Peacock, and I saw myself fighting a handsome young man wearing the uniform of a Korvosan Guard. I was very surprised by this. I am a wholly law-abiding citizen, why would I ever come in conflict with a guard?
The others shared their visions as Zellara watched us intently. Hipazia has been underground, in a dark room, with a small flying creature harassing her from above, giggling madly all the while. Kaeso had been chasing someone over the Shingles, while Kindrasius saw himself in the middle of an angry crowd. Manius had seen himself locked in combat with Gaedren Lamm himself.
Zellara then did a complete Harrow reading for each of us. I don’t remember each card that everyone got, but her readings seemed uniformly vague and sinister to me – just the kind of bizarre stuff one would expect from a fortune teller. One thing was intriguing, though: Manius stated that he had visited another Harrow reader earlier today, puzzled by the Harrow card he had received, and she had displayed exactly the same cards to him… What are the odds of that?
I remember clearly the cards that I picked, and Zellara gave a description of my past, present and future based on their placement. Some of what she said was very vague and mysterious, but a few points seemed quite accurate. In the past, she saw two people, one who had helped me and one who had been a bad influence. Was the good one supposed to represent uncle Nelkren? And was the bad one supposed to be my father? Or Aldern?
What she said about my present, regarding an unruly mob or a wicked ruler, wasn’t clear at the time, but it would make perfect sense all too soon, alas.
She pointed at the Empty Throne in my future and she said I should heed the counsel of benevolent dead spirits. As a priestess of Pharasma, and one who has lost most of her loved ones already, I always try to keep the memories of those who have moved on foremost in my mind. That seems like something very natural to me.
Once this was done, Zellara bade us good luck. Her gaze was resolute: she clearly was hoping that we could get revenge not only for ourselves, but for her son as well.
Kindrasius was the first one out the door. I followed him closely. Now that I’d heard more about his background, I remembered where I had seen him: it had been a few months ago, he had been present at the funeral of a Shoanti woman. I asked if it had been his mother, but he shook his head. I questioned him further about his past, but he remained very elusive. He claimed that he didn’t know where he came from, and often, he abruptly interrupted the conversation as if he heard a sound from a different direction. Either his hearing is vastly superior to mine, because I couldn’t hear anything amiss, or he’s insane and hearing voices. I soon decided to take some distance from him and walked next to Hipazia, someone who’s more within my comfort zone.
It was now late in the evening. The streets were dark and quiet as we made our way as a group toward the docks. I rather like the city at night, it’s peaceful in its slumber, and the shadows and half-lights all around us are like glimpses into the dreams of a divine mind.
Here are the detailed Harrow readings for the party, if anyone's interested... :)
My poor Manius… I see great suffering in your youth. I see you in a place of pain, of endless toil in terrible conditions. You and some others were forced to work almost to your death. Your trust was betrayed… Someone you trusted to make your life better took advantage of you and nearly killed you. It’s a miracle that you’re still here today. But the Cyclone, despite being an evil card, is in a positive placement in your reading. Through these many ordeals, you emerged stronger. Your soul was forged like a deadly blade, and now you have the power to cause as much pain and suffering as was inflicted upon you, in the name of revenge. Will you?
Present: The Marriage, the Trumpet and the Vision.
I see that your power is obvious for all to see. It’s quite easy for you to flaunt it now. But once again, it’s unclear, as per the placement of this card, whether that power will be used for good or for evil. Perhaps both. Perhaps neither. Hmm, what else… Ah, I see you recently met, or are about to meet someone eccentric or perhaps even insane. Meaning no disregard to anyone in the room tonight. I also see that you are key to an alliance of some kind… Although once again, your reading is tainted by neutrality. Even the Harrow cannot say whether something good or bad will emerge from this alliance. It most likely means that the future of the alliance holds a bit of both.
Future: The Mountain Man, the Snakebite and the Survivor.
Hmm… The Snakebite, poison of the mind. Turning allies against each other. I see great conflict in your future. You will have to choose sides… between allies. And you risk being betrayed. The Mountain Man represents encountering a power beyond one’s ability to deal with. I do not know if such a strong lad as yourself can imagine being in such a situation, but the cards warn you against such an occasion. And I fear that the Survivor is of ill omen in this position. I see great loss in your future. Some of your loved ones or allies will perish.
I see great strength in your past. Like the paladin who stalwartly repels the assaults of countless evil, I see that you, Kindrasius, have survived some very traumatic events, whether you realize it or not. You are made of very stern stuff, and you should be proud of yourself. Most people would not have survived as you have.
Present: The Courtesan, the Carnival and the Demon’s Lantern.
Although the Courtesan might not seem like a card representing you, it can be better understood when taken in the company of these two other cards. All three of them hint at intrigue and deception. This seems to indicate that some people are trying to trick you with words… But in that position… Hmm… No, it seems as though you are listening to many people… And their words conflict with one another. I sense great confusion within you. It is as if many voices were talking to you all at once… And you cannot listen to them all.
Future: The Wanderer, the Juggler and the Tyrant.
I see something good and something bad in your future. You will come across something of great value, but whose true value is not readily apparent. Be vigilant and do not judge things too quickly. I also see a terrible controlling power. A very malevolent and powerful being who seeks to dominate everyone around him… And that you will especially need to struggle to avoid being controlled by this evil ruler.
Hmm, here again I see the Eclipse in a favourable light. You discovered early in your life an unexpected talent that is the foundation of your destiny. Perhaps it is your magical talent? I also see that you come from a sheltered life, which is obvious… a loving family… A safe environment. You are surrounded by people who love you. Even if their presence can seem trivial at times, you would be wise to listen to them, for their words may hold more weight than you would think. Yet among this loving environment, there are snakes who have betrayed you. I suppose that is to be expected among nobles, no offence. And judging from this position… you have not uncovered the root of the conspiracy yet.
Present: The Inquisitor, the Big Sky and the Keep.
Interesting, the Inquisitor is in exactly in the same position here as in Kaeso’s reading. It seems that your destinies have been linked very closely to lead you to where you are tonight. Apart from that, I see… shackles broken, shackles restored… One rule ends as another one begins… And this is odd. I see a shadow tempting your soul. Something that could prove very dangerous. You should be wary of that. Yet strangely, it seems to be coming from within…
Future: The Unicorn, the Winged Serpent and the Vision.
Hmm, I sense that these three cards are strangely linked. Let’s see. I see a great gift in your future. The Unicorn is in the best possible placement in your destiny. She brings a great gift… Something so great it can only come from a god itself. Something to do with knowledge and discipline… The only negative aspect of this gift is that it could affect your mastery of the arcane arts. Does that make sense to you?
I see you have lived your entire life under authority. You’ve been controlled. I see someone of great power, wealth and wisdom controlling your life. Yet this person has been kind to you. She is kinder to those beneath her than to those of her own level. And you have not rebelled against her orders. You see this state of affairs as the natural flow of life.
Present: The Inquisitor, the Sickness and the Bear.
Your present is muddled… It is very difficult to get a clear reading for you. It is as if your sense of self is not yet well-defined. You are still young, oh, so very young, my dear Kaeso. I see a warning here, against using brute force in all occasions. It might prove to be your undoing. Be wary of those you anger, lest they destroy you. I also see some sickness… Something corrupted… Is it a sickness of the body… or of the mind? But it is spreading over so many people… It’s so vague… I cannot tell more. It’s hidden… Still… Hidden… Perhaps we should not worry about it yet. I don’t think you are being threatened by it. And the Inquisitor is in a favourable position for you. You have followed the truth relentlessly and it has led you here tonight. Your intellect and sense of observation have had a very benevolent influence on your recent life. Perhaps as you used them to seek the truth about Gaedren Lamm?
Future: The Eclipse, the Joke and the Beating.
I see some good and some bad things in your future. You will be in great danger. You will be threatened, wounded, surrounded by enemies. Your very life will be at stake. Yet somehow I see that you will never lose your unquenchable sense of humor through it all. And the Eclipse, this terrible card, is actually in a good position for your future. You will make an unexpected discovery of uncover an unexpected talent that will be instrumental in fulfilling your destiny… and those of the ones you love.
Two cards here have a special meaning: the Midwife in the positive aspect, and the Paladin, misaligned in the negative aspect. The Midwife is only a partial match, but as your identity card, her meaning is even stronger. I sense two individuals who had a strong influence on your past. One of them was instrumental in the creation of life, even though she did not create this new life herself. Perhaps that person was some form of protector. The other had the potential to be a hero, strong and brave, but acted foolishly, and great evil came through this person’s actions.
Present: The Uprising, the Tyrant and the Twin.
Just like your friends, your present is even more obscure than your future. This is a time of great uncertainty, and your destiny hangs in the balance. As time passes, you should gain a better understanding of your purpose. I notice the Uprising and Tyrant card that appeared in the reading of some of the others. It seems that you are about to be caught in the uprising of a great number of angry people, and that you risk falling victim to the schemes of a powerful and wicked ruler.
Future: The Empty Throne, the Lost and the Locksmith.
The Empty Throne is the most relevant card in this reading, as it is a partial match. Although this card brings with it the notion of loss and sadness, of missing loved ones who have passed away into the afterlife, it also symbolizes that these benevolent spirits can still be sources of guidance for the living who are wise enough to hear and heed their counsel. Always remember this in times of doubt, Zeeva.
Here are the characters at level 1:
Kindrasius Edelbark (CN Male Shoanti Ranger, Level 1) – Worships Pharasma
Str: 14 Dex: 14 Con: 13 Int: 13 Wis: 8 Cha: 17
AC: 15 HP: 11 Fortitude: +3 Reflex: +4 Will: -1
Initiative: +2 Speed: 30’
Melee attacks: Dagger +3 (1d4+2, 19-20)
Ranged attacks: Longbow +3 (1d8, x3)
Height: 6’4”. Weight: 160 lbs, Age: 24, Hair: Black, Eyes: Green.
This tall and thin man has long black hair and is dressed in dark, patched-up studded leather armor. He wears a black tricorn hat and a black cloak with a hood.
Feats: Precise Shot, Point Blank Shot.
Traits: Magical Talent, Orphaned.
Skills: Acrobatics 3, Diplomacy 4, Knowledge: Arcana 2, Knowledge: Local 2, Linguistics 2, Perception 3, Perform: Dance 4, Perform: Oratory 6, Spellcraft 5.
Favored enemies: Undead +2.
Languages: Common, Shoanti, Varisian.
Main equipment: Longbow, Studded Leather, Dagger.
= = = =
Kaeso (CG Male Human (Chelaxian/Varisian mix) Rogue, Level 1) – Worships Cayden Cailean
Str: 12 Dex: 17 Con: 12 Int: 15 Wis: 11 Cha: 17
AC: 15 HP: 9 Fortitude: +1 Reflex: +5 Will: +0
Initiative: +7 Speed: 30’
Melee attacks: Rapier +3 (1d6+1, 18-20)
Ranged attacks: Shortbow +3 (1d6, x3)
Height: 5’9”. Weight: 168 lbs. Age: 19, Hair: Auburn, Eyes: Black.
Feats: Weapon Finesse, Improved Initiative.
Traits: Framed (Family Honor), Fast Talker.
Skills: Acrobatics 7, Appraise 6, Bluff 10, Climb 5, Diplomacy 7, Disable Device 7, Disguise 7, Escape Artist 7, Intimidate 7, Knowledge: Local 6, Sleight of Hand 7, Stealth 7.
Languages: Common, Shoanti, Varisian, Sylvan.
Main equipment: Leather Armor, Rapier, Shortbow.
= = = =
Hipazia Leroung (LG Female Chelaxian Wizard, Level 1) – Worships Irori
Str: 8 Dex: 13 Con: 10 Int: 18 Wis: 16 Cha: 16
AC: 11 HP: 7 Fortitude: +2 Reflex: +1 Will: +5
Initiative: +5 Speed: 30’
Melee attacks: Masterwork Quarterstaff +0 (1d6-1, x2)
Ranged attacks: Dagger +0 (1d4-1, 19-20)
Height: 5’9”. Weight: 140 lbs. Age: 25, Hair: Blonde, Eyes: Brown.
Favored school: Divination
Prohibited schools: Illusion, Necromancy.
Bonded Item: quarterstaff.
Feats: Scribe Scroll, Improved Initiative, Great Fortitude.
Traits: Framed (Dropout), Mathematical Prodigy.
Skills: Knowledge: Arcana 8, Knowledge: Engineering 9, Knowledge: Geography 8, Knowledge: History 8, Knowledge: Local 8, Knowledge: Nobility 8, Spellcraft 10.
Languages: Common, Varisian, Celestial, Infernal, Sylvan.
Main equipment: Quarterstaff, Dagger, Spellbook.
= = = =
Manius Alazario (LN Male Chelaxian Fighter, Level 1) – Worships Abadar
Str: 20 Dex: 15 Con: 18 Int: 14 Wis: 9 Cha: 9
AC: 16 HP: 14 Fortitude: +6 Reflex: +3 Will: -1
Initiative: +4 Speed: 30’
Melee attacks: Heavy Flail +6 (1d10+7, 19-20)
Height: 6’2”. Weight: 250 lbs, Age: 22, Hair: Black, Eyes: Brown.
Feats: Power Attack, Cleave, Intimidating Prowess.
Traits: Unhappy Childhood (Tortured), Reactionary.
Skills: Intimidate 8, Knowledge: Dungeoneering 6, Knowledge: Local 3, Perception 0, Survival 3, Swim 7.
Languages: Common, Infernal, Varisian.
Main equipment: Chain Shirt, Heavy Flail.
= = = =
Zeeva Foxglove (NG Female Chelaxian Cleric, Level 1) – Worships Pharasma
Str: 18 Dex: 14 Con: 15 Int: 11 Wis: 17 Cha: 15
AC: 18 HP: 10 Fortitude: +4 Reflex: +2 Will: +5
Initiative: +2 Speed: 20’
Melee attacks: Longspear +4 (1d8+6, x3)
Ranged attacks: Light Crossbow +2 (1d8, 19-20)
Domains: Healing, Repose.
Height: 5’6”. Weight: 130 lbs, Age: 25, Hair: Black, Eyes: Brown, Date of birth: Abadius 25th, 4683.
This attractive woman has pale skin and long jet-black hair. It is clear that she is of noble birth from the elegance of her gestures and speech. It is also obvious that she lived some traumatic events in her past, judging by the haunted look that often comes over her sad, dark eyes.
Feats: Selective Channeling, Extra Channeling.
Traits: Love Lost (orphaned), Rich Parents.
Skills: Diplomacy 6, Knowledge: Nobility 4, Knowledge: Religion 4, Profession: Merchant 9.
Main equipment: Breastplate, Longspear, Silver Morningstar, Light Crossbow.
Oathday, Pharast 13th, 4708 (continued)
The old fishery
We walked with a purpose. There was trepidation in our hearts, because we knew we were about to commit a murder; we were about to face one of the most hateful people we’d encountered during our lives. But we also hoped we were going to get, at long last, a sense of closure.
A light-hearted discussion took place as we walked toward the docks. The situation was almost comical: Kindrasius showed that he had some small magical talent to draw a complex magical rune with dragon motifs on a surface of his choice. He chose Manius’s cloak as a surface… Of course, the Hellknight armiger didn’t appreciate the liberty that the Shoanti had taken, but he seemed to keep his aggression in check until we reached Lamm’s lair.
When we arrived at the building, the sense of anger, anxiety, anticipation returned. The building was an old fishery at the water’s edge. It was surrounded by warehouses and other quiet buildings. This area of the city was rather dark and calm; it was around midnight at the time. The cold Pharast wind blew from the east and the sound of sloshing waves against the river bank did not quite cover our whispers and footsteps as much as we would’ve liked them to. There was a tension in the air. Was it my imagination, or was I hearing shouts and sounds of commotion from further near the center of town? Were other people up to no good tonight, just like we were?
The old fishery looked asleep; there were no lights in any of its windows. Its four doors all seemed securely closed. We saw the shape of a shoddy old barge tied to the dock behind the building. According to the others, it didn’t look sea-worthy anymore.
We discussed how to best infiltrate the building and do our dirty deed. Kindrasius seemed the most at ease with this kind of operation. He directed us to various tasks. Kaeso went down the stairs on the north side of the building to try and break the lock of the lower door, to prevent people from leaving the building that way. Meanwhile, Kindrasius and Manius quietly moved two carts filled with fish barrels to block the double-door to the north, as well as the nearby stairs. They were worried that Lamm would try to escape once he realized that we were coming for him.
The men clearly didn’t expect dainty noblewomen like Hipazia and me to provide much help in any fight, nor in any heavy lifting. They asked us to hide in a nearby alleyway and keep an eye on the rest of the building. I could’ve spoken up, could’ve mentioned that I am in fact much stronger than I appear. I don’t know why, it’s always been this way: even though I am a woman of average build, I’ve always been far stronger than people around me. I used to be able to wrestle both of my siblings to the ground as a child. I’m not sure how I was able to… Perhaps Pharasma herself had gifted me with an unnatural holy strength?
So I hid next to Hipazia while the men went to work. I had prepared my longspear for combat, and Hipazia clutched her wizard’s staff in both hands. I could create magical light, but I hadn’t yet: we wanted to remain in the cover of shadows for as long as possible.
Suddenly, the silence of the night was broken by the barking of a dog from within the fishery. It seemed that the animal had smelled or heard Kaeso. I saw Kindrasius’s lips utter a curse even at that distance, and Manius shook his head in dismay. While the two large men finished moving the second cart, Kaeso quickly sabotaged a section of the stairs, so that if anyone tried to flee that way, they would fall into the Jeggare River.
We then all hurried toward the main doors of the fishery. I looked in both directions down the street, but thankfully, we were still alone. We would surely have gotten into some trouble if a patrol of guards had walked by at that time. We could now hear some worried and angry voices within, as well as the higher voices of scared children. Kaeso quickly picked the lock, and as he did so, Kindrasius hummed another one of his eerie little tunes. We could see lights inside now, and Manius looked carefully through one of the windows.
“I see one of them… down a hallway,” he mumbled.
“All right, it’s unlocked,” said Kaeso.
“Let me go first,” said the barrel-chested Hellknight as he moved Hipazia’s young servant to the side with a heavy hand.
Manius charged in, and we all went after him. We passed through a dark room, from which several doors led into other sections of the fishery. One of the doors ahead of us was open and led to a short hallway that opened on a gallery that seemed to overlook a much larger room from which emanated the foul stench of rotten fish. Just beyond the door, standing on the gallery, was a middle-aged man with a scornful face and dirty blond hair. He wore what must’ve been an elegant red jacket about twenty or thirty years ago when such fashion was still in style.
The man’s dour grimace was replaced with an expression of shock as he turned and saw Manius rushing him with his flail held high. Before the man could do anything, the flail struck him in the face, sending our foe tumbling over the catwalk’s railing and down to the floor of the large room. The ambient cacophony increased in volume as Kindrasius and I erupted on the catwalk, closely following Manius. The catwalk circled around the room, and some stairs led down to our right. To our left, another set of stairs led up to a door. There were other exits in the room, the door that Kaeso had failed to secure, and a hole in the floor that led to the river below. To our left was a huge vat filled with putrid water in which bobbed chunks of foul fish and other less easily identifiable solids.
The floor of the large room below us was crawling with little children. They were all dirty, skinny and dressed in rags. They looked up at us and down at Manius’s victim, whose shattered skull was already creating a pool of blood where he had hit the ground; their eyes were wide with fear. A mean-looking half-orc, his one-eyed face horribly scarred and his thin gray hair long and wild, shoved past the children and climbed the stairs in our direction. He wielded a flail and a shield, and just before him came a large bulldog, the foul cur who had awakened everyone.
As the dog rushed toward Manius, it was hit by an arrow from Kindrasius. Manius dodged a bite from the animal and struck it with his flail, killing it. His blow arced toward the half-orc, but our foe dodged, and Manius broke the window behind him.
“Huh huh, you miss, stupid!” exclaimed the half-orc, who seemed to be much amused by the situation, despite the recent demise of his dog and his associate. Manius would later explain to us that he knew this half-orc, whose name was ‘Giggles’.
Manius and Giggles traded blows, but neither could get the upper hand. Manius was fighting more carefully now, for he wanted to take Giggles prisoner. Indeed, as we scanned the room below us, none of us could see any sign of Gaedren Lamm. Perhaps one of his underlings could tell us where he could be found.
Suddenly, a blade flashed from the shadows behind the window. It was Kaeso, who had circled back outside. He almost stabbed Giggles in the back; almost, but not quite.
“Huh huh, you clumsy, little man!” snorted the one-eyed villain.
Trusting our friends to defeat Giggles, Kindrasius and I spoke to the children below, assuring them that we would free them from their captors and arrange for their safety. Most of them listened wisely, but two foolish little ones fled the building through the door Kaeso had tried to tamper with earlier. We heard a scream and the sound of something falling in the water: apparently, one of them had been caught in Kaeso’s trap and had crashed through the weakened stairs!
Hipazia had also taken another route into the room, appearing at the far door to our left, above another set of stairs. She also tried to calm down the children, and one of them went up to stand next to her, apparently seeking comfort.
Manius had taken a hit from Giggles and his shoulder was bruised, but he finally struck a decisive blow to the half-orc’s head. Giggles grunted in derision. “You stupid, I didn’t even feel thaaaa…”, but he collapsed to the ground before he could finish his statement.
