Curse of the Crimson Throne

Third Recollection

As I was saying, that day was full of the unexpected. I met a queen, earned a small fortune, revealed my identity to strangers I had only met the previous night, but the biggest surprise was…hmm? What about Zellara? I told you; she was dead. Decapitation tends to do that. Then how did she ever contact us? Ohhh, right, right. Yes. Her body was gone, but her spirit lingered, bound to her Harrow cards. Not truly undead, and certainly not a phantasm. She was able to project herself into the senses of those near her deck, an elaborate illusion of sight, sound, and smell, yet nothing more substantial than that. A fascinating medical and magical anomaly, truly. She promised us her aid as long as we kept the deck close and worked for the good of Korvosa. Quite a clever force in her own right. There was this one time, you wouldn’t believe how she…but I get ahead of myself. Wouldn’t want me to spoil the story, now would you? Of course not.

So that morning we set out from the inn at South Shore and made our way to the castle. Why? To return the brooch. What do you mean ‘what brooch?’ I know I mentioned the brooch. I’m starting to think you’re the forgetful one. I’ll explain again, but don’t expect me to keep backtracking for every single detail. Haven’t got all day, you know.

The brooch was expertly made, though a bit gaudy for my taste. A pseudodragon and an imp coiled round each other. Obviously symbolic of the city. We had taken it, as well as a handful of other unusual trinkets, from Gaedren’s hideout. When we turned the scum in, one of Sav’s guard friends mentioned there was a bounty for the bauble’s return issued by none other than Queen Ileosa herself. The three of us determined to collect on it and perhaps earn a bit of pocket change.

I remember being unsettled at how quiet the streets were that morning. Though the rioting was largely over, the feelings that had fueled it were still there, festering. We made our way to Castle Korvosa, occasional wisps of smoke drifting over from Midland, when Sav gave me quite a shock. Some drunks were harassing a noble, a Jalento…Amin I think it was. Well you know Sav and Shakro couldn’t let that stand. After they scared the thugs off, Amin handed over a pouch of coins in thanks. Sav promptly plopped a crown into my paw, a full third of the reward, though I had done nothing but watch the episode unfold. That was the first platinum I’d ever handled. It felt almost wrong to take, as though the stamped metal were soiled by my touch. If he had given it as an act of charity I surely would have refused, but the way he handed it over so matter-of-factly, simply distributing a share; I was taken aback. You understand? It was a…a gesture of partnership. To be recognized as an equal, and so casually—I had not realized until then how heavy the load Korvosa had heaped upon me with its mistrustful glances and sidelong sneers. Even under the guise of Terrance the Human, at that time, in that city, to be treated so openly and honestly made my woes a little lighter.

We made our way to the Castle and were ushered into the very throne room before we could protest. None other than Queen Ileosa appeared to thank us personally for the return of her brooch, then sent us off on request to aid the city guard before she vanished back into the recesses of the palace. An odd affair, all in all. It seemed as though, for all her noble bearing, she had no clue how to address the common folk. Her words were stilted, rehearsed even, as if she were giving a speech. At the time I assumed she must be grieving the loss of the king. It was all such a rush, I can’t recall much else about the castle or its occupants, but I do remember the reward she gave us. A dozen gold bars in a fine silver chest. Well, if the single platinum coin had caused such a stir for me, you can imagine my bewilderment at this prize.

Fearing to walk the streets with such obvious wealth, we went immediately to the Bank of Abadar and deposited the chest and its contents for safekeeping. Never had I need for a bank account before, but as I’ve said this was a day of firsts. Afterwards we marched south to Citadel Volshyenek to meet the captain of the guard, Cressida Kroft. Along the way we saw that much of the Midlands was still in open revolt, though the enraged citizens were too busy opposing the Queen’s rise to power to give us any notice. The citadel itself was quieter than it had any right to be. I suspected many guards were out on patrol or sleeping off the previous night’s action, but Cressida soon explained the situation was worse than that. Guards were abandoning their posts, you see; some for self preservation and others in protest to the Queen’s rule. One in particular was making a nuisance of himself. Vadric Vagnastybin. No, no, no. That’s not right. Verik Vancastershin? Vancankreskin? Ugh, no matter. Point is he was convincing other guards to desert and join up with his questionable endeavors at a local butcher’s shop. Cressida offered us further compensation for diffusing the situation unofficially, an opportunity which Sav, as you might guess, leapt upon. It seemed wise enough to get on the guard’s good side, especially considering my need for favorable conditions in Gaedren’s impending court hearing, so I assented as well.

