In the eastern lowlands of Varisia, the city of Korvosa is by far the largest settlement. The city has proudly clung to the traditions of its Chelish founders, but those traditions were challenged recently when Queen Ileosa Arabasti gained control after the sudden death of her husband. At first, the people of Korvosa worried that she was ill-equipped to rule, but soon they learned quite the opposite: Ileosa was filled with ambition equaled only by her cruelty, and she proved to be a deadly tyrant indeed. Her rule was relatively short and ended violently, but her time in control has changed Korvosa forever. Thousands died during her regime—many to the ravages of a disease known as blood veil, a disease Ileosa helped to spread—and her one-time guards, the Gray Maidens, fractured into competing mercenary bands after her defeat.
Fourteen years have passed since Ileosa's defeat, but the city of Korvosa still fears the evil tyrant's legacy. And now, a need for new heroes arises...
Shadows at Sundown
Part 1: Death Walks the Streets
The citizens of Korvosa have been reeling the past few days. Two weeks ago, phantasmal visions of the dead queen Ileosa began appearing around the city, causing rumors to spread of the evil queen's imminent return from death. On top of that, only four days ago, Keppira d'Bear, Korvosa's bishop of Pharasma, passed away. As the city gears up for a grand funeral ceremony, and as manifestations of Ileosa’s “ghost” continue to appear, the citizens edge toward panic.
Each of you has received a summons from Queen Nicoleta Radacan, inviting you to Castle Korvosa to address the alarming mystery and growing fear. The missive makes it clear that she is aware of your reputations and intends to generously reward your assistance in your choice of coin or magic.
Castle Korvosa’s long shadow looms over the city as a terrifying testament to the power of whatever mighty overlord ruled this land thousands of years ago. A magnificent achievement of architecture, the castle walls and spires rise high into the sky above. The entire structure looms even higher because of its ancient foundation—a Thassilonian monument in the shape of an immense flat-topped pyramid. Although one corner of this impressive foundation has fallen into ruin, the additions built onto the sides by eager and talented Korvosan masons have created one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Varisia.
You approach the castle from a broad ramp, reaching a public courtyard. There, you wait for your turn to speak to the guards and inform them of your appointment with the queen..
Dewdrop gazes over the others assembled in the inspection line, trying to determine whether any of them are here for the same reason that she is.
A mystery is always intriguing and a nice distraction from the daily drudgery of teaching bored students the fundamentals of the fey world. She would so love to be teaching it at the upper division level; To have a class of minds that were genuinely curious and interested in the incredibly diverse variety of ...
She quickly moves to avoid being stepped on by an oblivious petitioner with the air of a dockworker. "Sorry, Luv. Didn't see ya there," he says by way of an apology. She buzzes up into the air in front of his face and lowers her glasses to give him a glare proven to wilt any freshman. "You should be more aware of your surroundings," she declares in a stern voice. "Not everyone is as huge and lumbering as you are." She considers adding a little magic to teach a lesson, but decides against it. She might be able to get away with it occasionally in her classroom, but out here? Probably not. The man holds up his hands in a placating gesture and Dewdrop turns from him and settles back down to the ground, tapping her staff in annoyance on the flagstones.
Hopefully he's not here for the same reason she is. A mystery to solve and at the behest of the queen, herself. The prestige this generates might be enough to sway the tenure board. She was vaguely aware of the rumors surrounding the queen; her proclivity for outbursts and physical displays were well known, but she seemed to be keeping order in the great city and that wasn't an easy task.
Dewdrop looked around again. Surely she wasn't the only one called to this task, so she set it as her current goal to determine who would be her fellow investigators.
Towering over most of the crowd is a massive, golden-scaled figure with a lizards head and a muzzle of obviously sharp teeth. Turning around at the commotion behind him the lizardman steps back in the line and the dockworker finds someone towering over him just as he towered over Dewdrop.
"Isss there a problem?" The lizardman asks, a sibilant lisp in his words. "Can I offer you ssssome asssitansss Miss?"
"N-no! No problem at all!" the dockworker says. He gulps audibly and scrambles away from the towering lizardman.