An instant later, Hipazia screamed in surprise and pain. She stumbled a few steps down the stairway, and we could see that the back of her dress was stained with blood. The little child next to her grinned evilly, holding a dagger that dripped with her blood!
Kaeso immediately rushed back inside, and I hurried to defend Hipazia as well. Kindrasius shot arrows at the child, but missed. Kaeso and I went through another room, where we encountered the child near another container of foul fish slurry. The floor was slick with this foul substance, and alas, as I approached, I made a fool of myself in this first fight with my companions. I fell to the ground, dirtying my beautiful green dress and missing an opportunity to help Hipazia.
Kaeso threw a dagger at the murderous child, but missed. Hipazia hit the child with a blast of magic, but she then retreated down the stairs, lest the youngling finish her off. The bravest among the other children rushed up the stairs, holding a stick and attacked the traitorous one, trying to defend Hipazia. We could already see a blossoming chivalrous heart in this young boy.
The evil child looked our way and toward his “comrade”, then pushed him aside (spitting: “out of my way, you little brat!”) and hurried down the stairs, toward the open door the other two had taken to flee. Kindrasius and Manius were hot on his tail, though, and the Hellknight finished him off before he could escape. As his flail crushed the “child’s” head, we saw in fact that he had been a blue-haired gnome in disguise. Another one of Lamm’s accomplice?
Kindrasius and Manius helped the two children who had fallen into the water (one of the cowards, and Hipazia’s defender, who had also fallen in when trying to run after the gnome). Meanwhile, I healed Hipazia, and Kaeso ran after the child who had escaped – one of the first two who had left the room.
There was still no sign of Gaedren. Manius quickly disarmed the unconscious Giggles and secured him in manacles. He and I then went around the building to check the boat, wondering if perhaps we would find Gaedren hiding on it. We made our way slowly across the creaking, slippery blanks. The wind was blowing harder still, and we could see some lights on the other side of the river, coming from the East Shore district. I felt I could hear distant, clamouring shouts over the wind. Strange… I hoped we hadn’t alerted the neighbourhood, who might call the guard!
The barge seemed in a sorry shape indeed, but before we could investigate it, one of the children came over the walkway to speak to us. He was one of the taller lads, and he seemed to be of Shoanti origin.
“Sir, ma’am, Kindrasius asks you to come back inside. Gaedren can be reached by the chute in the room where you fought. Please, you have to go and kill him!”
We followed the child back inside. We found Hipazia there, as well as Kaeso, who was out of breath. Despite his best effort, he hadn’t been able to catch the runaway child. The other children had stayed around as we had asked them. They now looked at us with less fear and far more admiration: we had beaten their captors. We were their heroes! It was a bit disturbing to see such one young ones eager to see someone dead, but in truth Gaedren more than deserved it.
Gaedren’s last stand
Kindrasius (who seemed to be a rather impulsive individual) had already gone down without waiting. The rest of us went down the ladder and emerged on a slippery, unstable, wet and rickety wooden walkway that floated on the river, below the main structure of the fishery. I had illuminated the tip of my spear with magic. It revealed another floor below the fishery. A door and several dirty windows could be seen in its façade. Kindrasius could be seen nearby, sitting in a rowboat that he was directing toward one of the windows. He gestured for us to approach the door.
We could see a dim light from within, but even Kindrasius at the window couldn’t see much inside. Manius smashed the door open with his flail, and we all entered, most of us through the door, but Kindrasius through a window to our right.
We were in a large room, at the center of which was a pit that opened on the river’s surface. Within this pit was crouched a large, thick-skinned crocodile. To our right, amidst a clutter of boxes, tables and junk, stood a thin figure wearing a long robe and a wide-brimmed had. His silhouette was highlighted dimly by a candle burning on one of the tables.
Gaedren Lamm’s cold chuckle echoed around us as we surveyed the dark room.
“You! Shoanti! How did you find me?... Hmm, no matter. And you, boy! Kaeso, is it? You’re resourceful. I know you traced me, I heard about you snooping around. I could use someone capable like you now that my underlings are dead. Come, boy, knife them and join me; I can make it worth your while! What do you say?”
Kaeso rubbed his chin as if he considered the idea, before replying: “Hmmm… Suck my balls??”
Gaedren grunted. His voice was menacing, but he stood very still. “And a mighty hellknight… Come to kill a defenceless old man? That seems hardly honorable.”
“I’ve come to make you pay for what you did to me,” said Manius, his voice shaking with anger.
A short silence. Then: “Manius?... How you’ve grown! Hmm, I would’ve fed you to Gobblegut if I’d had him back then instead of trusting that fool Giggles to do the job right. No matter, it’s not too late, I guess. And these two fine ladies…Let me guess, miss Foxglove and miss Leroung?”
“Enough chatter, Gaedren,” said Kindrasius. “You’re going to die now, and we’ll make it slow. Very slow.”
“Do you mean I’ll suffer… as much as your dear Miss Edelbark?” said Gaedren teasingly.
The taunt had the desired effect, because Kindrasius exploded in a bestial roar and shot an arrow at Gaedren, causing us all to move into action!
Hipazia sent a blast of energy at the crocodile, which approached toward Kaeso. The young man dodged out of the way, and I pierced the reptile with my longspear.
Poor Kaeso didn’t have time to comment on my skilled attack, because as he tried to step back to make room for Manius to attack the animal, he slipped and was bitten by the crocodile. I heard the sickening sound of bones cracking and felt some warm blood on my shoes. Poor Kaeso! His body went limp in the crocodile’s jaws!
Manius immediately stepped forward and struck the crocodile with his flail. The animal was badly wounded by then and tried to retreat back into the pit with Kaeso’s body, but Manius finished it off before it could do that. Manius then rushed forward, around the pit, toward the back of the room, to lend a hand to Kindrasius against Gaedren. Meanwhile, Hipazia and I hurried to rescue Kaeso from the vice-like grip of the crocodile. I prayed to Pharasma and by the miracle of her magic, some of Kaeso’s wounds disappeared and his eyes fluttered open.
The back of the room was illuminated by a lantern that had crashed to the ground when Kindrasius had thrown it. The thing we had thought was Gaedren had been just a decoy dummy. The real villain had been hiding behind some boxes and had tried to assassinate Kindrasius with a crossbow. Thankfully, his shot hadn’t been fatal, and now the frail old man was facing our two large allies: Kindrasius wielded a handaxe and had a mad gleam in his eyes, and Manius struck mercilessly with his flail. Gaedren was wounded to the shoulder by Kindrasius’s axe, and then his head was pulverized by Manius; the ball of the Hellknight’s flail penetrated down to the middle of Gaedren’s chest. Taken by some feral range, Kindrasius kept hitting Gaedren’s corpse with his axe long after it was obvious he was dead, turning the body to pulp while the rest of us watched on, our righteous sense of revenge and closure stained by this disturbing display.
Gaedren Lamm was dead.
Uncle Nelkren, all the little children upstairs, and everyone else who had suffered because of this horrible old man during all of these years… They were all avenged. Gaedren wouldn’t hurt anyone anymore.
A bloody surprise
Kindrasius finally collapsed to his knees and burst into tears. I immediately approached him to offer some comfort. This poor broken soul had obviously been irremediably wounded by Gaedren’s evil. Through his tears, he looked into my eyes and said:
“I did it! I avenged you! You can rest in peace now!”
It didn’t make any sense. I caught a glimpse of his madness yet again. He clearly though at that moment that I was someone else. Probably that Miss Edelbark that Gaedren had mentioned.
While I tried to nurse Kindrasius back to sanity, the others searched Gaedren’s remains, as well as the room. They didn’t find much of value, except for a ring of keys, one of which allowed them to enter a smaller side room that had served as Gaedren’s bedroom. It was filthy; this petty crime-lord, this child-molester, this despicable murderer had lived in squalor. His abode had been as foul as his soul.
Kaeso found a footlocker that seemed to hold precious items. While the others began going through them, Kindrasius suddenly looked up, as if he had heard a sound. He stood and went into the bedroom, heading straight for a hatbox on top of the dresser. The thing was surrounded by a cloud of buzzing flies… Nobody had dared approach the foul-smelling thing yet.
Kindrasius took it and opened the lid. He froze for a moment, and then dropped the box. Something fell out of it, rolled on the ground for us all to see…
It was Zellara’s head!
WOW WOW WOW a new Moonbeam's campaign summary... Something really good to be read for this weekend (yes I know with Paizo and the wonderful community here I have Gigabytes of accumulated wondrous materials for the years to come but this is someway special...).
Thanks a lot mate, my group is really slow at playing and if we are able to play one AP in a year I have to thanks Desna... so you ROTR summary was for me a way to "play" the first complete set of adventure on my shelves and I really really enjoyed your work because it's so detailed and full with additions on Golarion and the adventure that for me read it is really near to the experience of play and never boring. I'm sure I'll have a lot to learn from this reading about my favorite game setting and on how to be a great game master.
I remember how it was even more intense, but smaller of course, the passion I felt with your Hangman's Noose and now... now... when I was thinking you lost your passion for Paizo's works... what I found around? My favourite AP... Curse of the Crimson Throne... marvelous fantastic!!!
I wish you a wonderful campaign and all the energy you need to write this for me, numerous other affecionatos I'm sure will come and for your players of course (even if they will not always read every session report your effort will enrich the campaign in a way only you can understand...) I know about these efforts because I was so much attracted by your works that I'm doing the same (but in italian) with my group adventures Italian Price of Immortality trilogy..
So thanks a lot to have rise again your pen and I wanna let you know that I'll be here to support you with my reading.
Hi Sneaky, I'm glad that you saw my posts and that you're excited about our Crimson Throne campaign! It's also my favorite AP, and I really hope to be able to write a very exciting and richly-detailed campaign journal about this.
I have to say that GM'ing a campaign in an urban setting is quite a challenge, especially for a detail-freak like me. It requires a lot of balance to make the NPC's come alive, and yet, I also want to restrain myself and not drown my players with random trivia about Korvosa and its inhabitants. Thankfully, writing the journal allows me to introduce new elements that I didn't mention during our actual games in order to maintain an entertaining pace.
Thank you very much for your kind words once again, I'm extremely happy that the results of the long hours of writing is so appreciated!
In between the game logs, I will introduce the characters one by one in more details. Let us now look at the early life of the group's powerful fighter, Manius.
Background - Manius Alazario
Manius had a difficult early childhood in Old Korvosa’s Bridgefront district. His parents were poor and couldn’t afford to buy much for the household, including food. His father had a foul temper and when he had drunk too much at the end of the night, he often became violent against his wife or children.
After one night when his father beat him, Manius decided to flee from his home and seek something better elsewhere. He was only eight years old, and he couldn’t know that, even though the conditions at home were bad, there were other places that were far worse. He found himself taken into Lamm’s lambs – a gang of little kids used as cutpurses or forced to perform strenuous and dirty labour. He was beaten even more than before, either by Gaedren Lamm or by his despicable associate Giggles, the scarred half-orc brute. Yet the most traumatizing memories that Manius retained from that period were not the beatings, but the episodes of “affection” he was forced to endure in the bedroom of Yargin Balko, Gaedren’s right-hand man. This failed alchemist definitely loved children a little too much.
All this time, Manius was still a rather peaceful being, never resorting to violence himself, not even with kids who were smaller than him. As time passed, more and more kids entered that category, as he grew very large in size. Perhaps seeing that he would eventually grow too big to be bullied easily, Lamm decided one day to “cut him loose” from the group: after Manius failed to meet his quota of stolen items for several days in a row, Gaedren had Giggles beat him terribly and left him on a heap of garbage, believing him to be dead.
Thankfully, the following morning, the boy was found by a young soldier who had just joined the Korvosan Guard: a beautiful girl named Cressida Kroft. She was horrified to see him in this condition and hurried to the temple of Abadar where she paid to get him healed. She later brought him back with her to the barracks of the Korvosan Guard, where she made sure that he got washed and fed. They talked for a long time and Manius told her about his terrible last few years. Cressida vowed to help him, but when she tried to investigate Gaedren Lamm’s hideout, she found out that it was too late – he had moved his base of operation to somewhere else.
This was ten years ago – Manius was 12 years old. He was offered a job in the Korvosan Guard first as a stableboy, but soon he started receiving martial training. He also went back to his family, hoping that things could go back to normal. Unfortunately, he discovered that since he had left, his mother had died, and his father was now crippled: he had lost one leg in an accident while working at the docks.
As Manius learned more about the ways of combat, he learned that he was very talented at it, being much stronger than anyone his age. That concept, mingled with his desire for revenge against Gaedren Lamm and those who had mistreated him so badly, caused him to yearn for something more than just becoming a guard. He wanted to become a very powerful fighter, someone who could never be hurt, never be scared. Someone who would bring fear in the heart of despicable wretches like Gaedren Lamm.
He decided to become a Hellknight.
Cressida was very sad when Manius announced he was leaving for Citadel Vraid, but their friendship remains to this day, even though Cressida has since risen to the highest possible military rank in Korvosa: the Field-Marshal.
For several long years, Manius worked hard as an armiger of the Hellknights. The training was gruelling, but he never faltered. Even though some of the other students got discouraged and left dishonourably, or were maimed or even died in the arduous martial lessons, Manius persevered, and now, he is truly a force to be reckoned with. Recently, he has left Citadel Vraid and has returned to Korvosa, where he works under the leadership of the dour Maralictor Alfram Zaren. Even though he is a very capable fighter, Manius is still only an armiger. He feels he should’ve already been promoted to the status of Hellknight. He knows he is ready. He feels he just needs the right circumstances to show his prowess to the rest of his order.
(Here is another part of Manius's background. This flashback takes place a year before the start of the campaign.)
Citadel Vraid was a grim place of dark stone, shadowy corridors where there sometimes seemed to be the voices of the damned whispering at the edge of one’s hearing. Manius had been training there for a number of years.
Now in his early twenties, Manius was a very powerful man, only an armiger in rank but very big, strong and very skilled with weapons. Some of his superiors saw potential in him, including Maidrayne Vox, the mistress of Blades herself. This proud creature was very unusual among the Hellknights: she was a centaur. The lower half of her was that of a sinister black horse, and her upper half was a fiercely beautiful woman with a long mane of jet-black hair. Lately, the Mistress of Blades had been personally overseeing Manius’s training. There were many brutal and evil people within the Hellknights, but Maidrayne seemed to have morals despite her fierce attitude, and often kept her more zealous or overly violent comrades in line.
There was an important ceremony scheduled that day: two of the senior armigers would attempt to rise into the ranks of the Hellknights. They were among the few recruits located not at the Citadel, but in Korvosa. They returned to Citadel Vraid that day along with their mentor, Maralictor Alfram Zaren (huge man with a hell hound as a pet) and another younger armiger, a blond man named Selgrim Vissik.
The two candidates were named Kallad Kiras and Pontia Runario. Many of the armigers and Hellknights of Citadel Vraid gathered in a grand hall for the ceremony. It was performed by Paravicar Acillmar, the master of magic in the citadel. He was a tall, sinister man with a black beard and black robes adorned with red devilish runes. At his side were Maidrayne Vox and the leader of the Hellknights, Lictor Severs Di’Vri, a huge but aging hellknight with a scythe blade at the end of one of his arms, replacing a hand that he had lost long ago in battle. Maralictor Zaren presented his two apprentices to his superiors. It seemed in his tone of voice that he bore neither pride nor any special attachment to them.
At the start of the ceremony, Kallad and Pontia entered the room naked, bearing only their weapons. Acolytes of the Paravicar had painted black devilish runes on their bodies. With an incantation from the Paravicar, their weapons were blessed.
The Hellknights then gathered around a large arena surrounded by magical wards. The walls were lined with spikes covered with old blood, and inside the arena stood several pillars with long chains used to hold beasts or prisoners. There were also some summoning circles on the dark stone floor. Kallad was the first to enter the arena, still naked but wielding a longsword and shield. There was an exchange of words between him and the Paravicar, in which Kallad vowed to be worthy of the Hellknights and to uphold law and order by any means necessary. The Paravicar finished the exchange by loudly saying:
“You are not being expected to sell your soul—we care not for your needs of faith or piety so long as they don’t interfere with your duty. During this test, we expect you to know fear, to feel pain, and to learn. Before you stands a legionnaire drawn bodily from its place among the very hordes of Hell. In this creature you will find unquestionable, unrelenting evil. Yet look closer and you will discover a skill refined over countless mortal lifetimes and a discipline beyond your comprehension. This terror is both opponent and teacher. Fight past your cowardice and emulate its ways, and you will have nothing to fear from mere mortal opponents. Fail, and know in death the weakness of your mettle.”
Paravicar Acillmar then cast a spell, and black smoke emerged from Kallad’s tattoos, forming and solidifying into a suit of Hellknight armor around his body. It was in this peculiar way that each Hellknight’s unique armor was created: partly by magic, partly by mysterious runes and ink, partly from the essence of Hell itself, and partly from each warrior’s soul.
The Paravicar then cast another spell and some of the runes on the floor of the arena activated, summoning a bearded devil. Kallad steeled himself and faced the snarling devil in battle. The combat was furious, with both opponents dealing blows to each other, but the bearded devil’s attacks seem particularly deadly and unholy. In the end, Kallad disarmed him of his glaive, but the devil grappled him and even seemed to wound him with his sharp beard. Kallad struggled, but could not escape, and the devil finally bit off his throat. As Kallad’s blood pooled on the ground of the arena, the devil laughed horribly. The Paravicar looked at it sternly and spoke: “You have won this day, devil. You may now return to the pit”. And the creature was drawn back into the summoning circle.
Manius overheard some other Hellknights making fun of the Maralictor’s apprentices being unworthy. One of them said that that if a strong Chelaxian man like Kallad had died, a half-Varisian woman like Pontia has little chance.
Pontia then entered, also naked but wielding her greatsword. The same exchange took place between her and the Paravicar, with an armor forming around her. The Paravicar then summoned an evil-looking angel-like woman with black wings and a fiery bow. Manius noticed that Maidrayne Vox gave and astonished and outraged look at the Paravicar. The nearby Hellknights chuckled dryly. “An Erinyes. She doesn’t stand a chance”.
The Erinyes took to the air and shot arrows at Pontia, who tried to block them with her blade, but she lacked any projectile weapons, and couldn’t get to the Erinyes. After suffering several wounds from arrows, Pontia hid behind a pillar. The Erinyes gave a cold laugh and some of the Hellknights laughed too and booed the cowardly woman. But Manius saw that Pontia used her sword to break a link of one of the chains attached to a pillar. As the Erinyes rounded it, Pontia threw the chain at her, entangling her wings and causing her to fall to the ground. She rushed the stunned devil and broke both of her wings before she could recover. The Erinyes struggled to escape Pontia’s grasp and suddenly she gestured, and a magical rope she had carried snaked out and entangled Pontia.
Now free, the Erinyes painfully walked back and shot a few more arrows at her enemy. Pontia grunted as a few more arrows pierced her armor, but she was finally able to break the rope and charged the Erinyes, defeating her in melee. As the devil fell to the ground, badly wounded, Pontia put her sword to her throat and said: “Surrender!”
The devil agreed, but many Hellknights furiously chanted “Kill her! Kill her!”
Manius was among them.
Pontia turned toward Lictor Di’Vri and said: “I have defeated her!”
Maidrayne and the Paravicar looked at the Lictor, who remained grimly silent for a moment before saying in a cold voice: “You will not be a Hellknight as long as that creature still lives.”
Pontia’s stood still for a moment as well, then she looked down at the wounded Erinyes. Finally, she ended the devil’s life by running her sword through her throat.
The Hellknights cheered and welcomed Pontia among their ranks. Limping, she left the arena. The Lictor, the Paravicar and the Mistress of Blades came down to “congratulate” the Maralictor. Manius remained nearby and heard them mention that the Maralictor would need a new recruit to replace Kallad. Maidrayne began citing Manius’s qualifications, including his link to the Field Marshal, but the Maralictor interrupted her and said: “Make your two best armigers fight. I will take the strongest.”
So it was that Manius found himself facing another armiger in battle, a young rival named Egrod Prokas. The battle was pretty close, as Manius suffered several hits from Egrod’s training sword, but he eventually knocked him unconscious with his two-handed flail. Maidrayne smiled in satisfaction as she congratulated him, but the Maralictor remained stoic, clearly not impressed at all.
In the evening, there was a somber celebration for Pontia’s victory. Many Hellknights and armigers were gathered in the central hall. They ate and drank as thin slaves played sinister music in the shadows. Already, Manius got a taste of things to come: the Maralictor remained distant and did not speak to him, preferring to speak to “real” Hellknights. In fact, his hell hound even growled when Manius approached. Pontia, as well as the other armiger Selgrim, however, were friendly enough, and he would soon forge a strong bond with both of them.
(OOC: I hope it won’t make things too confusing for readers, but from one game’s log to the next, I’m sometimes going to switch back and forth between narrating from Zeeva’s point of view and narrating as “the DM”. The main reason is that in some games, like this one, Zeeva wasn’t present for many of the events. It may also depend on my mood when writing.)
Oathday, Pharast 13th, 4708 (continued)
Trinkets and lambs
Everyone was shocked to find Zellara’s head, and the companions wondered what its presence meant. Had Zellara been a ghost all along as Kindrasius said, or had they been duped by a trickster as Hipazia thought? Underneath the head had been kept a deck of Harrow that looked exactly like the one the group had seen Zellara use at her home. Kaeso took it and then proceeded to examine the items in the footlocker. Some of Lamm’s treasures were magical in nature, and were identified by Hipazia. Among the items of value, Hipazia recognized one as an expensive brooch belonging to the Queen.
