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Chapter 1: Edge of Anarchy
Korvosa is troubled.
All cities are. They are curious creatures, with bodies of wood, masonry, and cobblestones, breath that smells of sweat, middens, and fish markets, and blood made of people. You can't have people for blood without developing a bit of anxiety; they are full of stress.
Korvosa's people are especially stressed right now. Unease crackles between them like electricity, making every interaction a bit more agitated. Merchants haggling with their suppliers come to blows when once they settled their affairs over a friendly drink. Marital disagreements become domestic disputes. The city's population of pesky imps hides in the eaves and drains, as if ever their sinister offers were more likely to earn them a thrown mug or boot to the head, it's now.
You could say Korvosa's blood pressure is on the rise.
King Eodred Arabasti II is ill. This is not shocking at his age, but what is disturbing is that he has been ill so long. For several weeks he has not been seen, and rumors fly that clerics from all over Varisia have been summoned, only to leave shaking their heads in confusion. The king's seneschal is said to have vanished, and people mutter about foul play. Queen Iliosa, a beautiful woman a third the king's age, has been taking a more active role in governance, and people mutter about that too; that she is naive and foolish, and no doubt being manipulated by treacherous advisors who caused the king's disease. But most of all they mutter about the Curse of the Crimson Throne.
Since it's inception, the monarchy of Korvosa has never had a ruler who died of natural causes, or left an heir. Revenge, say some, of the Shoanti whose land the city stands upon, and whose spirits will not rest until it is returned. Angry gods, say others, fighting over whose followers should rule. Coincidence, say people who are promptly ignored, because what kind of story would that make?
Regardless of the cause, the Curse seems ready to claim another victim.
But politics couldn't be further from the minds of the five who now gather at 3 Lancet Street, at sunset on a cool autumn evening in the year 4711. One by one they come, some strangers, others acquaintances, but all connected by the appearance of a strange card that bid them to meet here and now, and by their shared hatred of a man who had ruined their lives and so many others.
The interior of this small, humble home consists of a single cozy chamber filled with a fragrant haze of flowers and strong spice. The aroma comes from several sticks of incense smoldering in wall-mounted burners that look like butterfly-winged elves. The smoke gives the room a dreamy feel. The walls are draped with brocaded tapestries, one showing a black-skulled beast juggling human hearts, and another showing a pair of angels dancing atop a snow-blasted mountain. A third tapestry on the far wall depicts a tall, hooded figure shrouded in mist, holding a flaming sword in a skeletal hand. Several brightly colored rugs cover the floor, but the room’s only furnishings are a wooden table covered by a bright red throw cloth and several elegant, tall-backed chairs.
A basket covered by blue cloth sits under the table. Next to it lays a note:
"Thank you for coming. I had to step out for a bit, but shall return shortly. Please, have a seat while you wait. The basket under the table contains bread and drink for you."