Across the plaza, a woman saunters confidently through the crowd, leaving people murmuring in her wake. Her immaculate red and gold robes expose a lot of skin--most of her toned arms, legs, and midriff are bare. The hood of her cloak is drawn up over her head, but occasional glimpses of a beautiful face can be seen in the shadows--dark black hair, sparkling amber eyes, and full, sensuous lips. She is tall, slender, and curvy, and even though she is not deliberately trying to draw attention to herself, her passage inevitably causes heads to turn. She glances at the draxie and the iruxi and gives them an enigmatic smile.
A learned sprite like Dewdrop certainly recognizes the spitting image of Queen Sorshen of New Thassilon! But this couldn't possibly be the real former runelord. Could it?
"Thank you, good sir," Dewdrop replies, her gaze climbing higher and higher until she reaches the figure's face. "Things are well in hand, but I offer my gratitude for the offer."
She returns to examining the crowd until she spies the robed woman making her way through the gathered figures. As a well-learned sprite, she does, in fact, recognize the woman's visage. With a quick gesture, she surreptitiously examines the woman's aura for traces of a magical disguise. Her tiny brow furrows at finding none. The level of magic emanating from the queen-lookalike wasn't as strong as would be assumed from a reputed runelord, though. Her analytical mind begins processing through the remaining possibilities and settles on a couple of the most probable before turning back to watch the progress of the queue.
The iruxi meanwhile watches the woman approach and the stir she causes with a blank expression - it is unclear whether they understand exactly what the reason is, since neither of its large hands reaches towards the huge axe strapped over its back.
Once your turn in the queue comes up, a pair of guards checks your names on a list. "Ah. The queen is expecting the three of you! This way," one says, and the pair ushers the draxie, the iruxi, and the beautiful woman into the castle. They lead you not to the throne room, though, but to a spacious, well-lit room anchored by a broad, polished, round table. A detailed map of Korvosa spreads across the table with tidy stacks of documents collected along the edges.
Queen Nicoleta stands beside the table. Tall and lean, the queen's dusky olive skin is flawless and has an unearthly quality to it. Her chestnut-colored hair is cut short, and she wears a crimson and gold dress as well as a ruby-studded crown.
"Professor Rosethorn. Edric. Sister Tomovici. Thank you for coming. Please, have a seat," she says, gesturing to the chairs that surround the table. One of the chairs has enough pillows stacked upon that Dewdrop can sit and still see the table.
"The situation is a bit delicate, and it’s come at an inopportune time. I’m sure you’re familiar with the legacy of the city’s previous ruler, Ileosa. Well, recently, an alarming number of sightings of her ghost—or specter, or phantom—have been reported throughout the city. Old fears and hatreds linger, and these rumors are stirring them all back up. At first, we thought it was a student prank or the ravings of a drunk that grew out of control, but the most recent manifestation appeared here in Castle Korvosa.
“Normally, I’d look to the church of Pharasma for help in a situation like this. But since we just lost Bishop Keppira a few days ago, the church has its hands full planning today’s funeral procession as an event worthy of her memory. So, here we are. Will you investigate these disruptions and track down their source? You will, of course, be well compensated for your services.”
"Issss thissss linked to Kazavaron?" 'Edric' rumbles. He hasn't bothered to sit down since its clear that his massive frame would ravage any of the chairs, and besides where would his tail go? "I will help regardlesss, but it isss important."
The Sorshen look-alike doffs her hood before sitting at the table. She listens to the queen's pitch, then affects a bow. "It would be my honor to help solve this problem for you, Your Highness. You can count me in."
She turns to the other two beside her. "It seems that we will be working together for the foreseeable future. I am Remy Tomovici. Yes, I know I look exactly like Runelord Sorshen. It's a long story, and one that I've had to tell quite a lot. I promise I will explain later," she says with a smirk.
Sitting crosslegged on the pillows stacked on her chair, Dewdrop rises a tiny hand. "If we're not ruling anything out at this point, do we have any other clues to go on? Someplace to start?"