While the others were looting, Kindrasius returned upstairs. His behavior was much sterner than before, and he gave a disciplinary speech to the kids, telling them that they would commit no more crimes and be sent to an orphanage. When the rest of the group came back from Gaedren’s lair below, they found Kindrasius sitting on the stairs, thinking quietly. They were shocked to find that Giggles had been murdered during their absence. Zeeva accused Kindrasius, who seemed confused. She later learned that it had been one of the kids who had committed the crime.
The companions questioned the kids and learned more information about their terrible living conditions, as well as the identity of the gnome (Hookshanks) and the dog (Bloo) who had served as enforcers for Gaedren. They noticed that there were only little boys here, and learned that the girls that Gaedren found never stayed here for long, and that a lady came to pick them up to bring them to live with her in her big nice house. The children were able to give neither the location of this house nor an accurate description of the woman, other than she was a fancy woman with black hair.
A few of the children asked to stay with the companions rather than to be sent to the orphanage: Kester, the brave boy who had defended Hipazia and who seemed to admire Manius’s strength; Lerrim, the Shoanti child; and Saroko, who asked Zeeva to tend to his friend “Mouse”, a tiny child who lay feverish and barely conscious under a blanket in a corner.
Long live the Queen!
It was the middle of the night by then, but the companions could hear sounds of commotion coming from outside. It was clear that something out of the ordinary was going on. Kaeso left the fishery to go take a discreet look. To his surprise, he saw that Korvosa seemed to be in the throes of belligerent nocturnal activity. Flames and smoke could be seen coming from various spots in the city, and the sound of bells rang over the clamour of people shouting, screaming and fighting. In the sky above, a flight of hippogriff riders headed at breakneck speed toward Castle Korvosa. One of flying beasts was wounded and crashed, along with its rider, against a nearby building.
Kaeso approached one of the main streets of Midland, hiding in the shadows. He saw that the street was filled with people; many were armed with clubs, knives or heavy artisan’s instruments.
“Hear ye, hear ye!” shouted a rotund town herald in a green uniform from the top of a platform that was surrounded by guards. “His Majesty, King Eodred II, is dead. Long live the new ruler of Korvosa, her majesty Queen Ileosa Arabasti!”
A clamour of angry voices rained on the unfortunate messenger who had to duck from a deluge of rocks and rotten vegetables. The guards had to escort the man out of the area as they tried to maintain the crowd under control as the irate townsfolk cried things like: “Hang the queen!” and “The usurper whore must die!”
Kaeso retreated to the shadows, his friends. He was surprised. Just like his employers, the nobles of house Leroung, he had been aware that the King had fallen ill in recent months, but his condition had not seemed that serious. This death had come as a complete surprise, seemingly to the entire city.
Although Korvosans had frequently grumbled about the spendthrift ways of King Eodred, whom they dubbed the “Stirge King”, he had in fact been a benevolent and charismatic ruler, who had treated the city and its inhabitants well. However, it was rumoured that his young bride was nothing but a spoiled, arrogant gold-digger who bore no love for Korvosa. If people had complained about the old King’s inability to manage the city’s finances successfully, they were utterly convinced that things would considerably worsen in the hands of the obnoxious queen of barely more than twenty summers.
Hence the current riots…
Kaeso had never seen civil uproar of such a magnitude, and he quickly returned to the relative safety of the fishery. There, he informed his mistress and their new companions of what he had witnessed. After a discussion, it was judged safer for the children to remain in the building until things calmed down outside. Hipazia and Zeeva would stay to watch over them. Meanwhile, the men would go outside and see what they could do. They agreed to all meet back at the fishery at noon.
Manius, in particular, was eager to lend a hand to his fellow Hellknights, who must surely be working hard at maintaining order. The three men headed south toward the Black Bulwark, the main headquarters for the Hellknights in Korvosa. Along the way, they passed near some buildings on fire. The blaze was being battled not only by guards and citizens with buckets of water, but also by clerics of Sarenrae and several wizards of the Acadamae. Magic seemed the most useful way of dousing the fire, and the most impressive caster present was a man of enormous girth who called down an ice storm over the building. Kaeso recognized this man as Togomor, the master of the evocation wing of the Acadamae.
A bit further, several religious fanatics cried out loud about the upcoming end of the world. One wild-eyed madman in particular grabbed hold of Manius and said that he had seen him in a dream, and that he would save Korvosa, from which Pharasma had turned away. “The Eye of Groetus has turned from the Boneyard to look upon Korvosa!” he exclaimed in a rasping voice as he pointed up at the moon with a thin, trembling finger. Kindrasius took offence at the man’s claim that his goddess had forsaken Korvosa, and he was able to shut the crazy old man down.
A few minutes later, the men saw a group of looters fleeing from two Hellknights: Selgrim and Pontia. Manius immediately joined the chase and was able to apprehend one of the lawbreakers. He then joined his comrades to try and keep the rioters under control.
What is Zellara?
Meanwhile, Kaeso and Kindrasius continued south and arrived at Zellara’s house. They were very curious about what they would find there. Surprisingly, the house looked slightly different than it had earlier, as if it had been abandoned for several weeks. Inside, it was dark, and gone were the strange tapestries. Most of the furniture had been smashed to pieces.
A silhouette was sitting on a rocking chair that slowly swung back and forth. Kindrasius, holding a torch, approached and saw that it was Zellara. He took the only other remaining chair and sat down in front of her.
Zellara looked alive, and even though she claimed to know that the companions had killed Gaedren, she appeared very morose. She also confirmed Kindrasius’s suspicions: she was dead. Had been for weeks. She apologized for tricking the companions earlier, but said that she hadn’t wanted to risk seeing Gaedren escape punishment yet again, should his five enemies have proven reluctant to listen to the words of a dead woman.
Most of what Zellara had said earlier that night was true: one of the little pickpockets had stolen her Harrow deck, and after retrieving it, her son had been killed by Gaedren and his goons. Using the deck, Zellara had discovered Gaedren’s hideout, but she had been found as well, captured, tortured, and killed.
Upon her death, it seemed as though her soul had merged with her Harrow deck. She was now a form of ambient conscience, aware of more things than a single mortal could know or witness. She claimed she did not know much about theology or the arcane, and could not explain exactly what she was, a ghost, a revenant, or just a set of magical cards. But she asked Kaeso to keep her Harrow deck preciously, for it was now as if he held her very soul in his pocket. The young half-Varisian man nodded solemnly, and felt as though this was perhaps the most important task that had ever been given to him. Perhaps even more important than what his father had asked of him before disappearing, so long ago.
Zellara explained that through the Harrow, she would be able to guide them in the future with other readings. She could also identify magical items, and appear as if by a complex illusion once per day. She said such an appearance drained her, though, and she excused herself before vanishing into the thin air.
Kindrasius didn’t look pleased; it seemed that he did not trust Zellara, and didn’t feel comfortable even now that she was gone.
“But you know I’ll never be far away,” said a whisper in his mind. It had spoken with Zellara’s voice.
Kaeso recoiled carefully as the sinister Shoanti roared in rage, smashing his chair with his axe.
The servant returns
After leaving Zellara’s house, Kindrasius and Kaeso parted company. Young Kaeso returned in stealth toward Leroung Manor, where a few guards were keeping a close eye on the mob, ready to protect their wealthy masters if need be. Kaeso avoided being seen, quickly heading for his room to fetch his leather armor and his bow. He then returned to the fishery; he wanted to make sure that mistress Hipazia was still safe.
He was reassured to see that everything was quiet at the fishery. Hipazia, Zeeva and the children were safe. During the men’s absence, Zeeva had disposed of the corpses of their enemies by dropping them through the chute into the river; Kaeso knew that Kindrasius would have disagreed. Hipazia had then cleaned the blood trails by magic.
The women listened with rapt attention at Kaeso’s description of the second encounter with Zellara. Zeeva looked at the magical Harrow deck with a puzzled expression. She knew that Pharasma was opposed to the undead. She was also painfully aware of the evil her own brother had wrought when he had turned into a monstrous undead: because of him, the region of Sandpoint had almost been overcome with an epidemic of ghoul fever. Yet she felt sympathy for Zellara: the woman had suffered much, and it was thanks to her that uncle Nelkren had been avenged, and that the children were now safe. If all undead were evil, then Zellara was definitely not among them; she must be something else entirely.
Hipazia and Zeeva questioned the children about the queen’s brooch, and Kester answered that he was the one who had stolen it about a month ago in North Point. He had taken it from a slender woman with short blond hair, who had been dressed in dark colors with a black hooded cloak. She had seemed in a hurry, worried about something and not paying attention to her surroundings, an easy mark for a pickpocket.
The description did not seem to match that of Queen Ileosa, who was a curvaceous redhead. What’s more, the queen probably never left the castle without a royal escort.
A city gone mad
Manius and his colleagues did all they could to maintain order, but there was only a skeleton crew of Hellknights present in Korvosa that night. Word had been sent to Citadel Vraid, but it would be a few hours before reinforcements arrived. During that time, Maralictor Zaren directed his few underlings to restore order ‘at all cost’ at various key points in the city. The Maralictor himself showed no mercy for those who broke the law by looting or disrupting the peace. Many of the wrongdoers perished under his grim blade. Others were mutilated or burned alive by his fierce hellhound pet.
Pontia and Selgrim showed much more restraint, trying to intimidate the citizens into calming down, or using non-lethal force when necessary. Manius also displayed such a behavior.
Despite their strength and fearsome presence, the Hellknights were far too few to keep control of the mob. The Korvosan Guards and Sable Company also seemed outmanned.
At some point, Manius, Pontia and Selgrim came upon a large group of rioters threatening a nervous young nobleman, two men armed with rapiers who appeared to be his bodyguards, as well as a frightened young woman with long blonde hair. One of the miscreants tugged on the bed sheet that the woman was covering herself with, revealing that she was entirely naked underneath.
A large man with greasy muttonchops addressed the nobleman in an angry voice: “Bet’cha never worked an honest day’s wage in your life, eh, Queen’s Man? M’brother had his arm crushed by a barrel on the docks when he was younger than you. Never raised a mug of ale with that wrist again. Wanna know what it feels like?”
It seemed that the question had been purely rhetorical, because the mob attacked the nobleman and his entourage without waiting for an answer.
Manius was closest to the young nobleman, so he tried to protect him against the two thugs attacking him. He tried to subdue the man who had spoken loudly, but the man dodged all of his blows, seeming very nimble despite his girth. In return, he struck Manius several times with a heavy cudgel. Meanwhile, his accomplice smashed the nobleman’s hand with his own club, making his drop his rapier. He then struck the youngster on the head, stunning him.
All around, people were viciously fighting each other. Pontia had rushed to defend the naked woman who seemed on the verge of being molested. Selgrim was further away, struggling against one of the rioters.
“The hell with it!’ then thought Manius, who wasn’t used to fighting to subdue. He struck both of his foes with all his might, felling them with one great blow. They both died instantly.
By pure chance, Kindrasius was also present on the scene, just one more person amidst the mob. He didn’t share the average citizen’s apparent hatred of nobility, despite his poor living conditions. Thus, when he saw the two well-dressed men with rapiers get surrounded, he came to their aid.
“Hoping for a sweet ride on that whore queen, Horser?” asked a black-bearded man as he tried to knife Kindrasius. “Hey, boys! The Horser’s with them!”
A furious battle followed. Kindrasius defended himself well, and he saw that the two men with rapiers were expert fighters, especially the older one. However, they were surrounded, and the younger swordsman was viciously stabbed in the throat by one of the thugs. He collapsed to the ground.
“Noo!!!! Dengaro!!!!” shouted the older swordsman.
Kindrasius recognized this one, for he was in fact quite famous. His name was Vencarlo Orisini, a fencing instructor who taught many young noblemen in Korvosa. He was rumoured to be an honorable man who never hesitated to speak his mind, even though it was often opposed to popular political views. His academy was located in Old Korvosa, so Kindrasius had seen him in the area on several occasions.
Vencarlo fought with a sudden surge of desperation, and all around him, weapons and bodies fell to the ground as he disarmed and tripped his adversaries. Kindrasius watched his back and kept him safe. Soon enough, the remaining thugs fled the scene.
“Solly Slop! That’s Vencarlo Orisini! Run!!!”
Kindrasius ran after the black-bearded man who had insulted him. It was a long chase, but eventually, the Shoanti’s endurance proved greater and he caught up with his foe. Kindrasius beat the man senseless, then grabbed hold of his shirt and laughed in his face. Whistling, he then returned to the scene of the battle, leaving his beaten enemy writhing and groaning in the gutter.
Old man, young man, dead man, naked woman
By the time Kindrasius returned, the Hellknights and Vencarlo had secured the area. Unfortunately, Vencarlo’s apprentice Dengaro was beyond help: he was dead. The young nobleman regained consciousness and introduced himself as Amin Jalento, warmly thanking Vencarlo, Kindrasius and the Hellknights for saving him.
Pontia gently helped the blonde woman back to her feet and covered her up with the sheet; Manius had, however, gotten the chance to admire the stranger’s magnificent body before she did so. He had also noticed that Vencarlo had taken an amulet from around Dengaro’s neck and had placed it in his pocket.
The blonde woman seemed very confused, unable to answer even the simplest questions such as her name or where she lived. It seemed that she was under the effects of some drug, but there was more to it: she perhaps suffered from amnesia. All she could remember was waking up, naked, in a dark room and briefly speaking with a strange man who had two stones floating around his head. She had then heard commotion from elsewhere in the building, had gotten scared by the sounds, had covered herself with a sheet and had gone outside, where she had been caught up in the mob. She found herself unable to retrace her steps to where she had woken up.
There was still much work to do for the Hellknights, so they bade the others good luck and returned to their duties. Vencarlo once again thanked Kindrasius for his assistance, and asked him if he’d be willing to help transport Dengaro’s corpse to safety. The Shoanti accepted, and shook Vencarlo’s hand as they introduced each other. As he did so, he noticed that, underneath his leather glove, Vencarlo seemed to be missing the two smaller fingers of his right hand.
The two men lifted Dengaro’s corpse and painstakingly carried it toward Old Korvosa. Amin came with them – it turned out that he was a friend and apprentice of Vencarlo, alas, one not very skilled with the blade yet. He gently guided the mystery woman along with them; she would also take shelter at Vencarlo’s place for now. The unlikely companions were able to dodge the mobs all the way to safety, and Vencarlo offered them his hospitality for the rest of the night.
Today we look at the background of the group's weirdest character: Kindrasius. This text was written by Kindrasius's player himself.
People in Korvosa call him Kindrasius. Kindrasius Edelbark. That's as good a name as any, even though this one was given to him for the wrong reason, by the wrong people. You see, a bit over ten years go, he was found by Varisian travelers on the road between Kaer Maga and Abken. It was late spring, on a rainy night. He was cold, half naked, and the crusts of dry blood in his hair didn't tell a full story. The kid was of obvious Shoanti lineage, but nothing else could be figured out.
This boy of maybe 14 was obviously under some shock, some trauma, incapable of saying who he really was or what his story might be. There was no lie in his eyes, only true and honest fear. "The spirits of the dead! The spirits from beyond the grave!" was all that would come out of his mouth.
What would Varisians do with one such as him? But among the travelers was an old man, a Harrow deck reader as it was, a man with no family to speak of and a taste for the strange and macabre. In charge of burying the dead, and a follower of Pharasma, this man was named Drasius. On that night when the teenager was found, he made a card reading, one about that newfound young man: his past, present and future. What did the cards tell old Drasius? No-one knows for he never said. Yet, he declared, to the surprise of all, that he would take this boy under his care. And so he did. Drasius took the young man in, and people started calling him Drasius's Kin: Kindrasius.
But fate didn't give Kindrasius much time to repay in kindness this strange act of charity from a man known by all as a reclusive dark fool. No! That very winter, as Drasius's people were settling in old Korvosa for the hard cold months of Abadius and Calistril, a terrible fever swiftly took old Drasius away. Whatever secrets the elderly mystic had gleaned about young Kindrasius died that night with him.
With no-one interested in taking care of him, young Kindrasius spent his first winter in Korvosa living under rickety bridges and down rat-infested alleyways. But the troubled young man was resourceful and managed to survive, though many a petty crime did he commit to reach that end.
Old Korvosa became Kindrasius’s playground. He knew the passageways and the people. To earn a bit of bread, he also learned to play some instruments. He played in the streets or in shady taverns. There were Shoanti songs he sang which he knew, but couldn’t remember ever learning. It was while singing such a melody that his clear voice caught the attention of Miss Edelbark. She was a Shoanti herself, an outcast from the Storval plateau. Here in Korvosa she was just another poor woman without a husband supporting her. Seeing Kindrasius’s struggle, Miss Edelbark’s heart was touched. She offered the young man a home; in exchange Kindrasius offered a measure of support and protection… and his love. Miss Edelbark was probably the only person Kindrasius ever truly loved and care for.
The years passed and nothing much did change in Korvosa or in Kindrasius’s live. That is until six months ago, when the young man got back home to find Miss Edelbark lying in a pool of her own blood. The crime drove Kindrasius crazy, and for a number of days he didn’t sleep nor eat. The voices that had plagued his dreads during that first year with Drasius came back to him, only this time even in his waked state. He could hear voices muttering, crying, chanting in is mind. Voices he didn’t know, others he did: Drasius, Miss Edelbark, and a dark one, the voice of “the Shadow”.
Kindrasius didn’t truly recover from this loss, but he did set out with a purpose: that of finding the killer and exacting revenge. There were many potential culprits, but only recently did he learn of Gaedren Lamm. Now, Kindrasius’s path is set. The rest is but a haze of pain and delusion Kindrasius now calls life.
(Here is another part of Kindrasius's background. This flashback takes place a year before the start of the campaign.)
One morning, Kindrasius went to visit his friend Salvator Scream, who lived in the slums of Old Korvosa just like he did. But Salvator was lucky: he lived in his own house. He was a painter and had become quite successful in recent years for his very sinister works of art.
Kindrasius and Salvator were very different kinds of artists, but they had met each other while working at a theatre called Exemplary Execrables. That miserable place was run by a very charismatic but also very deranged man called Pilts Swastel. This artist from far-away Galt had a great talent for directing plays that were grotesque, needlessly violent and sometimes pornographic in nature. Alas, there were plenty of starving artists in Korvosa, those who lacked talent, reputation or luck to be able to play in real venues like the Marbledome, and so they had to work for Pilts. There were rumors that some of the actors died for real in the supposedly “mock” murders and battles displayed in those plays. And the girls had it pretty bad too…
Thankfully, Kindrasius didn’t have to risk his life or perform any lewd acts in public at Exemplary Execrables: he was just one of the musicians who provided a soundtrack to the plays. Salvator wasn’t an actor either: he just painted the backdrops.
Kindrasius arrived at 140 Wave Street, home of Salvator Scream. That wasn’t his real name, of course. He was in fact called Salvator Bevery, but Pilts Swastel had convinced him to change his name to something with more “punch” to it. He knocked at the door, but there was no answer. Suddenly, he heard some screams coming from within the house. It was Salvator! Kindrasius bashed the door open and hurried inside, heading toward the sounds. He entered Salvator’s bedroom and saw that the artist was seemingly having a horrible nightmare.
Once Salvator was awake, he looked around with a bewildered expression and smiled disturbingly at Kindrasius. “I had another one of those nightmares! It was so real, so… I need to make a sketch of it before I forget!”
Kindrasius knew better than to disrupt his friend when he was in this state. He knew that Salvator’s nightmares were his greatest source of inspiration. He followed the thin, haggard, dark-haired painter to the room where he did all of his work. Several paintings were lying around, including a spectacular piece representing a thin man draped in shadows, framed by a large dolmen. The only points of color in the painting were the man’s bright glowing blue eyes, which were filled with rage. Blue was always the most intense color in Salvator’s paintings.
There were also some half-finished backdrops lying around. They all had a nautical theme, and they were to be used in Pilts’s latest play, “Tears of Abendego”. Empty liquor bottles also littered the floor and nearby tables. Salvator worked feverishly on his sketch while Kindrasius whistled a morose melody; every now and then, the painter went to a nearby room to get more paint for his work. Kindrasius saw that the shelves of that room contained many strange mushrooms and fungi of different colors, which Salvator painstakingly cultivated to make his own special pigments.
After half an hour or so, Salvator was pleased with his sketch. He had put on canvas the essence of his nightmare, and he could take the time later to put the finishing touches on it. Kindrasius saw that this next painting would feature four strange camel riders racing across a desert whose dunes were in fact heaps of skulls.
The two friends decided to go and have a bite to eat. Kindrasius normally just ate some dubious food that was on sale in small stalls all over Old Korvosa, but Salvator voiced his desire to go to the Travelling Man tavern: it was Oathday, the day when the guards opened the nearby sewer grate and fed the Otyughs that lurked in the sewers, the Vaults below the city. There was actually a chance that some of the creatures would break free and that mayhem would ensure. Salvator really liked mayhem.