Flush with cash and facing new dangers, the three of us made the obvious decision to go shopping. Over the past twenty four hours I had found myself in two fights more than my daily quota, and I couldn’t help but notice the uselessness of the occasional slingstone I launched. If such scuffles were going to become a regular activity, I would need to be better prepared. I determined to find a more fitting weapon, one that could be hidden easily on my person yet strike lightly and deftly at a foe. I came upon a scarf, much like this one here. Careful how you handle it. See the razors embedded along it’s edge? A nifty weapon fitting of a deft warrior like myself, so I imagined. I left the Slicing Dicers eager to try out my bladed scarf, only for Shakro to sour my mood. He wanted a portion of my reward money. A large portion. Can you guess what he wanted to buy with it? Exactly, a wound-curing wand. How did you know? Have I told this part before? Then I don’t need to tell you how I responded. Ha! That green-skin had nerve I tell you. Divine blessings of the gods not good enough for him. Well I put a stop to that talk. I was convinced there was no wound the right tonic and a compress couldn’t do for as well as some pricey magic stick.

All the World’s Meat, the butcher’s shop was called. Verik… Vancaskerkin! That was it. Vancaskerkin. He had a few of his buddies guarding the shop. When things got heated and one of them blocked Sav from coming through the door, Shakro decided to make his own entrance. If you’ve never seen a half-orc smash through a sheet of glass like tissue paper while roaring and brandishing his mace; well first of all it’s a magnificent sight, and secondly you better hope you aren’t the one he’s coming after. Shakro’s bravado was an inspiration, and I readied my new scarf to leap into the fray with equal gusto. Unfortunately, nobody at Slicing Dicers told me there was a knack to turning a cloth accessory into a lethal weapon. Sav was making progress with disabling his thug, however, and after such a display of might I had no doubt Shakro would dispatch the second henchmen in short order. I stood there, flopping my scarf about, secure in the confidence that these partners of mine would handle the situation as expeditiously as they always did, right up until the priest took a terrible stab wound that laid him out on a display table along with the rest of the meat.

With Shakro down the odds were against us. Yes they were. Fine, technically it was still two on two, but you have to understand I was hardly known for my fiendish fighting back then. It was up to Sav to save the day. All I had to do was buy him time, and thank Desna a stroke of brilliance came to me just when I needed it. For some time I had been experimenting with various alchemies in an effort to formulate a flexible yet watertight bonding substance for quickly closing gashes. Though I never was able to develop the right consistency for such an application, I did discover a particular composite of mastic tree resin and soda ash that would expand rapidly into a highly viscous foam when moistened and mixed vigorously. As you may surmise, the most effective way to catalyze this reaction in the field was—don’t you give me that look! This is interesting. I swear. If you’d pay attention for a minute you’d find out how! As I was saying, you take this mixture, you chew it up, and you spit it out before the stuff expands into your lungs. If you’ve got good aim you hit your enemy’s feet and leave him stuck in a wad of highly adhesive gunk. Thusly did I disable the second henchman long enough for Sav to deal with each of them at his leisure. Now is that so boring? I defeated a scimitar-wielding goon with a science loogie.

We had little time to celebrate our victory, however. Verik was still further inside the shop with more friends in tow. Shakro was sprawled amidst spoiled meat and shards of glass, quietly dying. A tight bandage sorted the immediate threat of bleeding out, yet he would not be able to lift his head, let alone fight, for days. Sav had suffered dire injuries of his own and I doubted the two of us could handle the remaining guardsmen even if I finally got the hang of that scarf. I hated to admit it—the bile still rises in my mouth at the thought—but we needed magic to get Shakro back on his feet, and we needed it fast. Truly, a day of firsts.

I’ll leave you there. No sighing; a cliffhanger is an excellent place to stop. As long as I have you a captive audience you won’t be getting up to other nonsense, and that’s the way I like it.

Comments

“Science loogie” is my new favorite extract.

Great write-up!

Third Recollection
Shimon Shimon

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