Queen Nicoleta nods. "Yes. The queen's spirit has manifested four times so far. The first appearance took place two weeks ago in Kendall Plaza during the Crimson Festival, an annual event celebrating Queen Ileosa’s downfall. An Acadamae student took responsibility for this manifestation, claiming it was a joke in poor taste. Given the other sightings since then, though, I doubt the student’s claim and can’t help but wonder why he made the confession if, indeed, it was false.
"The second credible sighting occurred on the Jeggare Bridge to Old Korvosa seven days ago—a site where Ileosa’s Gray Maidens maintained a guard post once the northern island’s other bridges were burned during the previous queen’s rule.
"The third report of Ileosa’s ghost took place five days ago in Longacre Building, Korvosa’s courthouse and jail, and the building Ileosa turned over as a headquarters for her Gray Maidens.
"The most recent appearance occurred in the throne room in Castle Korvosa only two days ago. A ghostly image of the dead queen appeared on the Crimson Throne itself as writing in blood manifested on the walls. We've been avoiding that chamber ever since.
"I'm willing to offer you each 1,000 gp up front to cover any preparations you need to make. I'll give you an additional 1,500 gp if you can find the source of the manifestations, or 3,000 gp if you also successfully eliminate it!"
Edric's scaled head inclines slowly in a reasonable impression of a nod.
"Very well. We will find the source of the threat and destroy it." He says simply, before turning slowly to look at the sprite and the clone. "We should start with the throne room, if you will permit that, Queen Nicoleta?"
"Of course," Queen Nicoleta says. "I'll also give you a royal writ, explaining you have my authority to investigate all matters related to Queen Ileosa and her supposed ghost sightings. You might not want to use it if you want to keep a low profile, but it could open some doors if necessary."
The imposing monarch leads you into the castle's throne room. The throne room is designed to command attention. The stone walls bear mosaics, frescos, and hanging tapestries of silk and gold thread, while stained glass panels depict monarchs of the city’s history. In the eastern corner stands a great stone fireplace in the shape of a huge, ancient tree, though no fire burns amid the stone tree’s roots. The focus of the room is an ornate iron throne standing on a low dais at the far end of the room, bedecked with crimson velvet silks and cushions, though the throne looks a bit dusty and the cushions appear unused.
Queen Nicoleta can describe the scene that transpired here. Queen Ileosa’s ghost appeared two hours after sundown, sitting on the long-unused Crimson Throne, and gestured forward as though ordering her Gray Maidens to attack. During the apparition, bloody text appeared on the room’s walls, and agonizing pain and overwhelming fear wracked the body of the guard who was on duty that night. The ghost and bloody writing faded quickly, and the nervous guard’s description of the writing makes it seem as if the text was written in Infernal. The guard couldn’t read the writing, so its message is unknown. Not only was this the most recent of Ileosa’s manifestations, but it’s the first one where a witness reports suffering agony from it, suggesting to Nicoleta that the power of these events is increasing.
Since the manifestation, no one has returned to the throne room. The chamber feels abandoned, but there are no particular feelings of menace or oppression one might expect.
Perception: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (2) + 15 = 17
Remy investigates the throne room, but aside from a few fat red spiders that scuttle from the throne when she moves the cushions, she doesn't find anything. She turns to Dewdrop. "Maybe your magic might help find some clues here that I'm missing?"
"Yes," Dewdrop replies with a nod. "We should investigate this methodically."
She begins with the wall where the reported writing appeared. First, with a minor cantrip and then following up with a much more powerful spell. She studies the surface through her glasses and then lowers them as she moves closer. Her examination then moves on to the throne itself and eventually the rest of the room.
detect magic, true seeing, That's Odd
Dewdrop immediately gets a suspicious feeling about the walls. Detect magic doesn't reveal anything, but with true seeing, the draxie can see words in Infernal adorning the walls of the throne room. Queen Nicoleta calls for a translator, and Dewdrop reads portions of the text aloud. The translator is able to recognize the language fragments as likely coming from a diabolic contract.
"Queen Ileosa had signed an infernal contract to gain diabolic power," Queen Nicoleta says. "There was a copy of that contract preserved at Longacre building, but I believe it was recently stolen. It might be worth following up on that."