The placed was packed that day, as other people also visited it in hope of seeing some Otyugh action. Kindrasius was, as usual, agitated and a little unhinged, periodically responding out loud to imaginary voices that he heard in his head. Salvator was used to this odd behavior and ignored it, but strangers were not. A burly sailor took offence when Kindrasius shouted “shut up!” in his direction. It appeared for a moment that he was looking for a fight, but Kindrasius somehow managed to diplomatically ignore him enough to defuse the situation – although the Chelaxian sailor gruffly called him a “Horser” before sitting back down at his own table.
During the meal, Salvator and Kindrasius discussed some books they had read recently. They had been written by a local author called Velaka Hoon. The themes of those books were always very dark and depressing, and her main characters always heard voices in their heads, whispering sinful and disturbing things that drove them to madness. Kindrasius felt a strange connection with his own situation.
Salvator had come into contact with Velaka and had offered her to begin working on a play together: she would write the scripts, he could make the backdrops and Kindrasius could prepare a musical theme. He was hopeful that, putting all their talent together, they could even present such a play at the Marbledome, hopefully evolving from the dubious honor of working at Exemplary Execrables.
Much to Salvator’s disappointment, no Otyugh escaped from the sewers that day, so the two friends headed down to North Point, where Velaka Hoon lived. Alas, once they reached her apartment building, it became obvious that something was wrong. Many of the tenants were standing around with shocked looks on their faces, and there were some Korvosan Guards around. The friends were informed that Velaka Hoon had been found in her apartment, where she had taken her own life. Her neighbours seemed to have a very low opinion of her, calling her crazy. Seemingly, she had suffered of the same symptoms as Kindrasius: she had been carrying conversations with imaginary people all the time.
Good-bye, miss Hoon
A few days later, on a gray and rainy morning, Kindrasius and Salvator found themselves in the Gray District for the funeral of Velaka Hoon. A number of her other fans had shown up as well; among them was Pilts Swastel, this thin man with a brown moustache and a bad skin condition. As usual, he was accompanied by Jabbyr, a tongueless and semi-insane gnome who acted as his servant.
Even though Velaka Hoon, as a commoner, was to be inhumed in Everyman Ward, it was Keppira D’Bear herself who performed the funeral for the beloved author. Keppira was a very old Chelaxian woman, and she protected her frail frame and her long white hair within the folds of a thick black hooded cloak. Kindrasius had attended some ceremonies of the bishop in the past; after all, he was a worshipper of Pharasma himself. Yet he rarely came to the Gray District. He harboured both a strong hatred and an uncontrollable fear of undead, and those wicked creatures often rose in this part of the town, despite the best efforts of Pharasma’s clergy.
Kindrasius looked around at the other mourners and was surprised to see that one of the attendees did not seem to mourn at all. She was a slender elven woman with long blonde hair. She wore an elegant black gown and carried a fancy umbrella. After the ceremony, Kindrasius approached her and asked why she seemed so happy. The woman replied that she had read Velaka’s books and had interpreted them as meaning that she had lived a very intense life, filled with strong emotions and pain. In fact, she had lived her pain so vividly that it had climaxed into a suicide. The woman considered that it was better to live a short, intense life filled with sensations, rather than a long, dull one. She, Kindrasius and Salvator then discussed Velaka’s books for some time; they were all great fans of hers, it seemed.
Pilts soon joined the conversation, introducing himself to the elven lady and kissing her hand like a gentleman. The elf giggled girlishly and said she was named Laori Vaus. Pilts invited her to the premiere of Tears of Abendego; Laori replied that she was flattered and would love to attend, but that she had to leave Korvosa for some time, yet that she would return some day. She said good-bye to the three men, and then called out a louder “good-bye, miss Hoon!” down the writer’s grave before walking away.
We now return to the present time and the main flow of the adventure. By the way (I should've posted that at the start of the thread, but forgot), this thread also contains a few spoilers for Rise of the Runelords. In my campaign, I assume that another group of adventurers (from my previous campaign) began the adventures of Rise of the Runelords about six months before the start of Curse of the Crimson Throne. So every now and then, we'll hear rumors of their actions. Also, obviously, Zeeva's background is tied to Rise of the Runelords.
Fireday, Pharast 14th, 4708
Kindrasius had a strange dream where he was surrounded by fog. He was looking for someone; he caught glimpses of silhouettes through the fog, but could never reach them. Finally, the fog parted to reveal a thin old man dressed like a king, with a fur-lined red mantle and a golden crown adorned with a glittering ruby. It was King Eodred.
Kindrasius called out to the king and said he had been looking for him. King Eodred looked back at him with sorrow. “I understand now, my brother. You betrayed me…”
And he vanished.
Kindrasius remained alone in the fog for some time before becoming aware of a large and frightful silhouette approaching. All other shapes were fleeing it, and Kindrasius tried to escape as well, but as is often the case in nightmares, his legs seem to be disobeying him. The mysterious presence laughed menacingly, and Kindrasius recognized this voice he had heard so many times before in his mind, this voice that sent chills down his spine.
He woke up in a sweat. He had been sleeping on a comfortable sofa in a well-furnished living room. A fire burned gently in a nearby hearth, and on a table on the other side of the room laid a man’s body, covered with a white sheet. It was the corpse of Dengaro, the former apprentice of the blade master Vencarlo Orisini, who had sheltered Kindrasius for the night.
Contrasting with his unnerving nightmare and the presence of the dead body, the sound of feminine laughter came from a nearby room. Kindrasius gathered his things and went down the hall that led to the front door. As he did so, he heard the voice of Amin Jalento: “Things looked bleak indeed. Ahead of me lurked a hideous spider of gigantic size, its mandibles clacking furiously and its many red eyes gazing upon me with malevolent intent. To my right, a group of brutish orcs approached, clutching their rusty axes with the promise of violence. To my left, I could see four skeletal, translucent beings, ancient revenants that thirsted for my very life essence.”
The woman gasped and asked: “What did you do?”
“Well, I picked up the dice again and rolled a four and a three.”
Kindrasius looked into the study and saw that Amin was speaking with the mysterious blonde woman. Vencarlo had given the woman a tunic and breeches that were too large for her, but it was the best that could be provided at the time. Now, it seemed that Amin had been regaling her with the tales of some kind of strange game he often played with his friends, a game of dice and imagination they called Caverns and Creatures.
Kindrasius greeted them and said he would be leaving them. Amin asked him to stay, as Vencarlo had gone out and was to return soon with food for them, but Kindrasius was eager to return to the fishery and be rejoined with the children and the people who had helped him take down Gaedren Lamm.
“Good-bye, sir Jalento,” he said, “and miss… err…?”
“Esia,” replied the woman. “I still don’t remember my real name, but Amin suggested that I call myself Esia for now.”
“That way, if we stay together, we can be called Amin-Esia,” joked the young nobleman. “But before you leave, Kindrasius, please take this as a token of my gratitude.” And he gave the Shoanti five platinum pieces.
A Hell of a Night
The night had been a long and difficult one for Manius and the other Hellknights stationed in Korvosa. They had fought tirelessly to maintain the peace, but now they had reached the limit of their endurance. Thankfully, in the morning, a large contingent of Hellknights from Citadel Vraid arrived, led by Mistress of Blades Maidrayne Vox herself. She touched base with Maralictor Zaren and they deployed their troops to the most turbulent sectors.
Several spellcasters had come with Maidrayne’s troops. Most of them were signifiers of the order, but one of them was an independent cleric allied with the Hellknights. Manius recognized him as Shadowcount Sial, an envoy from the neighbouring realm of Nidal. He was always accompanied by his bodyguard Asyra, a mysterious woman dressed in a flowing robe, but Manius knew that underneath, her body was decorated with iron chains. Her red eyes glowed balefully, and it was rumoured that she was some kind of devil.
Shadowcount Sial used his magic to restore Manius, Pontia and the other Hellknights who had been up all night. He looked at them with his steely gaze and spoke: “You have done a commendable job, Hellknights. You are the ones who are most suited to bring those stupid animals back in line. Now continue… Those riots must be quelled and order must be restored!”
Manius went on with his duty, but around noon, he was able to take a break and return to the fishery to be reunited with the people he had met the night before.
The children’s fate
Things had been calm during the entire night at the fishery. Nobody had come to cause any ruckus in the decrepit building. Kaeso, Hipazia, Zeeva and some of the older children had taken turns standing watch and tending to the sick child, Mouse. Around noon, Kindrasius and Manius returned. The Shoanti offered the children to come with him to Old Korvosa instead of going to an orphanage. He would watch over them and help them to get honest jobs instead of being pickpockets. Zeeva voiced her scepticism about the not-too-stable Shoanti acting as a role-model and provider for these children, but Kindrasius insisted. In the end, about half of the children decided to follow Kindrasius, the other half asking to be brought to the more conventional environment of an orphanage. The exceptions were Kester, who would become a servant of the Leroung family, and Saroko and Mouse, who would be brought to the temple of Pharasma and watched over by Zeeva and the other priests. The group also learned that being a priestess of Pharasma was only a kind of hobby for Zeeva. Her main job was to oversee the Green Market in South Shore.
Kindrasius took the deck of Harrow from Kaeso’s pocket and summoned Zellara. The children gasped as they witnessed the Varisian woman appear out of the thin air in a puff of otherworldly smoke. Kindrasius asked Zellara to explain the meaning of the strange dream he’d had about King Eodred being betrayed by his brother. Zellara had no explanation to give, and when Kindrasius confronted her about being incompetent and/or dishonest, she explained that, as a Harrow reader, it was not among her qualifications to interpret dreams. Especially not those of a broken mind like his. She told Kindrasius that there was hope for her to heal the damage that had been done to his mind during his youth (most likely by a very traumatic event), and that she could guide him along such a path of healing, but that it would be a lengthy process, and that he would need to trust her to benefit from her aid. Then, she asked him to return the deck to its proper custodian, Kaeso, and she disappeared.
Hipazia pointed out that one of the strange things about Kindrasius’s dream was that King Eodred didn’t have any siblings. Manius chuckled sarcastically and suggested that perhaps his mother, Queen Domina, had illegitimate children that few people knew about.
The companions then went over the loot they had found in Gaedren’s lair again and discussed what to keep and what to sell. Due to the riots, stores would likely be closed for a certain time, so it was decided that the valuables would be stored at Hipazia’s mansion until they could be sold for money. Everyone seemed to trust the noblewoman, except perhaps Manius.
The only item that they decided to part with immediately was the brooch that Hipazia had identified as belonging to the Queen. They would bring it to her today, but first, they had to bring the children to a safer place. They separated, with Manius and Zeeva bringing nearly a dozen children to an orphanage in Midland, then heading south and bringing Saroko and Mouse to the cathedral of Pharasma in the Grey District.
The worst of the riots was over, and it was now somewhat safer to walk the streets than during the night, in large part thanks to the efforts of the Hellknights, Korvosan Guard and Sable Company. However, it would take weeks before the city regained a truly stable state. Many people had barricaded themselves inside their homes, and this included shop owners. No place was open for business in these dire times.
Hipazia, Kaeso and Kindrasius took the rest of the children north, to Leroung Manor. Several guards stood watch at the entrance to ensure that no rioters entered the estate. They were relieved to see mistress Hipazia return, and while she and Kaeso went inside the manor, Kindrasius and the children remained in the yard, watched by the guards.
Hipazia’s father, Tiago, was relieved to see her, and asked where she had been all night. Hipazia didn’t wish to alarm him about how truly dangerous the situation had been, so she downplayed it, only vaguely saying that Gaedren Lamm, the one who had been responsible for framing her into getting cast out of Theumanexus College, was now dead. She also mentioned some business with a crocodile and a Hellknight.
Tiago accompanied his daughter back into the yard, where he spoke with Kester and instructed Kaeso to introduce him among the servants. At the same time, Alika, Kaeso’s younger sister, who had been missing all night, also returned to the manor. She was escorted by a large half-orc dressed in a gleaming chainmail and wearing a symbol of Sarenrae. His name was Riktos Sunblade, and after making sure that Alika was safe, he left the manor.
Kaeso was intrigued by the beautiful doll that his sister now carried. She claimed to have found it while she had been hiding from the rioters in an alley in Midland. The doll looked like the kind of toy that would belong to a noble child. Although Alika was already thirteen, she was young at heart and still loved dolls. Hipazia also took an interest in the doll and recalled a story she’d heard about a local toy maker, mister Pestico, making several life-like dolls that could move and talk like real people. She had also heard that one of these dolls had escaped the store, and that around the same time, several people had been murdered in the area.
The doll was indeed alive, and introduced herself as Lixa. She explained that she had disobeyed her father and had left his store one night, but that she had later been captured by a very evil man named Rolth. He had taken her to his apartment, where he had tied her up. During her captivity, she had seen him perform disgusting experiments on dead people. From time to time, a scary-looking woman with long black hair, long ears and large black eyes had come to visit him. They seemed to be lovers. Then, one night, two people had come to fight Rolth: a man with white hair and a woman who fought with animated chains. Rolth had been wounded and had fled by magic. Afterwards, the white-haired man had freed Lixa, questioned her, and then she left and hid in the alley for several days until Alika found her.
Kaeso questioned Lixa to try to discover the location of the apartment, but she couldn’t give clear directions for now. He decided he would try to find it later, with her. When asked to describe the apartment, in addition to the corpses, she spoke of a huge drawing of a black fly on a wall. Tiago recognized this symbol as that of Urgathoa, the Pallid Princess, goddess of undeath and disease.
The three companions then decided to bring the remaining children up to Old Korvosa. Kindrasius was given some food for them from Leroung Manor’s kitchen. Kaeso also took Alika’s doll (despite his young sister’s protests) and placed it in his backpack.
Once in Old Korvosa, Kindrasius led the children into his tiny basement studio in Bridgefront. It was in a really miserable neighbourhood and the place, even though it had been decorated by his old companion Miss Edelbark, was very small to house so many children. It really looked like a dump compared to the splendour of Leroung Manor, but at least, they would be better off here than in Lamm’s disgusting fishery.
Kindrasius, Kaeso and Hipazia then headed back toward Castle Korvosa. On the way there, they were harassed by a group of imps, but thankfully, a flock of pseudodragons came to their aid and drove the tiny devils away.
The Queen’s brooch
Castle Korvosa was an impressive sight, a black-marble construction decorated with sinister gargoyles perched from its many towers. The entire structure was standing on top of a gigantic pyramid. Even though they had seen it every day from afar, none of the three men had ever set foot inside the castle. Even Hipazia and Zeeva had only been there once or twice before, for celebrations during the reign of King Eodred. Things were far from festive now, and the portcullis of the barbican leading to the upper reach of the stairs was closed. A crowd of people stood before the gate, asking to be led inside, but most were refused access. Hipazia, due to her noble status and the brooch that she showed, was allowed entrance, along with her companions. They were, however, asked to leave their weapons at the gate.
They were led inside by a tall black-haired woman named Sabina Merrin. She was dressed in a beautiful suit of armor and carried a magnificent curved blade that glowed with a black aura. It was rumoured that, as the Queen’s bodyguard, she was one of the finest warriors in Korvosa. Sabina led the companions to a hallway near the throne room, where a number of people waited for an audience with the Queen. Among them were Lord Glorio Arkona, a rotund priestess of Sarenrae, a sergeant of the Korvosan Guard, and Lord Jeffrid Fordyce.
A chill immediately was felt in the air as Jeffrid met the gaze of Hipazia and Kaeso. It was clear that he hated them both: Hipazia has spurned his offer for marriage, and Kaeso had deflowered his younger sister, Ziria. The companions waited for some time for their turn to speak with the Queen. A haughty-looking individual who introduced himself as sir Amprei, Chelaxian Ambassador, tried to bypass the waiting line, but was stopped by Jeffrid and Lord Arkona, and was made to wait like everyone else, despite his frustrated protests.
During the wait, as they were trying to avoid Jeffrid, the characters spoke with the sergeant in front of them. His name was Grau Soldado, and he looked very tired, for he had, like Manius, worked all night to maintain the peace. He exchanged information with Manius about how the Hellknights and Korvosan Guards were handling the situation. When Manius mentioned that he was friends with Field Marshall Kroft, Grau said that she could surely use his help to coordinate efforts between the two organizations. The companions also noticed that, when Sabina walked by several times, she cast a baleful glare at Grau, as if she hated him for some unknown reason. Grau seemed to be uncomfortable in her presence.
The companions were finally led inside the throne room. It was a magnificent chamber, lavishly decorated with frescoes, mosaics, and hanging tapestries of gilt crimson silk. Three colourful stained-glass panes on the windows presented scenes of past kings and queens. A huge fireplace stood in a corner, its mantle shaped like an enormous stone tree spreading its branches to the ceiling. Queen Ileosa sat upon the Crimson Throne, an iron seat draped with deep red silks and velvety crimson cushions. She was dressed in a black mourning gown, a veil hiding her face. Despite this veil, as the companions approached, they could not help but admire her breathtaking beauty, with red hair like the sunset and chaste alabaster skin. There were rumors that her mother must have been a nymph queen, as surely no mortal woman could give birth to a beauty such as she. Zeeva felt very inadequate in her presence and wished she had at least taken the time to get changed into more suitable attire before coming to the castle.
There were many other people in the room, priests and wizards, nobles, magistrates, officers of the Korvosan Guard and the Sable company. All had come to offer their condolences to the young mourning queen, but also to offer advice on how to rule the city and how to quickly and efficiently quell the riots and deal with the damage that had already been done. Seneschal Neolandus Kalepopolis, the monarchy’s most trusted advisor, and a man who wielded almost as much political power as Ileosa herself, whispered into her ear, and a noblewoman that Hipazia recognized as Cristalidra Ornelos also hovered nearby, offering some advice to the young queen.
Among the people surrounding them, Hipazia recognized many familiar faces. Her own aunt, Lady Eliasia Leroung, was speaking with Lord Serrian Jeggare. Near them, she saw Toff Ornelos, the headmaster of the Acadamae, seemingly in a heated argument with Archbanker Darb Tuttle, the high priest of Abadar. Two priests of Asmodeus were speaking with an elder wizard of the Acadamae, a conjuror named Ferngam Elgyr, and Commander Marcus Endrin, the leader of the Sable Company, was eyeing them with obvious distrust.
Sabina introduced the five companions by name, and many eyes turned to look them, eager to see what such a motley crew had come to do in this place. Queen Ileosa brightened visibly not only from the mourning of her husband’s recent death, but also from the pressure and tedium of listening to her many advisors, when Hipazia presented her with her brooch.
“You have done me a great service, Lady Leroung, by bringing me back this brooch that was stolen some time ago. It had disappeared from my jewellery box. How did you find it?”
Hipazia didn’t want to reveal the more sordid details of their recent struggle against Gaedren Lamm, so she remained evasive and merely mentioned that it had been stolen by a child. Although she did let Gaedren’s name slip, she lied to the Queen by giving Kester a false name and stating that he had been brought to the orphanage of Midland, rather than to her own estate.
The Queen seemed to be very grateful and smiled benevolently at Hipazia, but the companions noticed the dubious stares that the Seneschal, Lady Ornelos and Sabina were casting at the young Lady Leroung. Perhaps they were aware that she hadn’t been entirely honest with their new monarch?
Queen Ileosa stood up, and everyone immediately stopped talking and turned to face her. She showed the brooch to the crowd.
“This brooch was stolen from me some time ago,” she said in a limpid voice that was at once hopeful, and heavy with sorrow. “I had not expected to see it again, truth be told. And yet, here on my darkest day, Lady Hipazia Leroung came before me with kindness. The return of this brooch is much more than an honorable deed. It is inspiration. It is hope.”
A few murmurs of approbation were heard throughout the hall.
“I love Korvosa, as my husband did before me. His death…”
The Queen’s voice faltered under the weight of emotions, and she had to stop for a moment to control her grief and repress a sob. She seemed visibly shaken by recent events.
“His death has shocked the city as it has me, but I will not see his legacy destroyed in death, and I shall not see my city torn apart. All Korvosa stands at the precipice of a disaster wrought by her citizens—these riots cannot continue. Ladies Leroung and Foxglove, with the help of their retainers, have already done my heart a great service in returning this bauble to me on this dark day, and they shall be rewarded. Yet, perhaps they, like everyone here, can serve our city more. In these times of uncertainty, the survival of Korvosa will rely on the help of soldiers and nobles alike, of our wise priests and of our talented wizards. We are all united in fighting through this inner struggle that Korvosa is facing because of my husband’s tragic death. Korvosa needs all of you to help and quell these riots. I know you will rise to the occasion, and that a new age of glory and prosperity will soon begin for this beloved city.”
The Queen delicately sat back down on the Crimson Throne as the assembly applauded her speech and pledged their service to her and to Korvosa.
The companions were dismissed and were led back to the entrance hall by Sabina. She ordered a guard to go fetch a reward, and the man soon returned with a small chest that contained twelve silver ingots each branded with the insignia of Korvosa. The group headed down the stairs, claimed their weapons at the gate, and said good-bye to each other, as they headed in different directions, toward their respective homes or headquarters. Gaedren was dead; the brooch had been returned. The seeds of friendship had been sown among them, and even though they didn’t have a reason to see each other gain, they decided that they would keep in touch.
Starday, Pharast 15th, 4708
The Foxglove Curse
The following morning, Zeeva visited the Leroung estate. Hipazia was sorry to see that her eyes were red, as if she had been crying a lot. After being led to the living room, Zeeva explained that she had returned to the Green Market yesterday only to find the place had been burned to the ground during the riots. The loss of merchandise had been catastrophic, and it would take a long time to rebuild everything, if such a thing was even economically feasible. It had been a terrible blow to Zeeva, as she explained that she was the last surviving member of the Foxglove family in Korvosa, and that she had inherited the market from her defunct uncle Nelkren. In fact, she had seen it as her duty to keep the business healthy after he had been killed by Gaedren.
While she was being consoled by Hipazia, Zeeva told her family’s sordid history. She was born in Korvosa, but had spent her childhood in a manor in the Sandpoint region, near Magnimar, along the Lost Coast far to the west. She had loving parents, as well as an older sister named Sendeli and a younger brother, Aldern. The manor had been thought to be haunted for decades, but her father, Traver, was a pragmatic man who did not believe in such tales. He had the mansion renovated, and it proved to be a good home for the family for several years.
Unfortunately, after some time, it seemed that the curse of Foxglove Manor returned. Family members and servants alike became the witnesses of increasingly disturbing hauntings, and the dark influence of the place began to affect the minds of Zeeva’s parents. Her father became dark and brooding, sometimes even violent with his wife, Cyralie. Then, one night, Cyralie decided to destroy the manor. She burned down the servants’ building, but when she tried to burn the manor itself, Traver tried to stop her. Zeeva and her siblings saw their parents struggle in the upstairs observatory: their mother, carrying a torch, and their father, his face now festering with tumors, wielding a knife. The children rushed downstairs to hide in Aldern’s bedroom. They heard their mother’s screams, the sound of broken glass, and then… silence.
It was morning when some brave townsfolk came to investigate the flames. They found the three children in a state of terror, but otherwise unharmed. Unfortunately, the parents were both dead. Cyralie’s body was found broken, having plummeted through the window of the observatory to crash down at the bottom of the cliffs at the edge of which the manor was perched. Perhaps having realized, in a moment of clarity, the enormity of what he had done, Traver had taken his own life after killing Cyralie.
The three children were later brought to an orphanage in Magnimar, until their father’s second cousin, “uncle” Nelkren came to claim them and brought them to live with him at his manor in Korvosa. They spent their teenage years there, slowly recovering from the trauma of their parents’ deaths.
Nelkren was a kind and wise man, unmarried and without children of his own. In time, he came to consider Sendeli, Zeeva and Aldern as his own children. Among the three, it was Sendeli, the eldest, who most quickly recovered from the influence of Foxglove Manor, and she got married quite young and left with her merchant husband for the distant city of Absalom (where more members of the Foxglove family resided).
Zeeva turned to the worship of Pharasma to try and shield herself from any after-effects of the Foxglove curse. Aldern acted as if he had forgotten the terrors of his childhood, but it seemed, in truth, that something festered within his heart. As he grew up, he began to covet uncle Nelkren’s fortune, and had him assassinated by Gaedren Lamm. Zeeva was able to discover her brother’s guilt in the matter, and all of Nelkren’s assets reverted to her care. Indeed, Nelkren had already suspected that Zeeva was the only relative he could really trust, and had secretly changed his will several months before his death.
Unfortunately, although she had inherited the uncle’s fortune, Zeeva was not able to prove before a tribunal that Aldern was guilty, and he escaped the clutches of the law. He left Korvosa and went to live in Magnimar, as he had inherited, by their father Traver’s will, a townhouse in that city, in addition to the cursed manor itself. For some time, Zeeva did not hear about her brother, with whom she had cut off all ties.
Things changed a few months ago when she received a letter from the mayor of Sandpoint, one Kendra Deverin. The letter claimed that Aldern Foxglove had died under “most sinister and unusual circumstances”, and that the manor on the coast was now hers to claim. Confused and worried, Zeeva returned to the site of her childhood, fearing the worst. In Magnimar, she found signs of bloodshed in the family’s townhouse. The authorities spoke of adventurers who had defeated a group of murderous cultists of Norgorber; these adventurers were apparently the ones who had broken into the townhouse to kill some shape-shifting entities that had allegedly taken the appearance of her brother Aldern.
Some days later, Zeeva arrived in Sandpoint, a small town where she was greeted by Mayor Deverin, as well as by Sheriff Hemlock and the local priest of Desna, Father Zantus. All three wore grim faces as they spoke to the young noblewoman of the terrible events that had taken place in the last few months. Aldern had gotten married a year before, but had later killed his Varisian wife for some unknown reason, hiding her body in the manor. The same group of adventurers that had been mentioned in Magnimar had seemingly uncovered a twisted and demented plot in which Aldern had become involved. It appeared that, through some curse or disease, Aldern had been transformed into a powerful form of undead that had begun to spread ghoul fever in the region, causing the deaths of many innocent people. He had also apparently become obsessed with a local young woman named Kerista Vigandir, a paladin of Sarenrae and member of the group of adventurers mentioned before. As a serial killer, he had slain people in a horrible ritualistic way, scarring their torsos with a strange runic symbol. And he had left bizarre letters professing his love for Kerista. At the depth of his insanity, Aldern had apparently suffered from a multiple personality disorder, his more violent and demented aspect making itself known as “His Lordship” and “The Skinsaw Man”.
It was only due to the bravery and prowess of the four adventurers that the region of Sandpoint had been saved from the Skinsaw Murders and an epidemic of ghoul fever.
Sheriff Hemlock and Father Zantus seemed very hesitant when Zeeva asked them to escort her to Foxglove Manor. Unfortunately, the adventurers who had defeated Aldern had left the region some time ago. The sheriff and the priest went with Zeeva to the manor, but it was clear that the place was still suffused with a powerful evil force, even now that Aldern was dead. The trio only had the courage to explore a few rooms of the mansion before they ran for their lives, screaming in horror. They tried to set fire to the mansion, to destroy this evil once and for all, but all their attempts were unsuccessful. It was almost as if the malevolent presence inhabiting the building was protecting its domain. Father Zantus said that the adventurers had been similarly unsuccessful in destroying the manor.
Terrified and heart-broken, Zeeva left the region after being told by Sheriff Hemlock that he would ensure that people stayed away from the manor. She made her way back to Korvosa, and only a few days after she returned, she found the mysterious Harrow Card in her house, which led her to Zellara’s home and on the way to avenge uncle Nelkren’s death…
Starday, Pharast 15th, 4708 (continued)
The Bone Tower
Kindrasius awoke in his small apartment, which was very cramped for him and the twelve kids under his charge. That day, he gave the assignment to the children to find a place to buy food. Most of the stores were closed due to the riots, but there had to be some place that was open. With the platinum that Amin Jalento had given him, he could surely feed the children for some time, but more importantly, he planned on moving to a bigger place to accommodate them. He spent the entire day looking around Bridgefront, finally finding a suitable building where the landlord would rent him three apartments that were close to one another. The old lady who lived in one of them, a Varisian named Beviela, would also help Kindrasius to take care of the children in exchange for him paying her rent.
Meanwhile, Kaeso did some investigation regarding Lixa the doll and her captor, the foul Rolth. He learned from his cousins Ruan and Deyanira Mirukova that two people matching the description of Lixa’s saviors were rumoured to have been seen in the Heights, near a strange tower that had recently appeared in between two buildings. Apparently, this tower was entirely made of bones and was decorated by a gigantic skull. Intrigued, Kaeso ventured to the Heights (not far south of the temple of Asmodeus) and indeed beheld the mysterious construction, which he was convinced had not been there a few days before.
Kaeso heard no signs of activity within the tower, and it only had murder holes located high in the walls, so it wouldn’t be easy to take a look within. He waited for some time near the structure, and eventually, he saw two people approaching it. Their appearance matched the descriptions he’d gotten from Lixa: a man dressed in black, with long white hair, and a woman wearing a heavy hooded robe that hid her features. He’d been told that this woman fought with spiked chains. He passed the couple, trying to get a good look at the woman, but he only saw vaguely the shape of her face… and got the impression that her eyes were glowing red. Still, he did not dare approach those two strange people, or to speak with them, for they looked dangerous. He also heard them speak Infernal to each other. He did not understand the language, but he recognized it. A pity his mistress Hipazia wasn’t present: she was fluent in this dark tongue.
The young man later brought Lixa back to her maker’s shop. Vadid Pestico was a mild-mannered old man who had created not only Lixa, but also five other incredibly life-like dolls after the death of his wife ten years ago. He had heard about the man named Rolth, who was rumoured to be a vile necromancer who had studied at the Acadamae but had later been cast out from it, and had since then lurked into the shadows of Korvosa, performing strange experiments of dark magic and being a menace to society.
With part of the fifty gold pieces that mister Pestico gave him for returning his “daughter”, Kaeso bought some toys for his sister Alika and some other children living at Leroung Manor. Once he returned there, he was surprised to see that Kindrasius was also there. He had come to ask for more food (mostly bread) to feed the children. Some other guests had summoned up the courage to walk the still-dangerous streets to come to Leroung Manor: Darius Carowyn and Amin Jalento, two friends of Hipazia’s brother Cyril. The three young aristocrats loved to play their games of Caverns and Creatures on Starday nights. Amin had also brought the lovely Esia with him.
Kindrasius was invited to stay for dinner with the nobles, but felt out of his element and declined the invitation. Instead, he returned home and fed the children with the bread and pastries he got from the Leroungs, as well as some meat he had bought from a store called All the World’s Meat, which was in North Point and staffed by Korvosan Guards.
Meanwhile, dinner was pleasant at the Leroungs. While Cyril, Amin and Darius talked about their latest C&C adventures, Hipazia discussed the current political situation with her father Tiago, her aunt Eliasia, her younger sister Calaria and her sister-in law Shellia. Esia listened calmly but seemed to have no opinion to offer. She didn’t even remember her real name, so she had no idea who these “Queen Ileosa”, “Seneschal Neolandus Kalepopolis” or “House Ornelos, House Jeggare” were. Studying her, all that Hipazia could say was that her accent and mannerisms definitely hinted that she was from Korvosa. At some point during the conversation, Esia told her that she was starting to remember pictures and symbols. She drew some of the symbols on a piece of parchment and Hipazia immediately recognized them as runes. Esia’s penmanship was impeccable, as if she were familiar with drawing such runes, and the style she used seemed typical of wizards who had studied at the Acadamae…
Later in the evening, the three boys went to play their game, and Esia accompanied them to give it a try. Lord Tiago approached Kaeso and asked him questions about Kindrasius. Indeed, he was expecting that, with the recent turmoil in the city, his dear daughter Hipazia might be tempted to put her magical talents into practice. He was worried that she would get harmed, but he also realized that she had the potential to become a powerful wizard, and that some on-hands experience would be very beneficial. However, he wanted to make sure she had bodyguards to keep her as safe as possible. Although he was decent with a blade, Kaeso by himself might not prove enough to keep Hipazia completely out of trouble.
Suddenly, the discussion was interrupted by screams coming from upstairs. Everyone rushed to the gaming room, where they saw Cyril, Amin and Darius standing in shock and looking at the table around which they had been playing. To everyone’s horror, at the place where Esia had been sitting, now could only be seen a huge, disgusting pool of blood. Kaeso led Amin to sit down on a nearby sofa. The young man was white as a sheet and trembling. While Cyril described what had happened, Amin began to cry silently as the enormity of what had happened dawned upon him.
Esia had seemed to be enjoying herself learning the game, but after some time, she had started to complain about a headache. Some minutes later, she started shivering, and all of a sudden, her entire body had simply… dissolved into a mass of blood.
Hipazia detected that Esia’s remains were magical in nature; they radiated an aura of illusion. Unfortunately, this was one of the schools of magic that the young woman was least familiar with. She discussed this with her other scholarly relatives, but none could formulate a clear diagnostic about what had happened.
Only one thing was clear: poor Amin Jalento would have nightmares about his beautiful new girlfriend dissolving into a pool of blood for the rest of his life…
Sunday, Pharast 16th, 4708
Getting back together
The following morning, Hipazia and Kaeso decided to investigate Esia’s death. Kindrasius came with them. First, they went to Theumanexus College in the East District. As the neighbourhood of many of Korvosa’s most military noble families, it was calmer and safer than other parts of the city where pockets of troublemakers still presented a danger. Hipazia hadn’t set foot in the college since her expulsion nearly two years before, and many people looked with incredulous stares in her direction; while newer students who didn’t know who she was merely stared anyway because she was, after all, a tall, beautiful blonde woman in an elegant dress.
Hipazia went to the office of one Nicklod Starweather, her former mentor. Nicklod was a middle-aged man, handsome, with piercing green eyes and a streak of gray in his dark hair. He was dressed in fine robes and his office was decorated with many instruments of astronomy and charts about conjuration. While the headmaster of the college, the gnome Tepest Geezlebottle, had been the one who had made the decision to expel Hipazia because of her link to a murder (due to Gaedren Lamm…), Nicklod had always tried to prove her innocence, and had fought to keep her in the school. Unfortunately, he had lost that particular battle.
After some small talk, Hipazia explained to Nicklod what had happened to Esia. The veteran wizard seemed both intrigued and concerned. Hipazia gave him a vial of Esia’s blood that she had collected. Nicklod analyzed it quickly with the spells he had at his disposal, and confirmed that it radiated illusion magic. He told Hipazia that this looked like something very complex and unusual, and that he would analyze it more thoroughly in his laboratory and get back to her with the results.
Later, Hipazia led her companions to the Acadamae. Although they were not allowed within the confines of the school-fortress, they took an appointment with headmaster Toff Ornelos himself at an administration building located just outside the campus; Hipazia would be able to see him a few days later.
By then, it was time for lunch. The three comrades headed to the Black Bulwark, the local Hellknight garrison. They asked to see Manius, and the large young man came to greet them after a few minutes. He said that this was an interesting coincidence, as he had been planning on tracking them down that afternoon. They all went to a tavern, where they brought each other up to speed on recent events. Manius was surprised to hear about Esia’s gruesome death, and informed Kaeso that he knew the strange duo who lived in the Bone Tower: they were Shadowcount Sial, an ally of the Hellknights, and his bodyguard Asyra, who was rumoured to be some kind of devil. Apparently, Sial had recently made the tower appear there by magic.
Manius then told everyone that his friend Field Marshal Cressida Kroft had personally given him a mission. Indeed, some rebel Korvosan Guards had deserted the ranks and were now operating a store called All the World’s Meat. While the Field Marshal didn’t know why they were linked to this enterprise, she didn’t want the story of their rebellion to propagate too far within her troops. That’s why she had entrusted Manius, a Hellknight, with the mission. She wanted the leader of the deserters, Sergeant Verik Vancaskerkin, brought back alive. She had promised a large reward for his capture. Manius was worried that his fellow Hellknights might be a bit too “diligent” (meaning, lethal) in bringing the outlaws back in line, which is why he had thought of asking the people who had helped him bring down Gaedren Lamm.
I still miss the reading of your last 3 posts (I was away this weekend and I just saw those on the messageboard) but I would like however to tell you my first impressions on your last fatigue...
It's wonderful!!! Really I have to thank you again for that... For me it's incredible that it's free...
I have read it three times to appreciate every single reference to korvosa guide, AP and RotR campaign... What I really love of your reports are the small details about Golarion that compel me, when I'm not able to fully understand your references, to search as a scholar my vast Paizo biblioteque... And I think I was still not able to find every single reference (difficult to understand which of the NPC you introduced have been taken from Paizo books or from your brain... I hope pathfinder wiki will help me with that).
What I feel reading this story was very similar to what I felt reading "Prince of Wolves" or "Winter Witch" (have you read those? If not I suggest you to do that they are very beautiful too and the second one is setted in Korvosa at least on the first part). I think Paizo should ask you to prepare what you did for RotR to be printed in six different Pathfinder tales and I'm sure the same could be said at the end of your CotCT.
Here a list of what I appreciated most: Zeeva Foxglove as a member of the party (even if used by the GM), the harrow readings, the characters statistics, the background of Manius (for the first time I read something more on Hellknights and now I'm appreciating them), all the characters you are introducing in the story, Kindrasius background (were all the three parts written by the player or just the first one?), details of Korvosa and side quests, possible openings for future stories...
Ok that's all for now... I'm going to open again your RotR story and prepare 6 books for my Paizo collection... they will be wonderful aside the Pathfinder tales one... I have just to find a good online printer... Thanks again mate.
I still miss the reading of your last 3 posts (I was away this weekend and I just saw those on the messageboard) but I would like however to tell you my first impressions on your last fatigue...(...)
Hi Sneaky, I think I enjoy reading your comments just as much as you enjoy reading my journal entries. ;) It makes such a big difference for me knowing there's someone out there who appreciates what I write!
I've indeed included many elements from the Guide to Korvosa, a beautifully written gazeteer which is a huge source of information. Reading it, in addition to the adventures themselves, really made Korvosa come alive in my mind, even more so than I am able to render during my games or even in my journal.
So yes, I've made some references to it, like mister Pestico and his dolls. There are so many more great ideas in the Guide to Korvosa that I WISH I had time to use, but couldn't fit in the adventure, as I didn't want my players to stray TOO far from the main plot. We only play for about 2-2.5 hours a week, so I want to make the best of it.
I've also added a couple characters from the guide to Cheliax: Nicklod Starweather and Pontia Runario.
As you've seen, I've decided to introduce earlier Laori, Shadowcount Sial, Salvator and Pilts. That way, the party's future encounters with them as written in the adventures will, hopefully, have more impact.
I've also gotten some inspiration from Eando Kline's journal from the first 3 AP's, of his stay in Korvosa. You'll see later some subtle references to that (easy to miss if you don't know about them). Also, from Manius's background, Maralictor Alfram Zaren is
Most noble families come from the official Korvosa background, I think I just added the Serinis (minor) noble family. Eliasia Leroung, Hipazia's aunt, is from the Guide to Korvosa, other members were invented either by me or by Hipazia's player.
I've created several NPC's working at the Acadamae or at the various temples in the city, although, I'm sure the PC's won't interact with all of them. I already introduced one of them, Riktos Sunblade from the temple of Sarenrae. He'll be back later in the campaign.
Another NPC I invented is Esia. Her appearance in the adventure might be weird at this point, but it will make more sense later on. :)
The adventure seems to expect that the PC's will become close friends with Grau, but I've had a hell of a time making them like him. They consider him just a random guard... Maybe the fact that, in french, his name sounds almost like "fat soldier" doesn't help (we play in french by the way... not sure I mentioned that before). But at least, they're close to Field Marshal Kroft.
I've also changed a few things in the campaign, for example:
I love Zeeva Foxglove, I've been intrigued by the two surviving Foxglove children since the Skinsaw Murders, and when I saw that Zeeva was included in the Guide to Korvosa, I knew I had to do something special with her. I just wish I had time to write even more deeply about her background and the events such as Aldern's betrayal and Zeeva's return to Sandpoint and Foxglove Manor. Unfortunately, I haven't spent the time to do that, hopefully what I wrote is enough to satisfy my reader(s). ;)
I haven't read Prince of Wolves or Winter Witch yet, although I ordered Prince of Wolves recently, it's in the mail. ;) I didn't know Winter Witch happened partly in korvosa, I might need to order that one too! It's probably too late to include some of those elements in my campaign, though, as we are in fact about to start the second adventure, and "the sh*t is really about to hit the fan"!! Korvosa will never truly be the same again from this point on...
For the Harrow readings, those are hard to do. I can't really come up with enough material during the game itself, so I've agreed with my players to do the reading during a certain game, then present them Zellara's comments on the cards the following game, after I've had time to think about it. Also, a frustrating thing is that sometimes, the players don't pick up any "interesting/appropriate" cards, and it's difficult to make a meaningful reading. Or, they pick a card that would've been GREAT for their future, but they pick it for their past. Or vice-versa.
The first part of Kindrasius's background was written by the player, I wrote the part that starts with "Salvator's screams", to fit a few elements into his background like Salvator, Laori, Pilts and Velaka Hoon (a name you might find if you read the 3rd adventure very carefully ;) ).
Oh, and the speech in Manius's background was a copy/paste from an article on the Hellknights in one of the Council of Thieves adventures. :)
What you put down were the kind of info I was really looking for, because I still have not read the guide to Cheliax and so I was not able to catch some of those reference [even if I put the book in my backpack for a next weekend reading (and Nicklod and Pontia were on my character to be found list)].
I really love the introduction of later to come NPC before their official appearance and this is something I use as well on my adventures (I think Paizo is doing a great job with the definition of a preliminary backbone of the main plot for their entire APs but some NPC are created just when the first volumes are mainly frozen).
I loved reading Eando Kline's journal but this happened a lot of time ago and I wasn't remembering the reference with the hellknight (good to know). As I said before reading your story I was not very taken from hellknights and thanks to you I'm going to recover this gap.
Of course I'm very intrigued with every reference with RotR so a Foxglove family member is more than welcome (even if something else is already foreseen from Paizo in the story).
I'm sure you'll love Prince of Wolves or Winter Witch even because, from my modest point of view, their way to describe Golarion has some similitude with your. The first tome, settled in Ustalav, is marvelous with so many references and details that will make you desire to play Carrion Crown as soon as possible. The second one is also very good and I especially appreciate the first half of the story that is located in Korvosa (I think you are already describing the Korvosa atmosphere very well but the same could be said by the work done by E.Cunningham), after this part there is a long trip (very well described) to Irrisen and this is very interesting to get a better description (with respect to the one in guide to Korvosa) of Harse-Balswief-Melfesh-Ilsurian-Sanos Forest-the zone near Ravenmoor-The Nolands-Brinewall (very interesting) and remembering me the Eando Kline travel you mentioned from wich I started loving Varisia, the shoanti, Kaer Maga and Belkzen. I strongly suggest you reading both of them (I have Plague of Shadow too but still I have not found time to immerge myself on it).