"We will set about that task immediately, Your Majesty," Dewdrop says with a tiny bow.
As the group makes their ways towards the Arbiter's Hall, Dewdrop speaks to her fellow investigators. "I must admit that I'm a little apprehensive. I've never been to the Longacre building. I've had no interest in criminals or watching people being executed. I teach fey and occult studies at The Acadamae. Do either of you have any working theories yet?"
"If it is indeed Ileosa's actual ghost, and not just a red herring trying to draw us off the scent of what's really going on," Remy says. She shrugs and smirks. "Whoever's behind this, I'm sure we'll be give them a proper thrashing once we track them down!"
As you leave the castle and start making your way towards Longacre Building, your progress is impeded by the funeral procession for Bishop Keppira d'Bear. Since the whole of Korvosa benefited from the bishop’s good works—not least of which were her efforts during the blood veil plague—throngs of citizens, regardless of faith, attend the procession through every major neighborhood in Korvosa. The procession will eventually return to the cathedral of Pharasma, where the body will lie in honor for viewing.
The procession is a somber affair. A half-dozen Pharasmin priests dressed in dark mourning vestments and veils that leave no flesh exposed pull an elaborate open carriage bearing the bishop’s casket. Following the priests is a contingent of vocal mourners from a variety of organizations across the city: representatives of other faiths, officers from the city guard and the Sable Company, high-ranking courtiers and envoys, leaders of various city factions, and a pair of heavily armored Hellknights of the Nail. Behind them trails a long crowd of citizens, from wealthy merchants and well-dressed nobles to destitute folk dressed in rags. The procession is expected to last from sunrise to sunset.
The mourners are eager to reminisce about the bishop, and to spread rumors about recent events. As such, you may spend two hours while attending the procession and attempt a Gather Information check.
Dewdrop watches the saurian for a moment before shaking her tiny head. "You have to actually ... oh nevermind," she says before flitting away through the crowd to see what those attending might know of the recent manifestations.
Gather Information - Diplomacy: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (12) + 20 = 32
Remy hangs back, letting her companions try to gather rumors. While Edric overhears wild stories of invisible farting faeries and surface elves that can change into drow and back on a whim, Dewdrop is able to learn one of the rumors swirling about the city right now:
"Queen Ileosa escaped Hell, and she’s come back to Korvosa as a ghost, but I heard someone from the Acadamae say what we really have to worry about are the devils that’ll come looking for her!”
Leaving the procession behind, you travel the rest of the way to Longacre Building. The building is an imposing edifice along the main road in the North Point neighborhood. It serves as both a jail and a courthouse, and most official city records are stored here. Two dour-looking city guards stand at the entrance, preventing unauthorized personnel from gaining access.
You can persuade the two city guards at the entrance to assist in your investigation with a successful DC 28 Diplomacy or Deception check, or by presenting the queen’s writ.
The write quickly convinces the guards to assist you. When asked about Ileosa’s infernal contract, the guards awkwardly explain that this particular document and several others were stolen recently. Longacre archivists compiled a record of the stolen materials. Most of the texts dealt with Infernal law and contracts, and included Ileosa’s infernal contract with a devil named Sermignatto. The archivists tell you there’s a reward of 2,500 gp for the stolen documents.
They can inform you about the contract’s contents, revealing it granted Ileosa substantial infernal power by binding a heretical devil to her soul, under the stipulation that in time, her actions would drag the entire city of Korvosa to Hell. While the contract was between Ileosa and Sermignatto, a mysterious passage near the end of the contract implied the presence of a mysterious backer behind the contract. Only Ileosa and Sermignatto knew this backer’s identity; speculation about the backer is so widespread that no additional significant clues about it can be deduced. Even among the archivists in Longacre, debates about the nature of this backer bear no workable clues.
When asked about the haunting that occurred here, the guards admit one of the researchers reported such an occurrence in the stacks. Ileosa’s ghost appeared late one night among the collection of documents that kept details of her reign. Only one clerk saw the event: Bika Hoffinbritter, a middle-aged gnome woman tasked with examining the documents to see if any needed restoration or additional preservation. Bika gives you a very detailed accounting of the ghost's manifestation, though in and of itself, it doesn't provide any real leads as to what may have caused it.