I was asking myself where the speech in Manius's background was coming from (I wrongly supposed in Cheliax guide...).
Ok again thanks a lot for your effort and I will not stop myself making promotion for your story hours all around the messageboard because I'm sure that there are a lot of Paizo fans that should love reading these useful summaries.
Yeah, Nicklod and Pontia are near the end of that book, in a section with NPC's that can be used to be allies of the PC's. I modified them a little bit, though. I really like the art of all the NPC's of this section, so for sure I wanted to use those NPC's. I also added the other 2 characters from there in my campaign, but the PC's have had a noticeable interaction with them yet.
I'm going to have to order Winter Witch and read it, just based on the list of locations you've just told me about! I find that Varisia is filled with interesting locations, and the little tidbits of information we got from sources such as the Guide to Korvosa or AP#3 want me to know more about the smaller towns in that region. I'm looking forward to seeing them brought to life in such a novel.
Thanks again for your support!
Sunday, Pharast 16th, 4708
All the World’s Meat
Only a few nights had passed since Gaedren Lamm’s death, and yet I found myself standing outside a building at night once again, in the company of the very same people. Manius had approached us with a mission he had received from Field Marshal Kroft herself: some deserters from the Korvosan Guard needed to be brought back in line. They operated at a butchery called All the World’s Meat in North Point. It was one of the only businesses that were open in these times of riots. Few merchants had the courage to open their doors to the volatile crowds; but this place was operated by strong armed men, so it definitely had an edge. I watched the dark building and felt a nagging sense of regret. I wished my own shops at the Green Market hadn’t been burned to the ground by rioters. I wished they could offer food and other necessary items for the survival of families in this time of need.
The neighbourhood was very quiet that night. The worst of the riots was over, meaning that big noisy crowds in the streets were rarer, but yet most people were still afraid to go out at night. Thankfully, this was the perfect situation for our nocturnal raid – not that a coming patrol of guards would’ve been much of a problem, since we had paperwork from the Field Marshal herself allowing us to do our dirty deed.
We saw some lights on the second-floor windows, but there was no way to know if there was any activity on the ground floor, whose only windows were located at the front entrance, where it was dark inside. After discussing strategy for some time, Kindrasius convinced everyone to climb up the wall at the back of the building, to enter from one of the second-floor windows where we saw the light. The second floor was much smaller than the ground floor, and most of the roof was flat and gave access to the second floor windows.
Kindrasius and Kaeso were the first to climb up and did so with impressive agility. I had come better prepared that night: I wore a heavy breastplate. Unfortunately, while it provided good protection, it made the task of climbing the wall a lot more difficult, even with the rope the two men were holding down for me. It took me some time to be able to climb successfully – and even then, Manius provided some truly unsolicited and superfluous help in the form of his rough hands pushing my rear end. This Hellknight is surely no gallant knight in shining armor…
Unfortunately, no sooner had I arrived on the roof that we were spotted by our enemies, who shot arrows and bolts at us from the second floor windows. Kindrasius and Kaeso were both badly hit, and before I could heal them, I too felt the stinging pain of a projectile penetrating my flesh. Kaeso and I quickly climbed back down, thinking that the entire group would maneuver to try a different approach now that we’d been spotted, but Kindrasius instead made a foolhardy charge toward the windows. While I healed myself and Kaeso, Manius and even Hipazia climbed up to join the Shoanti’s attack.
“They’re nuts!!!” I said to myself, but seeing that Kaeso was also climbing after them, I summoned my courage and tried to follow him. Once again, it took me some time to make it to the roof. My armor seemed to weigh a ton, and the moments stretched to what seemed like hours as I heard the sounds of fighting on the roof, where my allies were being gravely wounded by arrows. If I didn’t manage to climb up there and heal them, they would all die!
I finally made it up there and saw that Manius had gone through a window and was attacking the rebel guards inside the closest room on the second floor. Kaeso and Kindrasius had both been pierced by several arrows and were lying in pools of blood. I hurried toward them and channelled some healing energy, bringing them back to consciousness. Meanwhile, Hipazia was crouched on the roof, firing magical projectiles from the wand she’d found in Lamm’s lair.
I hurried toward one of the windows and saw that, once again, Manius was fighting like a true Hellknight. He had wounded several of the rebel guards. Others had been pierced by arrows from Kindrasius and Kaeso. I recognized the leader of the deserters, Verik Vancaskerkin, and suddenly, I realized that I was moving slightly faster than usual. At the same time, I remembered a vision of this scene... which I’d had when Zellara had made my Harrow reading! This had been the event the cards had shown me!
Manius finally fell under the blows of Vancaskerkin and his men, but I kept on channelling my healing energy until my powers were almost depleted. It worked – my muscular ally got back on his feet and smote one of the rebels. Two others fled. One was lying on the ground, bleeding.
Manius and Kaeso shouted at Verik to surrender. The man looked around for a moment, realized he had no hope to survive otherwise, and finally threw down his bow and let Manius put manacles around his wrists.
Two of the rebels had managed to flee. Another one was quite dead, his skull having been shattered by Manius’s flail. The fourth was still alive, and I brought him back to consciousness with my magic after Kindrasius bound him with another set of manacles. I also healed my companions. I hadn’t even had the time to do anything except channel my energy during the entire battle, but it had worked… we were all still alive.
We claimed any equipment the guards possessed that seemed dangerous or valuable. I have to admit that I took a certain pleasure in removing sergeant Vancaskerkin’s chainmail. It turned out that he was a very handsome man, with vibrant green eyes, a strong jaw and a perfectly toned physique. Even though he was still wounded and covered in blood, he seemed to strangely enjoy getting stripped to his underwear by Hipazia and me, and he even winked at me at some point! Didn’t he realize how much trouble he was in?
Hipazia and her servant remained upstairs to keep an eye on the prisoners while I accompanied Manius and Kindrasius in securing the rest of the building. On the ground floor, we went through several rooms that looked like what we might expect to find in a butchery. What we had not expected to see there was a human corpse! We didn’t recognize the man, but he looked like some kind of thug. It appeared that we had interrupted Verik’s men while they had been in the process of “preparing” him to be served as meat for the next day’s customers. I shared a disgusted look with my allies.
“Oh, damned…” grumbled Kindrasius. “I ate some of that meat!”
We didn’t find the two remaining guards. It seemed they had left through the back door, unfortunately, the only one that Kindrasius hadn’t had a line of sight to from his vantage point on the roof.
We returned upstairs and questioned Vancaskerkin. At first, he tried to pretend he had been selling meat for the good of the people, but Manius and Kaeso soon began to be more “physically intense” in their interrogation, and they also questioned the other soldier, Baldrago, a tall man with a unibrow. We learned that Vancaskerkin had a lover named Vimanda, an attractive dark-haired woman who had connections with the underworld of Korvosa. She had convinced Verik to desert the Korvosan Guard with four of his men. Verik had known her for about six months, but didn’t know exactly who she worked for or where she lived, but suspected it was somewhere in Old Korvosa. She apparently came to see him every few days, but not on a fixed schedule. He asked us not to hurt her if we captured her.
It seemed that this Vimanda was far from being a pleasant damsel, as she’d been the one who had paid Verik’s men to kill people on the side, like the man now lying dead in the slaughter room downstairs. Baldrago didn’t know who those people were, but guessed her organization wanted them dead and was using the chaos of the riots as an occasion to get rid of them. She had paid them well: Baldrago revealed where he and his accomplices had hidden their stash, near a pig pen downstairs that held two big, mean-looking pigs.
Verik was shocked that his girlfriend had gone behind his back and had hired his men. He was even more horrified that she’d had them kill people. And he was astounded and furious that his men had had the audacity of selling human meat in this shop behind his back! I got the feeling that this Verik Vancaskerkin wasn’t really a bad man (after all, his girlfriend seemed to have considered him too “soft” to do her bloody bidding), but he probably wasn’t all that perceptive either, to have been manipulated like that by the people around him.
We collected all the valuables we’d gotten from the guards and their stash before leaving. I claimed for myself Verik’s sturdy, well-balanced longspear. Amazingly, none of the men made any rude comment on my interest in Verik’s “longspear”. Another noteworthy item was a beautiful silver dagger we found in Verik’s room. It radiated magic, but Hipazia wasn’t able to identify it, even with her best spell. She found that very suspicious and kept the dagger carefully wrapped in a bag. She asked me to pass by her manor the next day to see if I could sense some evil within it.
Kaeso remained behind to stand watch in case the other guards returned. Meanwhile, the rest of us brought Verik Vancaskerkin and Baldrago, bloodied and in chains, back to Citadel Volshyenek in Midland. It was still night. The guards at the gate had a brief look of surprise in their eyes when they saw us and our prisoners, but they understood who we were and what we had done. Their glares were merciless as they watched the two deserters being led inside.
We brought the prisoners to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft herself. I’d only seen her on a few occasions, and never this close. She was rather tall, about the same height as Hipazia, with short brown hair and a pretty face. Even in the middle of the night, she seemed ready for action and was dressed in her bright-crimson full plate armor. I was surprised at how young she was – perhaps just a little over thirty. I wondered how she had been able to rise so quickly among the ranks. From this first encounter with her, I got the sense that she was a very efficient woman. She listened to our story and asked pertinent follow-up questions. She nodded and seemed pleased with what we’d done. As promised, she gave us a thousand gold pieces as reward for bringing Verik back alive.
The Field Marshal remained very calm in front of the deserters, not insulting them or appearing angry in any way, but she informed us that she would perform a more thorough interrogation in due time. I somehow got the impression that this would be very unpleasant for the two rebels.
Before we left, Field Marshal Kroft thanked each of us for our good work, and said she’d be interested in getting to know us better once we’d gotten some rest. She hinted that she would surely have need for people with our special set of skills in the future. But we were all so tired now that we parted ways and all returned to our homes. As I made my way back to my uncle’s house in the Heights, I prayed quietly, asking Pharasma to make sure that Kaeso remained safe, all alone as he was in the shadows of the butchery.
Here is Kaeso's background, written by his player.
My father was a thief. Well, this is how I see him and picture him, but he was murdered (ooc, he wasn't) when I was 10. He was at that time employed by the Fordyce family as fencing teacher on their estate outside the city, when I was 5. He described himself as a dashing swordsman, but he really was a rogue with skills in nice fence, such as the one we see in duel. He came from a family of Chelaxian adventurers and explorers, travelling here and there trying to find places, artefacts or treasures. Mostly treasure, actually. He claimed to have fey blood when his grandfather mated with a sylph. Yeah sure. I have a nice look, but I am pretty sure my blood is pretty human thank you very much. But it makes nice stories to tell. I wish I mate with a fey creature sometime!
He met my mother in another family and then were ceded to the Fordyce family on the occasion of a inter-family marriage. Actually, it suited him very well, as he was planning this to happen from a long time. The transfer, not the marriage. You see, the Fordyce family possessed a necklace of great value, the fabled Necklace of the Queen, an ugly, but packed with diamonds necklace, fabricated for a Chelaxian queen 150 years ago. It was worth 35 000 gp! Astounding sum for a non-magical ugly necklace. I saw it, since it was I who stole it!
So he planned this robbery for a long, long time, gathering information on how it was kept and the way he could exploit weaknesses in its keeping. It happened when he was sent to the city for an errand, as the necklace was kept on the estate about 5 leagues of the city. On that night he came back secretly as he knew the necklace would have been showed on its anniversary day. He made sure he was seen somewhere else and made arrangements for covering his tracks (scry, divinations). He came to the gate and I did as he instructed (and educated me) to take the necklace from its shelter and take it to him. The shadows were my friends that night as I managed to come to the gates and give the necklace to him and his accomplice, a woman adventurer he referred to as the Baroness.
His body was found 2 days later on the road between Korvosa and the estate. He had a ring, a distinctive ring the corpse displayed as the face was completely destructed as the murderer slammed it to the rocks nearby. He was never suspected, nor was I, of the robbery. He was a professional. I wish I could know him more.
As for my mother, she was a Varisian who was employed as a domestic in the family she served until she was transferred to the Fordyce Family. She met my father in the first family and they both fell in love, although I always suspected it was more a convenience for both of them, as she was Varisian. She never told me. There isn't much else to say beside the fact that she was employed by the Leroung family when we were kicked out of the Fordyce family. The life of a domestic isn't much entertaining. She never remarried after the demise of my father (she is not aware of our little secret...), but had one casual lover for some time.
Why we were kicked out of the Fordyce family. Well. You have to know that this family is a family of disdainful, Asmodeus worshippers, where they prised their name more than anything else. They look upon people as sh*t, except when their rank equals or is above theirs. A nice family, in short!
However the daughter of the current head of the family, Ziria, is truly nice. I mean really, really nice. We played a lot together when we were kids, but as we grew up, she was more and more isolated since playing with their domestics' kids was deemed beneath her. Of course, the shadows always gave some help to pay visits to her in different places, where shadows were at their best. The visits were, at first, games because it represented a challenge to plan and to execute but they gradually became more and more intimate. We knew we were facing huge risks, her more than me, but then, the shadows were my friend what could go wrong?
The wrong came when Jeffrid, that poison, had suspicions and vowed to expose us. Oh he did and I was kicked out of the family as fast as a dragon fly, along with 50 whiplashes to remind me the place I belong. I never managed to see her again, except one time in the city when she was taking a walk.
After that episode it took us some time to find employment in another family. 18 months to be precise. Obviously the incident with Ziria was a secret that stayed in the family. The shame it would have brought on their name. Nevertheless, I didn't care much about that family as I had mine to care for, especially since it was me who created that mess.
We lived for some time outside the city, in a cabin some farmer rented us until I had to go in the city to work. My mother would be helping neighbouring families, but it wasn't enough to pay the rent or even have a decent living. Of course, my talents were critical for the survival of the family, so I specialized myself into small robberies, small enough to avoid attention from the different guilds of thieves. I never wanted to join one. Yes they give protection, but the price to pay is steep. I usually was contacted to make break in to steal the thing my client was seeking. I even had to kidnap a girl so she could avoid a marriage she didn't want (nor the client who was the secret lover of that damsel in distress). That was funny and it strangely remembered my story. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to make such break-in in the Fordyce estate, I knew too well how it was warded... Let's hope it takes some time to marry Ziria so that I can grow up a little...
So that scheme worked for some time until I was caught flatfooted while robbing valuable books in the University of Korvosa. I had a client who desired some books and paid me well to get them. Unfortunately for him, the attempt was foiled when I realized, too late, that the library was magically warded. The Leroung family sure don't advertise that they have wizards in the family. So Mr Tiago Leroung caught me while shopping in the library. The exchange was brief as I tried to escape, but a volley of magic missiles knocked me hard.
I regained consciousness later on. I found myself tied to a chair and the librarian Tiago Leroung and what seemed to be his daughter, Hipazia. Never heard of the pair, but I guess the magic missiles were fired by Hipazia. They asked me the usual stuff (name, purpose, etc), and the only way out I could see at this point was my natural charm... looks like my dashing swordsman part woke up that night. However I also realized that Tiago was not someone to be fooled easily, even if I was pretty good at deceiving people. So I told my story. Adding nothing, only the truth. Looks like it served me well as he looked upon me for some time, lost in contemplation and finally asked me whether I would enter his service. His daughter protested, but he then said that the fact he literally had my fate in his hands (I could be hanged), he saw more use of using me in his house rather than hanging form a gibbet, plus I'd remain loyal to his house.
He was so right.
So I had my mother, my brother and my sister entering in the Leroung family. I was attached to the house of Hipazia, as I'd served as a butler, but also bodyguard, as she moved a lot in the city, from salon to salon, giving speeches and attending events.
One day all that collapsed as she was accused of murdering a student from the Acadamae. I knew Hipazia, and I also knew that the way that student was killed was the work of an assassin, not a wizard. So I used my contacts to get information, leads, anything. I managed to arrange a meeting with a fisherman who was a key witness, but then he was murdered. This murder was the proof that Hipazia wasn't behind it, but someone else who wanted to frame her for the murder. I finally managed to get his name. Gaedren Lamm, a loser from Old Korvosa. He's so gonna pay for this...
(The characters are now level 2!)
Moonday, Pharast 17th, 4708
Late the following morning, Zeeva came to visit Hipazia at Leroung Manor. They had been planning on checking Verik’s silver dagger for any sign of evil or curse, but to their surprise, the weapon was gone. There was a hole in Hipazia’s bag where it had been kept. Hipazia had not heard anything during the night, but still, had someone stolen the dagger from her? Or had the weapon somehow… escaped by its own means?
The two women returned to All the World’s Meat, where they met the rest of the group. Kaeso was safe and sound. The rebel guards had not returned to claim their hidden stash. The group, still worried about a food shortage in these times of riots, decided to kill the pigs for food. There was an argument about how to proceed. Manius ended up jumping in the pig pen to try and slaughter the pigs “properly” with a knife, but the two large and vicious animals gored him several times, almost killing him. The Hellknight had to jump back to safety, where he was healed by Zeeva. Now everyone agreed that it was safer to kill the pigs with arrows, and so they did. They later spent some time carving up the pigs so they would all have some meat to bring home. They were, after all, in a butchery, and had access to all the necessary tools.
Once that was done, Zeeva decided to bring the corpses of the slain guard and the unfortunate man who had been killed by Verik’s men to the Gray District, so they could get a proper burial. The corpses were loaded in a cart the group found in the nearby shack, and everyone headed toward the Gray District. The men pulled the cart, since no horses were available.
Things were quiet in the great cemetery, yet the group spotted several gray-robed priests and holy warriors who looked hurt and worried. It seemed that there was a surge of undead plaguing the district, and that the clerics of Pharasma were striving to keep it contained in this part of the city. Yet, several members of the group were aware that such surges were not all that rare. There seemed to be something evil in Korvosa that prevented the dead from resting peacefully.
A funeral took place for the two dead men, and several other people who had died during the riots. The ceremony was performed by Bishop Keppira D’Bear herself. Strangely, the old woman was accompanied not only by clerics of Pharasma, but also by a group of Shoanti. After the ceremony, these Shoanti approached Kindrasius. Their leader was a tall man of advanced years, with long black hair and milky white eyes. He wore a staff adorned with the skull of a large bird; his face was painted white in the shape of a skull; and there was a strange red raven perched on his shoulder.
“Bagas-Tawoga,” he said to Kindrasius, “I had not expected to ever see you again, least of all in the great city of the Tshamek!”
Kindrasius was, of course, very surprised. He did not recognize these Shoanti, but they seem to recognize him and to know his true name. After all, he suffered from amnesia, and could not remember anything that had happened before the last ten years, when he had been found, wandering and insane, by a group of traveling Varisians. He knew that “Kindrasius” was not his real name, but he could not remember ever bearing another one.
Now, it seemed that Bagas-Tawoga was his birth name. By a strange coincidence, the old Shoanti, whose name was Thousand Bones, had recognized him as a kinsman from the Skoan-Quah: the Clan of the Skull. These Shoanti were very mysterious, even among their race, and were considered to be the guardians of spirits and the historians of their people. Thousand Bones said that, about ten years ago, “Bagas-Tawoga” had disappeared during his Rite of Passage, venturing to face his fears in a dark cave complex below the Mindspin Mountains.
Kindrasius was very intrigued by all this, especially since Thousand Bones claimed to be a Skoan-Quah shaman, one who talks with the spirits. In a voice that quivered with excitement and fear, Kindrasius described the voices he heard in his head. He also showed Thousand Bones the magic he had only recently begun to be able to cast: strange arcane magic that he had suddenly become able to channel. Thousand Bones reassured Kindrasius that he shouldn’t be worried about all spirits, as they were not all evil; he also invited the young man to feast with him and his men that night, in Trail’s End just outside of Korvosa.
Kindrasius watched the old Thousand Bones and the six young warriors who protected him as they walked away among the mausoleums of the Gray District. “The shaman of the Skull Clan can also guide you along the path to recovery,” whispered a voice in his mind. Kindrasius jumped in surprised and fear. It had been Zellara’s voice.
Zeeva then led Kindrasius into the Grand Cathedral of Pharasma, which was the only place where Kindrasius heard no voices in his head. It was like a haven of peace for him. He prayed to Pharasma to be protected from the voices, and he also asked Bishop Keppira to be exorcised from their influence. The old woman smiled wistfully, and said that Kindrasius was cursed, but that he was also blessed. She informed him that she could not exorcise the voices, because Kindrasius was neither possessed nor haunted: he was merely “very perceptive”, she said.
Later in the afternoon, Hipazia and her young servant returned to Leroung Manor. While he went about his activities, Kaeso came upon another servant, who was crying; she was a young girl of about twelve years of age. Her name was Brienna Soldado, but she had a habit of always hurrying from one chore to the other around the house like a gust of wind, so everyone called her “Breeze”. Kaeso learned that her father had just died: he had been killed during the riots… Kaeso also noticed that the young girl had the same last name as Sergeant Grau Soldado, who he had met at Castle Korvosa. Just like Kaeso, Brienna was half-Varisian on her mother’s side. Brienna told him that Grau was her uncle: her father’s brother, who sometimes came to lend a hand to her family. He had in fact come to their home in Trail’s End the night before and had sworn to Brienna’s mother that he would take care of her and the children now that his brother was gone.
Meanwhile, the wizard Nicklod Starweather paid a visit to his former pupil. He told Hipazia that he had analyzed the blood sample she had brought to him. He believed that Esia had in fact been a strange variation of a Simulacrum spell, which normally allowed the creation of clones of a certain person using a statue of ice or snow as a vessel. Yet this one had used blood instead… Nicklod explained that the process of creation was extremely expensive, in the thousands of gold pieces in ruby dust alone. The simulacrums had only a fraction of the power of the original creatures, and were under direct mental control of their creator, who may or may not be the original version of them… Simulacrums were unable to learn new spells, skills or crafts, yet they possessed all of the memories of their originals at the time of creation. The fact that Esia had only small fragments of her memory left seemed to hint that she had been flawed somehow, which also suggested an explanation for her sudden and disturbing demise. Nicklod’s opinion was that this woman/construct had been part of a radical experiment, perhaps whose goal had been to try and create a self-repairing simulacrum, as the regular models were very difficult and expensive to heal when they got hurt.
Nicklod explained that this spell was extremely powerful, beyond his reach or even that of Tepest Geezlebottle, the headmaster of Theumanexus College. Only a few of the most powerful mages of the Acadamae could potentially cast such a spell. When Hipazia mentioned that she had booked a meeting with Toff Ornelos the following day, Nicklod paled and admitted that the headmaster himself was surely powerful enough to cast such a spell. It was rumoured that he was one of the most powerful wizards in Varisia, if not the most powerful. But he had also a reputation for being cruel and harsh against his underlings, as well as ruthless with his enemies. Some said that he had done the unthinkable when he had performed his rite of passage for the Acadamae: he had not summoned a lesser devil like young conjurors usually did, but rather, he had summoned a Pit Fiend, something even archmages would be worried about…
The ambassador’s scheme
That evening, at the Black Bulwark, Pontia approached Manius while they dined with a few other Hellknights. In hushed tones, she spoke to him about one of her current investigations. She suspected that Korvosa was in great danger because of the local Chelaxian ambassador, a man named Darvayne Gios Amprei. It seemed that the ambassador was using his considerable political power to put Korvosa in a difficult situation against Cheliax, seemingly with the intent of causing an embargo against the frontier city, which would have disastrous results in this time of riots and unrest. Pontia believed that ambassador Amprei planned on weakening Korvosa’s economy so much that he would be able to buy a large amount of property, which would make him an even much richer man once he arranged for the embargo to be lifted and that he let the city return to its former prosperity. But in the mean time, things would be very difficult for everyone else in Korvosa…
Manius listened with interest and told Pontia that he had already met the ambassador once, at Castle Korvosa, and that he had found him most unpleasant. Pontia said she would continue her investigation, but that she would like Manius to approach Field Marshal Kroft about the matter, and see if she could also assign some of her “eyes and ears” to the case.
The two Hellknights both realized that merely killing the ambassador would only cause greater conflicts with Cheliax, and would make a martyr out of him. No, they needed to find something they could use to blackmail him. Surely he must have some vice of some kind. Manius decided to mention this to Kindrasius, wondering if his stealthy little children could perhaps be used as spies to try and find Ambassador Amprei’s weakness.
Son of Sagwiva
When he got home that evening, Kindrasius received a pleasant surprise: the children had prepared some treats for him, as well a banner that read: “Thanks Kymdraciusse!” Sure, they had misspelled his name and had written the “s’s” in the wrong direction, but they had the right intention.
Kindrasius cooked some of the fresh pork meat for the children. He was helped by Beviela, the old woman who shared the apartments with them. Things were much easier for Kindrasius now that he had left the old apartment and had moved into the newer, bigger ones. It wasn’t a life of luxury, as they were still in Old Korvosa, but it was a step up. Also, it finally allowed him to put some distance between his current condition and the memories of his life with Miss Edelbark, who had been part mother and part lover for him; memories that were only highlighted in pain when he remembered her, even though he had now avenged her death by slaying Gaedren Lamm.
Later, Kindrasius left with Lerrim, the Shoanti child. Even though Lerrim was Shoanti by blood, he had grown up in Korvosa as an orphan. He knew nothing of the Shoanti way of life, and did not speak their language, yet he was curious to meet Thousand Bones and his warriors.
Kindrasius and Lerrim reached the few tents that made the Shoanti’s camp at the edge of Trail’s End. A fire burned at the center of the camp, and warriors were gathered around it. Most watched Kindrasius warily, unsure of whether or not they should treat him as a Tshamek – an outsider. But one of them immediately stood up and grasped Kindrasius’s arm in a friendly greeting between warriors: he was a young man with a scar on his cheek and tattoos on his body. His name was Gaekhen and he was the grandson of Thousand Bones.
“Welcome, Bagas-Tawoga, sit with us. Grandfather has been waiting for you.”
Thousand Bones soon came out of his tent and joined the younger men. He seemed pleased to see Kindrasius, and he also spoke with Lerrim in the Chelaxian tongue. Kindrasius had many questions, but he remained mostly quiet and contemplative as Thousand Bones spoke. The old shaman spoke of many things that night, of Kindrasius’s life and origins, as well as of the history of their people.
Kindrasius learned that his mother was also a shaman of the Skoan-Quah. Her name was Ash Dancer, and she lived in the same tribe as Thousand Bones, near the Kallow Mounds in the Cinderlands. His father had been called Sagwiva, and although he had been a Shoanti, he had been a loner who had not belonged to any Quah. His skin had been decorated by strange tattoos and he possessed unusual powers; powers of a nature that Thousand Bones had never seen before – until today. The magic that Kindrasius had displayed for him in the Gray District earlier that day had not been powerful, yet it had been of a peculiar nature, instinctive, emanating directly from Kindrasius’s very being. It came neither from the spirits of the ancestors like the magic of Thousand Bones, nor from a divine being like the magic of Bishop Keppira, and it was certainly not the magic of books and runes like the one taught in the sinister place called the Acadamae.
Sagwiva had been a very mysterious man who never spoke of his past to anyone, except perhaps his wife, Ash-Dancer. He had disappeared around eight years ago; his whereabouts remained uncertain, but the Cinderlands were a dangerous place. The wild beasts and the orcs of the Hold of Belkzen were a constant threat to the Shoanti, as well as the land itself. Even worse, lately, the stone giant tribes of the Wyvern Mountains had grown more aggressive, and rumors said that they were forming a large army that threatened to crush all humans, Shoanti and Tshamek alike. Perhaps they were the most dangerous of all…
Thousand Bones said that Kindrasius had spent his childhood among the Skoan-Quah. He had lived as a normal Shoanti child, although he had been rather quiet and reclusive, a loner like his father. He had no brothers or sisters. About ten years ago, he had reached the age when Shoanti must take the rite of passage and earn the right to be called warriors. Like all members of the Skoan-Quah, Kindrasius had gone into the dark caves to face some terrible fears… Not all who took the rite of passage emerged back from the darkness. For all these years, it had been feared that Kindrasius / Bagas-Tawoga had perished and had been lost to the shadows. His mother had mourned him, yet Thousand Bones knew that she had always clung to the hope that her son still lived, as she, who could speak with the dead, had never heard his voice among the spirits.
The old shaman gazed at Kindrasius with a look of great kindness. He seemed to consider it an omen of good luck that Ash Dancer’s son had been found after all these years. Kindrasius stared back and wondered how the old man could see with these strange, milky-white eyes. Although he had at first thought that Thousand Bones was blind, he realized that it was clearly not the case.
Later, Thousand Bones also spoke about the history of the Shoanti and the significance of Korvosa. Their people had once lived in great numbers around this place, until the Tshamek had come from the south and had driven them away, to the Cinderlands, after decades upon decades of bloody conflict. Much of the lore of their ancestors had been lost when the Tshamek had invaded this area, and now, Thousand Bones had come to Korvosa to try and learn some of that forgotten lore from the bones of the ancient Shoanti warriors who still lay buried under the mounds of the Gray District, underneath the newer corpses of the last three centuries of Tshamek inhabitants. Thousand Bones had learned interesting things from the dead warriors, but there remained more mysteries still. The greatest of these was Mashka-saht-puyuhoke, the great pyramid upon which Castle Korvosa had been built. Seemingly, it had once been the holiest site of the Shoanti, one that countless warriors defended with their lives. Surely there was a reason why this place had been considered of such great importance, but the old shaman had not yet discovered why.
Thousand Bones had been well received by Keppira D’Bear and the clergy of Pharasma, who greatly respected his mission. They shared a similar burden as keepers of the dead. Alas, not all Tshamek had been so welcoming to the Shoanti, and many had made it very clear that their presence was not appreciated. Thousand Bones’s other reason for coming to Korvosa was also to speak of peace. In recent years, old hatreds had started to flare anew, and there were talks among some of the Quahs, especially among the war-like Sklar-Quah (“Sun Clan”) of the Shoanti reclaiming the lands that were rightfully theirs and driving the weak, soft and complacent Tshamek back to their “devil-infested lands” to the south. Thousand Bones had met with King Eodred on several occasions in recent months, but alas, their negotiations had been cut short by the king’s death, and obviously, with the recent turmoil, the young queen had been unavailable for suck talks.
The old shaman was worried, though. If chaos and unrest continued to fester in Korvosa, the most warlike clans of the Shoanti would surely learn of it and their plans of war could very well be put into action, a senseless conflicts that would cause the deaths of countless people on both sides… Thousand Bones closed his eyes and shook his head in sorrow. With the upcoming menace of the Stone Giant army, such foolishness was the last thing that humans needed – Shoanti and Tshamek alike.
Starting with this game, I've begun telling the players a few rumors each week, corresponding to what their characters would've heard around town lately. Here are this week's rumors:
"Blackjack, the masked hero of the people, has become active again after a long absence. It is said that he has saved a number of innocent people from being assaulted by bloodthirsty thugs during the riots."
"Many troublemakers have been arrested for the mayhem they caused during the riots. The most unlucky of them will face the harsh justice of Lady Zenobia Zenderholm, the 'Hanging Judge'. She has a policy of punishing violence with violence."
"Sabina Merrin, the queen's bodyguard, is as deadly as she is beautiful. Despite hear fearsome reputation, there are some who dare to suggest that she is more than just a guard to Queen Ileosa: that she is also her secret lover."
|Smarnil le couard|
Yummy! A new Moonbeam campaign! I won't have to wait until summer to get my fix!
You got an italian reader, now comes the french one. You still lack a german, a belgian, a dutch and a luxemburger (with extra sauce?) to complete the original European Community. I know, it's completely irrelevant.
As usual, really good stuff. You are SO obsessed with the tiny little details that make the setting come alive... Nice foreshadowing too. Keep them guessing. BTW, did you give your players some forewarning about the riots ? As in "you know that the queen is really hated by the commoners" ?
I haven't read CoCT for a while, but I do remember that as written the riots seemed to happen at the drop of a hat, which in my opinion was a bit too much to believe.
Feeding them rumors, some useful and some just colorful, is a great idea to blow more life into a big city such as Korvosa.
Hi Smarnil, I'm glad you like my journal too (and the rumors!). :) How's your Age of Worms campaign going, I haven't read it in a long time?
Well, I am half Belgian (no jokes, please), so I guess at least that one is covered. ;)
Yes, I've really included a lot of details in the campaign, I would've liked to add even more, but I think it would have buried my poor players under an avalanche of useless information, so I restrained myself. We play rather short games (about 2.5 hours per week), and so far there have been quite a few games with no fights in them, just role-playing and a bit of investigation. There have also been many moments where I was just presenting information to them, since there's so much to describe. They were passive during that time. It's been kind of a slow start, I am aware of that. But I think it's already starting to pay off, as they have a clear idea of the various characters involved in this complex story.
I briefly mentioned that while King Eodred was seen as a benevolent ruler, his young wife was rumored to be a gold-digger who despised Korvosa. So people didn't like her much. The riots weren't seen as too much of a surprise, so that was good. My players have been very good in going with the flow of the story so far, I'm very happy with that. They haven't complained about much so far, the only thing is that sometimes I think they would appreciate a bit more action (it's a drastic change from the last few adventures of Savage Tide where is was just a long marathon of epic fights one right after the other)... But once the second adventure kicks in, it's going to be really action-packed until pretty much the end of the campaign. So it should get easier for all of us (I find it much easier to prepare a dungeon than to prepare a bunch of RP encounters).
|Smarnil le couard|
Hi Smarnil, I'm glad you like my journal too (and the rumors!). :) How's your Age of Worms campaign going, I haven't read it in a long time?
Well, I have still three play sessions to write (up to the end of Three Faces of Evil, in fact). But I go slow since january, as Mathieu's player begged us to take the gamemaster screen for a little while.
I was Ok with that, mainly because 1) I could use a break and enjoy playing for a change, and 2) my campaign journal allow us to do that without wrecking my campaign. I hope so.
Yes, I've really included a lot of details in the campaign, I would've liked to add even more, but I think it would have buried my poor players under an avalanche of useless information, so I restrained myself. We play rather short games (about 2.5 hours per week), and so far there have been quite a few games with no fights in them, just role-playing and a bit of investigation. There have also been many moments where I was just presenting information to them, since there's so much to describe. They were passive during that time. It's been kind of a slow start, I am aware of that. But I think it's already starting to pay off, as they have a clear idea of the various characters involved in this complex story.
A slow start to build your world around the players is the way to go, as you have the luxury of weekly play sessions. Better than force feeding them info and events dropping out of the sky.
Congratulations for your coming out. You are now at peace with your belgian self! :)
Character background: Hipazia
(This was written by her player at the beginning of the campaign (before they fought Gaedren Lamm) and from Kaeso's point of view.)
How can I describe my mistress. It's been some time since I am at the service of the Leroung family and Hipazia's house in particular. The let's start with the beginning of the life of Hipazia, the Pearl of Korvosa.
Hipazia was born in a family of astronomers, mathematicians and philosophers, the gens Leroung (gens as in latin, meaning clan). Of course, some members also explored and studying the arcane art of magic, but all revered knowledge and the understanding of the nature and its rules. Her father, Tiago Leroung, also a renowned scholar, is mostly proficient in mathematics and astronomy and is highly placed in the University of Korvosa, one of the major learning centres on the continent and said to be containing more than 200,000 volumes. His work is mostly on the movement of planets and explores the discrepancies between the theoretical model of circular (the circle being the perfect form) revolutions of planets and his observations where the Sun appears closer at some period of the year, while at others it appears farther. The epicycle explains it, sort of, but still, he reckons the universe shouldn't be that complicated.
Hipazia showed interest in knowledge and experiments at a pretty young age, and despite the fact that she was a woman, she was granted education from the age of 6 along with the most brilliant minds of her age. There, under the teachings of various librarians, she was introduced to the different sciences, but soon it was also obvious that she was most proficient with magic. After her father deemed her education complete at the library, he managed to secure for her a place in the Theumanexus College to start her studies in magic. Hipazia told me she wasn't so comfortable with the teaching of the Acadamae. There, she was remarked for her keen intellect and her wisdom, mastering most of the magic school, but mainly in evocation.
When school wasn't too busy, Hipazia would also take time to teach at the library. New discoveries or experiments happened from time to time and were quickly shared so that others could reproduce and confirm the observations made.
Despite frequenting various intellectual salons in Korvosa, she mostly attended her father's salon, which became one of the most prized in all of Korvosa. It is there I met her for the first time so time ago. There, she gathered a small intellectual court, which I attended as a domestic, and comprised mostly of students she taught at the library, some fellow students and also some older people, but the whole gave the impression of a young, ascending intellectual elite. She was nicknamed the Pearl of Korvosa by the son of a nobleman, Lord Jeffrid Fordyce, the son of the former family I served. A perfect arse.
Of course, in a society tainted from a strong and somewhat open cult to Asmodeus, clashes between factions of the city happened. Officially, the Asmodean cult tolerated the university since it was so well renowned, at the same time they respected the place the University held, but at the same time, the librarians, as they called them, could pose a threat to them, since they were mostly freethinkers and would express their opinions and beliefs, resulting into positions incompatible with their beliefs of a society based on domination.
It is this freethinking and independent manner that caused her trouble with Gaedren Lamm. Jeffrid Fordyce, after nicknaming her the Pearl of Korvosa, had in mind to marry Hipazia. However, the matrimonial bond wasn't a future Hipazia was contemplating as she would become dependant of her husband and lose to some extent her freedom, most notably the ability to teach and speak her mind as she would be expected to give heir to the family and "take her place". I can tell that she would be parading with and for him, the outside to give the image of a perfect couple while on the inside she would have been extinguished long ago.
She declined and after this refusal Jeffrid vowed revenge against Hipazia who had the insolence of refusing him. Soon after, she had a heated exchange with a young student of the Acadamae who challenged her about the position of the Sun in the centre of Universe and some other arcane stuff relating to charms. She confessed it was a pity she didn't know explosive runes...
Officially, Hipazia killed that student after the testimony from an eyewitness, a fisherman who had a shop nearby. The fisherman was found dead and since the prosecutor couldn't find any eyewitness, Hipazia was freed, but the accusations were not completely removed. Now the truth I have gathered so far.
Lamm had his thugs kill the apprentice wizard and a local fisherman who had a shop nearby was "convinced" as an eyewitness that Hipazia stabbed the young man. I suspect the fisherman was killed either because he presented a liability (he could speak the truth) or his usefulness had stopped, since the damage was done and the rest didn't matter anymore.
As feared, this episode damaged the reputation of Hipazia, as it was unclear what were the real events and what part she played in them. Thus she was considered personna non grata in many salons and places as the murder of an Acadamae student was seen as a gesture of defiance against the established order. She was also thrown out of the Theumanexus College after receiving pressure from the more powerful Acadamae wizard school, with which relations were already tense enough. She was protected by friends, sheltered by her father and vowed to find out the truth and have the responsible brought to justice. The thing I am still wondering is why Lamm framed Hipazia. What was his interest.
That's where we are now. I unravelled the truth that it was Lamm all along (ooc, Kaeso ignore the part played by Jeffrid), now it is the time to find him and have him pay for his actions.
The end of the riots
The following days were the last ones of the riots, as pockets of protesters continued to oppose the city guards. One of those pockets was near the Ironworks in Old Korvosa, where the workers tried to push for the right to form a guild, something that was forbidden in Korvosa. Of course, the guard and even some civilians retaliated harshly against these “sollies”.
Kindrasius visited Vencarlo, whose academy was once again open. With the recent conflicts in the streets, the young aristocrats and sons of wealthy merchants took their fencing lessons much more seriously. Vencarlo admitted to Kindrasius that he was getting too old for this. He had been hoping that Dengaro would take over soon, but alas, fate had intervened. He commented somewhat bitterly that none of his students had ever worked out as he had hoped, either due to lack of talent or because of the path they chose in life after leaving his academy.
The young Shoanti also visited Thousand Bones several times. Now that he’d had the time to absorb what the old shaman had told him, he felt a desire to return to the Cinderlands and see his mother and the place where he had grown up. But that would be for later. Now, he still felt at home in Korvosa, and he was also intrigued by it now that Thousand Bones had hinted that their ancestors had once guarded something very important there.
Hipazia visited Lord Toff Ornelos and described to him her interaction with Esia and her subsequent investigation of her strange death, including Nicklod’s analysis of her blood sample. She presented another sample to the master of the Acadamae, who had no further information to give her other than to confirm that a cursory analysis seemed to corroborate Nicklod’s findings.
One of the last events of the riots was a confrontation that took place at the docks, where a large group of anarchic druids had been causing trouble, damaging ships and warehouses. One of the halfling-crewed ships of the Leroung family had, among others, been vandalized. Kaeso went to take a look there at the request of Lord Tiago Leroung. He wore a newly bought mithral shirt beneath his clothes: indeed, the recent adventures against Gaedren Lamm and Verik Vancaskerkin had been quite profitable.
Once he got there, the young man saw that some Korvosan Guards and Hellknights had gathered and were watching the druids, preparing for an attack. Sergeant Grau Soldado led the contingent of guards, and he asked Maralictor Zaren to hold his shock troops (among which was Manius) in check for a few minutes while he tried to parlay with the druids. Unfortunately, the talks went nowhere, and Grau had to withdraw when the two druid leaders shape-shifted into their battle forms and roared for their underlings to start the fight. A moment later, one of the druids got caught inside a translucent sphere of magic, and the other was transformed into a rabbit. Two previously invisible wizards had just appeared to lend the help of their magic to the Korvosan Guard.
The fight was quick and brutal. Manius charged into the fray and slew two of the druids and their animal companions as well: a clawed monstrosity and a giant frog. Kaeso helped two Korvosan guards kill another druid and his snake pet. Soon, all the druids had been slain. While the guards were securing the area after the battle, Kaeso took interest in the two mages. One was the corpulent master of Evocation called Togomor, and the other one was another Acadamae mage named Professor Karpangram, a man dressed in strange clothes with two ioun stones, one red and one green, floating around his head. Kaeso and Manius both recalled that Esia had mentioned that the first man she had seen when waking up had two such stones… It seemed hardly a coincidence.
As days passed, calm returned to Korvosa. Shops were open once again, and people were able to go about their business as they had done before King Eodred’s death. Old Korvosa’s theater, Exemplary Execrables, opened its doors again, and Kindrasius took part as a dancer in Pilts Swastel’s latest creation, “The Queen of the Abyss”, a play about seven female paladins traveling to the Abyss on a holy quest, and being subjected to sadistic and degrading treatment from various fiends, some played by actors, others illusions created by Pilts’s magic, others still giant puppets controlled by a mysterious monster lurking in the rafters of the old theater (which had once been a temple of the now defunct god Aroden).