Alice Bika, menstruating right now?'
Dewdrop desires to examine the location of the manifestation, using her magic to detect for any residual energies.
"The obvious lead would be to try to determine who this unknown third party is or was in the contract," she says, tapping her lip with her fingers as she contemplates the puzzle set before them. "However, since we don't know anything about them, the next best source of information would be Sermignatto, themselves." She grins. "Anyone have any infernal contacts?" she asks.
Dewdrop doesn't notice anything particularly unusual in this building.
Remy smirks at the sprite and shakes her head. "Sorry, fresh out of contracts. Maybe the other sites of the haunting will provide more clues?"
"Well if we run across this particular one in our investigations, let's refrain from exactly a lethal sentence until we can at least attempt to ask it some questions, Mmm?" the sprite says with a grin.
"I agree, though. We should examine the other sites of the haunting. Shall we make way to the Jeggare Bridge?"
It's framed as a question, but the sorceress seems accustomed to others following her instructions and immediately heads out in the direction of Old Korvosa, fully expecting the others to follow.
The island of Old Korvosa is separated from the main city by a canal called the Narrows. During the height of the blood veil plague, numerous wooden bridges over the Narrows were burned to quarantine Old Korvosa, leaving the stone Jeggare Bridge as the only connection to the mainland. Most of the wooded bridges were rebuilt, but Jeggare Bridge remains culturally significant: During Ileosa’s reign, this bridge was blockaded and guarded by Ileosa’s Gray Maidens to further isolate the island. Large sections of the island were destroyed during Ileosa’s reign, but since her downfall, Old Korvosa has been on a slow mend. Today, significant portions of the island have been rebuilt by a colorful community of Varisians, Shoanti, and others looking to embrace the rich diversity of Korvosa’s culture—helped in part by Queen Nicoleta's decision to grant significant portions of the neighborhood to the Sklar-Quah who once called the land here home.
Dewdrop Gather Information: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (15) + 20 = 35
Ileosa’s spirit appeared for an hour on Jeggare Bridge, the longest reported sighting so far. With a bit of asking around, Dewdrop confirms the sighting took place shortly before sunrise, when bridge traffic was increasing for the day. Those who remembered the troubles of a decade before were too frightened to cross paths with the ghost and fled. Some Old Korvosans have been unwilling to leave the island since.
As you are finishing your investigation, you notice a reserved Shoanti
with stylized white tattoos lingering near the Old Korvosa side of the bridge—an individual who seems particularly interested in your actions...
Noticing the tattooed observer, Dewdrop casually flits over closer to the Shoanti.
"Excuse me," she calls out. "You wouldn't happen to be one of those that witnessed the alleged manifestation, would you?"
Dewdrop gives a miniature bow. "Professor Dewdrop Rosethorn, Associate of the Acadamae, if you please." She gestures at Edric and Remy. "My companions and I are investigating the spectral appearances of Queen Ileosa on behalf of Her Majesty." She grins. "So does that settle the question of whether you were a witness or not?"
Dewdrop Diplomacy: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (8) + 20 = 28
Dewdrop's etiquette is enough to get the Shoanti to relax a bit. "I am Shakkah Water-Finder, of the Sklar-Quah. I did see the ghost of Queen Ileosa, yes, but I do not believe it was a real spirit. I think it was an illusion created to harass the residents of Korvosa, perhaps at the urging of hidden agents of the Gray Maidens. If you are looking into the matter, though, you will want to speak with the elders. Follow me."
Shakkah brings you to an open area in eastern Old Korvosa, where nearly an entire city block is populated with hide yurts and a broad firepit instead of the stone and wooden buildings found elsewhere. Here, they introduce you to one of the preeminent Shoanti diplomats in the city, an old shaman named Thousand Bones. The shaman recalls both the heroes who defeated Ileosa (thus making it possible for the Sun Clan to return to their ancestral lands) along with the brutality of how her agents worked to scour non–Chelaxians from the city through violence, plague, and terror.