The theater’s acts included gore-filled plays with fake tortures, murders and rapes, as well as other fabrications meant to horrify and sicken the audience. By far the most popular act, though, was the so-called “death play”, in which a masked performer gruesomely “murdered” a volunteer from the audience for all the rest to enjoy.
One of the most avid fans of Pilts’s work was the elven woman named Laori Vaus, who Kindrasius had met some months before. She was back in Korvosa now, and was often seen in the company of Kindrasius’s friend, the painter Salvator Scream.
Kaeso had been invited to visit the Exemplary Execrables, but he was used to being around aristocrats, who looked down on such vulgar performances. What’s more, his cousin Deyanira was one of the actresses in the Queen of the Abyss, and he had no desire to see her so mistreated. Instead, he went from time to time to the Marbledome, the most famous theater in Korvosa, where the nobility got much of its entertainment. One night, he decided to disguise himself to try and approach his beloved Ziria Fordyce, the daughter from the noble family who he had previously worked for. Unfortunately, he had left them on very bad terms, and they had no desire to see him anywhere near their dear Ziria anymore. Alas, Kaeso’s disguise was of poor quality, and Ziria’s brother Jeffrid recognized him easily. He had the guards throw the Leroungs’ servant out of the Marbledome.
Later that night, Kaeso went to forget this setback at a nearby tavern, where he met a very sad and very drunk Grau. The poor sergeant was drowning his sorrows with alcohol: indeed, his brother had been killed mere days ago, during the riots. Kaeso tried to cheer him up, and brought him to finish the night at a place where they would be taken care of by some very affectionate ladies.
During this period, some of the worst troublemakers of the riots were judged and sentenced by the arbiters of the city. The unluckiest ones came under the scrutiny of Lady Zenobia Zenderholm, the “hanging judge”. One of the unfortunates to be condemned to death by her was Baldrago, the deserter that the group had captured at All the World’s Meat. Verik’s fate wasn’t made public, but it seemed he wasn’t sent to the gallows, at least.
Manius also learned that a Korvosan Guard officer had been assassinated in Citadel Volshyenek. Field Marshal Kroft was puzzled and worried by this: whoever had done such a daring assassination must be very skilled and dangerous indeed. She wasn’t sure about the motive; her only guess was that it might have been racially motivated, as that officer had been the highest-ranking guard of Varisian descent.
On a more pleasant note, a ball took place at the manor of the Carowyn family, who were friends of the Leroungs. Hipazia and Kaeso attended, and Kaeso was able to (once again under a disguise, a better one this time) secure some private time with Ziria, speaking together and kissing in the manor’s garden. There were many prestigious guests at the ball, but the most notable of those was of course Queen Ileosa herself, who dazzled everyone with her grace, charm and beauty. Now that she’d had time to properly mourn the death of her beloved husband, she seemed more radiant than ever, surely the kind of monarch that could successfully lead Korvosa to a new era of previously unmatched prosperity.
The Traveling Man
On an Oathday, around noon, Kindrasius had lunch with his friends Kaeso and Salvator. The painter was impressed with the tales of battle he heard from Kindrasius and Kaeso. He had never lived anything like that, but these stories, as well as what he had observed during the recent riots, had given him a great source of inspiration for his typically sinister and violent paintings. He also said that Laori was also encouraging him to paint more, and to try to outdo himself. Salvator did not reveal much about his relationship with the strange elf, but Kindrasius got the impression that Salvator was both attracted to and repulsed by her; that there was both love and fear in his heart when he thought about her.
They were soon joined by Pilts Swastel, who was thrilled by the recent success of the Queen of the Abyss. Kindrasius introduced Kaeso to Pilts and to Jabbyr, the mute and deranged little gnome servant/bodyguard/pet who followed him everywhere. While the men were joking and sharing stories, they were interrupted by a sudden rumble, followed by screams. There was an explosion of stones as something burst out of the nearby sewers, causing the street’s crowd to flee, panicked, in all directions.
“Finally! It finally happened!” exclaimed Salvator as he got to his feet in excitement. “We’re finally going to see the Otyughs in action! I told you it was worth it to come to this place on Oathdays, Kindrasius!”
Indeed, three bulbous and filthy aberrations emerged from the manhole through which a pair of Korvosan guards had been dropping meat. They had thick tentacles, massive legs and gaping maws filled with yellowed teeth. A guard screamed as one of the Otyughs grappled him in its tentacles, soon to swallow him.
Kindrasius and Kaeso sprang into action and began shooting arrows at the monsters. Some shady thugs who had been in the area also joined the fight. Jabbyr began shaking violently and screaming incoherently, and then he rushed the nearest Otyugh, his axe held high above his head. Unfortunately, as he approached, the monster grasped him in a tentacle and began to squeeze. Jabbyr seemed to ignore the pain and bit the filthy tentacle, filled with rage as he was.
Meanwhile, Pilts recited a few lines of a well-known tale, bringing courage to those who dared to fight the abominations. He also waved his cane toward the enemies, and it became clear that the item was in fact a magical rod. With a burst of golden light, a great rhinoceros appeared and gored one of the Otyughs, slaying the creature in a few moments of utmost brutality. With another wave of his rod, Pilts caused a great explosion of fire to engulf the remaining Otyughs. It killed the monsters, which had already been weakened by Kindrasius and Kaeso’s arrows, as well as one of the unfortunate guards. Jabbyr emerged from the conflagration mostly unharmed. It seemed that the little being was tougher than he looked.
Recent rumors around Korvosa:
- Nobody knows the true gender of "Pat", the ambiguous owner of the Fair-Fished Baitshop in Midland.
- Some people in Korvosa look down on adventurers, citing that all groups hired in 4661 by King Chadris to kill the red dragon Glarataxus (who was terrorizing the villages of Palin's Cove and Baslwief) failed. The last time the dragon attacked was in 4674 (34 years ago).
- King Eodred was killed by the curse of the Crimson Throne, and it's only a matter of time before his pretty wife shares his fate...
Oathday, Gozran 4th, 4708
The Ambassador’s Secret
On an Oathday afternoon, the five companions were once again brought together in the Field Marshal’s office. Cressida Kroft had asked her friend Manius to gather the group for a delicate mission that she preferred to be handled outside of her usual pool of resources. Standing near the red-armored officer was the blade master Vencarlo Orisini, who was apparently also an ally of hers. Just like Manius and Pontia of the Hellknights, he had performed some investigation that had allowed the Field Marshal to put into motion a plan to stop the nefarious schemes of the Chelaxian Ambassador.
Vencarlo was pleased to see Manius and Kindrasius again, and he bowed deeply before Hipazia and Zeeva, gallantly kissing their hands and engaging in pleasant small talk. It was apparent that he was a gentleman as well as a warrior.
“As much as I would enjoy continuing the conversation,” interjected the ever-efficient Field Marshall, “I fear we just don’t have time. Vencarlo and Manius have often come to me with news of important changes on the streets, and this is no different—indeed, what they’ve learned could degrade into sanctions, embargos, or even war against Cheliax if we don’t act now. This problem is a man named Darvayne Gios Amprei. You might have heard of him—he’s an ambassador from Cheliax whose disdain for Korvosa is well documented, and yet he’s taken great pleasure in what our city has to offer. Even before this recent unrest, this man was ready to recommend to his government a sanction on trade, or perhaps even an embargo. Vencarlo and Manius have learned through their own considerable sources that Ambassador Amprei’s actual goals are to undermine Korvosa’s economy to the point where he can buy up large portions of the city from desperate landholders and establish himself in a position of power here. Whatever the ambassador’s reasons, we can’t let his bias or personal plans hurt Korvosa. Yet neither can we take drastic action—not only would killing him be wrong, but it’d simply martyr him in Cheliax’s eyes.
“Fortunately, Darvayne has his foibles. Recently, Vencarlo has learned that Ambassador Amprei has been making fairly regular visits to a place in Old Korvosa called Eel’s End. This den of vice is run by a dangerous man named Devargo Barvasi, better known in Korvosa’s alleys as the King of Spiders. I’d love to put Barvasi out of business, but he pays his vice taxes regularly and never causes any problems—in fact, since he keeps his business constrained entirely within the five ships moored at Eel’s End, he’s actually one of the least of my worries. Truth be told, I can’t decide whether Devargo is a stirge or a kraken. He seems like a bloodsucking pest most days, but sometimes I fear just how far his tentacles have wormed their way into our great city. In this case though, his insidious web stretching across Korvosa’s underworld might prove to our advantage.
“Devargo would never let someone he recognizes as an ally of the Guard into Eel’s End, but your group’s a different case. I’d like you to pay a visit to Eel’s End and secure an audience with Devargo. Find out what he knows about Amprei, get proof of any illicit goings-on the ambassador might be involved with, and bring that proof to me to use to undermine any forthcoming attempts by him to get Cheliax to cut us off. Devargo might not be willing to part with his information easily. I’ll supply you with some gold to bribe him, and whatever’s left over you can keep for yourself. Remember: the man is dangerous, but so are you—if things get violent, I wouldn’t mourn his passing.”
Field Marshal Kroft handed several leather pouches to the group members, for a total sum of a thousand gold pieces. She also presented a sturdy old breastplate to Manius, which she advised him to wear instead of his own for this mission: indeed, surely he would put Devargo on the defensive if he was recognized as a Hellknight. Wearing this battered breastplate, Manius looked like just another dangerous mercenary.
Vencarlo escorted the companions all the way to Old Korvosa. He was a tall man of advanced years, yet with a twinkle in his eye and a bounce to his step that hinted at a vibrancy and inner fire of a man under half his age. His eyes were a cast of deep green like the ocean after a storm. He was of Old Chelish blood, and it showed. Orisini wore black leather gloves to ensure the oils of his skin didn’t rust the pommel of his shining steel rapier; this beautiful weapon was his pride, and he spoke of it in tones normally reserved for a loved one. Despite the age difference, Zeeva felt her heart beat very fast when the noble blade master addressed her, and she wondered if there was a lucky lady somewhere to whom Vencarlo ever spoke as softly as he spoke of his rapier.
During the discussion, the companions learned that Vencarlo had taught a number of skilled students over the years, including Grau Soldado of the Korvosan Guard and Sabina Merrin, the queen’s bodyguard. He seemed quite uncomfortable talking about either of these former students. When Kaeso jokingly mentioned a rumor concerning Sabina’s role as the queen’s lover, a flash of anger appeared in Vencarlo’s eyes, but thankfully, it soon disappeared behind a veil of civility, and the experienced swordsman did not thrash the indelicate young man for this lack of respect.
Once the group reached Old Korvosa, Vencarlo bade them good luck and headed toward his academy. Kindrasius led the group toward Eel’s End, for he was the most familiar with this part of town. In fact, he had been to Eel’s End on a few occasions for his own entertainment. The place consisted of five ships moored to a long pier. Although they were likely no longer seaworthy, they looked stable enough where they were, and they were decorated with bright colors. Glowing lanterns in the shape of dream spiders and god’s eyes hung from pilings and lampposts, flickering in the gathering twilight of the early evening. The sound of carousing boomed from the pier and ships. Large signs painted in several languages hung from ropes slung between ships, identifying them as the Goldenhawk, the House of Clouds, the Dragon’s Breath Corridor and the Twin Tigers. Sailors, thugs, drunkards, prostitutes, and even a few well-dressed nobles caroused on the pier and the decks of the four nearest ships, seemingly oblivious to Korvosa’s recent troubles. Here and there, large men dressed in chainmail patrolled the area, grim faces in a sea of revelry. Only the furthest and largest ship was unmarked and was kept off-limits to customers. Kindrasius knew that this ship was Devargo’s: it was called Eel’s End.
The companions split up into three groups and agreed to meet again in one hour. Manius and Hipazia headed to the Twin Tigers, a gambling den. They decided to sit at a table where games of Towers were played with Harrow cards. Also sitting at this table were Lord Gorndel Fordyce (the father of Jeffrid and Ziria), a suspicious-looking individual named Corb Meever, as well as Pilts Swastel, the owner of Exemplary Execrables, who was of course accompanied by his butler/guardian/companion Jabbyr.
Neither Hipazia nor Manius had any skill at gambling, so they mostly lost money to the more experienced players. Pilts didn’t have much luck or talent either, and lost money just as they did. In fact, Lord Fordyce consistently won hand after hand: he was clearly a very shrewd player. Manius chatted with him and learned that Ambassador Amprei came here once in a while, but that he was certainly not a gambling addict, nor did he have any outstanding debts. Rather, he seemed to frequent the gambling den simply to socialize. Despite their losses, the two companions had a lot of fun playing, and only reluctantly left the table when it came time to regroup with the others. Thankfully, at last, Manius got some excellent cards, and won the last game.
Kindrasius and Zeeva visited the Goldenhawk, an inn. A chat with the owner, a lisping gnome named Tuggins, informed them that Ambassador Amprei had never stayed at this inn, but that he had been seen at Eel’s End every few weeks. The two companions then visited the Dragon’s Breath Corridor, a drug den, but didn’t learn anything of interest. Nevertheless, Kindrasius bought some Cabble-weed, a sedative that might be useful at some later time.
Kaeso had chosen to visit the local brothel: the House of Clouds. He was received by a gorgeous half-elven woman with long raven-black hair; her name was Halvara and she was the madam of this place. She showed Kaeso the members of her staff, and the young rogue ended up in bed with a beautiful red-haired girl named Anarella. They spent an hour together, and in addition to the lovemaking, Kaeso questioned her about the ambassador, learning that he never came to the House of Clouds, but that he visited Eel’s End every few weeks, and that apparently, Devargo had something in Eel’s End that he used to blackmail Amprei. Kaeso also learned that Pilts Swastel was a frequent customer of this brothel, and that Anarella had the dubious honor of being his “favorite”. She also dropped some hints about his preferences that made Kaeso much less eager to get his hands on Pilts’s rod of wonder than he had been earlier. Anarella also revealed that Halvara herself only served the wealthiest clients, as she charged a hundred gold sails for fifteen minutes of her time; the only person who did not have to pay this exorbitant price was her master and lover, Devargo himself.
A bargain with Devargo
After one hour of entertainment and investigation at Eel’s End, the companions regrouped on the pier between the ships; they shared the information they had gathered. It seemed clear that the next step for them was to go on the largest ship for an audience with Devargo, but the group argued about what to do after that. Kindrasius was of the opinion that they should kill Devargo. Manius and Hipazia were opposed to it, since he was only a relatively harmless criminal: he wasn’t hurting anyone with his vice business, for which he even paid taxes to the city. Kaeso and Zeeva felt ambivalent about this. Kindrasius and Hipazia knew that Devargo was rumoured to possess a mysterious power over spiders, which he could use to poison his enemies. He had also inherited Eel’s End in a dubious manner, but such things were common among thieves.
With the issue of Devargo’s fate still unresolved, the group approached his ship. Two large mercenaries stood guard at its entrance, barring the way for the companions. They claimed that Devargo was busy, and the men of the group were unable to convince them to let them through. Hipazia and Zeeva had better luck, but the guards wanted to spend some “private time” with them at the Goldenhawk in exchange. Zeeva was outraged at this proposal, and even more outraged that Hipazia seemed to be considering accepting their offer! In the end, Kindrasius was able to bribe the two guards, who led the group inside the ship.
The walls of the large captain’s cabin were covered with spider webs, and a multitude of foul arachnids skittered over every surface. Zeeva shivered in disgust at the sight of this vermin. Devargo, a man with short dark hair and who wore a black leather armor adorned with chains in a web pattern, sat on some kind of throne on a platform opposite the door. On either side of the characters, six thugs sat at tables: it seemed that the adventurers had interrupted their dinner. Hanging from the ceiling was an old iron cage which contained a sad-looking pseudodragon.
Devargo raised an eyebrow and demanded to know what the group was doing on his ship. Kindrasius, Kaeso and Zeeva explained to him that they knew about his interactions with Ambassador Amprei and that they wanted to get such an advantage on him. Kaeso was the most convincing of all, and Devargo eventually admitted that he had some compromising letters describing the affair that Amprei was having with Lady Verania Tvastiox, the wife of Agmanar Thrune, a powerful conjuror and a cousin of the Queen of Cheliax. Lady Verania and her husband resided in the Chelaxian capital of Egorian, and if Lord Agmanar learned about the affair, Amprei would surely suffer an extremely unpleasant fate. Indeed, Hipazia knew that Agmanar Thrune was reputed to be an extremely powerful wizard.
Kaeso arranged for a bribe of 450 gold sails to convince Devargo to give them the last two letters he had. While Devargo went to the lower level of Eel’s end to get them, the companions all heard a small, pitiful voice pleading with them telepathically; however, only Hipazia and Kindrasius understood the Draconic language it spoke. It was the pseudodragon, a creature named Majenko, who begged the heroes to free him from the cage. He claimed that Devargo was very mean to him, and forced him to fight giant spiders. Unfortunately, the companions weren’t willing to compromise the mission now that they were so close to success, so they told the dragon they might try to help at a later time.
Devargo returned with the letters, and exchanged them for Kaeso’s gold. The companions read them, and saw that they were most racy and thorough in describing the carnal adventures of Ambassador Amprei and Lady Verania Tvastiox. It was exactly what they had been looking for.
The companions returned to Citadel Volshyenek late in the evening. Field Marshal Kroft was very pleased with their success. She blushed slightly when she read the letters and confirmed that they were exactly what she needed to keep the ambassador in line. She paid the group an extra 500 gold sails for their good work.
However, Kindrasius was left unsatisfied. He saw Devargo Barvasi as a parasite for Korvosa, something that must be eliminated, and he was shocked that even the Field Marshall didn’t seem especially adamant to see this menace taken care of. It seemed that Devargo was very low on her list of priorities. Cressida didn’t seem moved either by Majenko’s desperate pleas for help; with a shrug, she pointed out that pseudodragons were quite numerous in the area and that they usually caused nearly as much trouble for the city as their imp enemies.
The group parted ways. Hipazia and Zeeva returned to their homes, but Kaeso and Manius headed back to Eel’s End; more specifically, to the House of Clouds. Young Kaeso had lauded the beauty and competence of the establishment’s staff to the large Hellknight, and when they returned, Manius secured the services of a small, innocent-looking prostitute named Fifi. But she was in fact not innocent at all, as he soon discovered once they were alone. As for Kaeso, he used a large part of his share of the last mission’s reward to pay for twenty minutes of entertainment in the company of none other than madam Halvara herself. It cost him a hundred gold sails, but it was well worth it, as she was indeed masterfully skilled in her profession.
Meanwhile, Kindrasius was having a much less pleasant night. He fumed at the lack of support he had received from his companions. He now prowled the shadowy streets of Old Korvosa, looking for a fight or perhaps the chance to help someone. The occasion soon presented itself: he heard a feminine voice crying out for help and found an unfortunate woman being preyed upon by four uncouth thugs. Kindrasius shot one of them with his bow, and then fought the others in melee. He was able to subdue one of them, but was about to get beaten by the other two when one of his enemies suddenly fell to the ground, a dagger planted in his back. The other one raised his eyes in dismay and suddenly cried out in pain as another thrown dagger pierced his hand, forcing him to drop his own blade.
“Damn you, Blackjack!” he exclaimed before fleeing in the night.
Kindrasius, panting and bleeding, looked up and saw the shadowy shape of the legendary hero watching him from the top of a nearby wall. Blackjack nimbly jumped down and praised Kindrasius for his bravery. Both men made sure that the woman was unharmed; she thanked them and hurried home.
Blackjack and Kindrasius spoke for a few minutes. Kindrasius related his recent experiences with his group and their refusal to attack Devargo. Blackjack seemed impressed with Kindrasius’s bravery and desire to do good. He said that for a long time, he had been the lonely hero defending the poor in Korvosa, but that perhaps now, in this period of great unrest and uncertainty, the time had come when the city would need more than just one hero. It seemed that he had already seen Kindrasius around, for he knew that he had sheltered some children in Old Korvosa and that he was partly responsible for Gaedren Lamm’s death; indeed, Blackjack stated that the treacherous old dog had evaded even his own justice. The two men parted ways amicably, and Kindrasius felt confident that he would see the masked hero again in the future, perhaps to fight by his side.
Unfortunately, once Blackjack was gone, the pain from Kindrasius’s multiple wounds returned, and the Shoanti found himself in need of a healer. He made the journey to the southern Heights district and found Zeeva’s old gothic mansion. A dwarven servant, Heldrin Blackbarrel, answered his knock at the door. Despite the late hour, Kindrasius was allowed inside. Zeeva soon joined him in the living room, as did the two former Lamm’s lambs, Saroko and Mouse (who had recovered from his illness).
Zeeva healed Kindrasius and showed him her house, which was quite large and had several empty bedrooms: clearly, the Foxglove family had once been much more numerous in Korvosa. Kindrasius caught glimpses of some of them on portraits hanging from the walls: Traver and Cyralie, Zeeva parents; “uncle” Nelkren and Zeeva’s sister Sendeli (now living in Absalom). There was even an old portrait of a sinister-looking gentleman by the name of Vorel Foxglove… In addition to these portraits, Kindrasius was surprised and amused to see several paintings made by his friend Salvator Scream. It seemed that Zeeva had a taste for the macabre.