"I am grateful to Queen Nicoleta for assigning you as official investigators," Thousand Bones says to you. "She has helped my people several times in the past, and I consider her a close ally. I, too, share Shakkah's belief that the appearances of Ileosa’s ghost are falsehoods and frightening hoaxes engineered by holdouts who long for a return to Ileosa’s rule. I have learned that the Gray Maidens became active in the city a week after the first sighting, even as the outlawed mercenaries attempt to keep a low profile. I would advise you to look in the district of North Point, where the Gray Maidens once kept their headquarters. If you can root them out, you may be able to get to the bottom of things."
"I didn't realize that the Gray Maidens were still a thing," Dewdrop says, her tiny forehead scrunching in thought. "I could see them using this to create fear and unrest which would help to line their own pockets." She nods. "Yes, let us investigate their original headquarters."
She bows again to their host.
"Her Majesty thanks you for your assistance in this matter," she says before taking her leave.
Dewdrop flutters up to meet the woman face to face.
Pursue A Lead
"That sounds suspiciously like a threat, my dear. And I don't respond very well to threats."
She extends her staff out to tap the woman's nose. "There are places I'd rather be and things that I would much rather be doing. So why don't you just save us all the trouble of engaging in frivolous threats and banter and explain yourself."
Diplomacy?: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (12) + 20 = 32
The hulking lizard watches as Dewdrop is rather less diplomatic than he expected. This is turning out to be rather interesting.
"Little one has big spirit." He rumbles to the raven haired woman next to him.
"Yes, I'm liking her more and more," Remy replies with a smirk.
The woman seems impressed by Dewdrop's courage. "Very well. I am part of a larger group that came to Krovosa to investigate rumors of Ileosa’s return, but unexpected developments put our investigation on hold. Perhaps it would behoove us to form an alliance. Will you come with me to meet with my sisters to discuss how we can work together?"
"Very well," Dewdrop replies with a tip of her head. "Take us to your 'sisters'."
The sprite flutters up to land on Remy's shoulder. 'First she tells us to butt out and then counters that they're looking into the same rumors that we are? I'm skeptical,' she whispers into the woman's mind.
'I've seen her type before. The warning was probably a test to see if we were actually tough enough to be considered worthy. I bet if I had just punched her in the face, it would have lead to similar results,' Remy replies, smirking at the little sprite on her shoulder.
Whitecaps is an abandoned building in the North Point neighborhood. Once one of the city’s oldest surviving inns, the building was well past its prime even before a series of recent thefts drove the owners of the ramshackle structure to give up and leave the city the year after Ileosa’s defeat. When no one claimed the property in the months that followed, its ownership reverted to the city.
As the woman leads you into the structure, three women clad in the iconic armor of the Gray Maidens emerge. Your guide steps forward. "These are the investigators Queen Nicoleta has hired. They have agreed to speak to us." The Maidens nod and remove their helmets, revealing their scarred faces. Your guide introduces the women: Vioor Vandrune, Gavrielle Cennawen, and Brenwyn Thase. She gives her own name as Xarva Almaxus.
The Gray Maidens admit they came to Korvosa to investigate the rumors of their founder’s possible return. None of them have actually ever been to the city. Their leader, Yniesse, recruited all four to the Erinyes Company in the past few years; she was the only one who served Ileosa. They believe the sightings of Ileosa are legitimate manifestations of her soul attempting to return to life but haven’t been able to investigate since their leader’s disappearance.
Yniesse went missing after she headed into Gray District to “pay respects to a relative among the dead.” The Gray Maidens assumed Yniesse wanted to visit the graves of perished family or friends she left behind, but their visit to the cathedral the day after she vanished yielded no clues. Yniesse left for the Gray District the night before Bishop Keppira’s death was announced. The acting bishop informed them that Yniesse had indeed visited a few graves before heading north an hour after sundown. The Gray Maidens blame their own training, which is more martial than investigatory in nature, and you might fare better in finding their missing leader. In return for any news about their missing leader, the Gray Maidens promise to leave Korvosa quietly.
Other than questioning the ladies in regards to what plans Yniesse had for after she visited the Gray District, Dewdrop is curious to find this woman so she directs the trio off to the District of the dead.