Curse of the Crimson Throne

Second Recollection

You want to hear more, do you? I’ve forgotten entirely where I left off. I was talking about that time with Gertrud the owlbear and The Frisky Unicorn, yes? No? Another story entirely. Forgive me, it all blurs together sometimes. Do remind me where I left off…

Ah, that’s right. The night King Eodred II passed away and took all semblance of order with him. The city exploded that night, in all senses of the word. Fortunately we got a bound and unconscious Lamm to Citadel Volshyenek before the true commotion started, but very soon there were maddened crowds in the streets, frantic guardsmen failing to keep the peace, fires starting all about, and terrifying beasts erupting from the sewers to devour the city-folk. Now, now, would I lie about such a thing? All the pounding and shouting and burning must have stirred things up in the tunnels beneath the city, because I got my first view of an otyugh that night.

Sav, Shakro, and—ahem—Terrens: we made our way to Sarenrae‘s temple where our big green priest promised to have the wounds inflicted by Lamm’s minions undone by his goddess’ minions. We hadn’t even made it halfway when we were stopped by soldiers blocking off the streets, busying themselves with protecting the old wealth of Korvosa from the rioters. Suddenly one of the stinking sewer devils burst from the ground nearby and began feasting on anyone in tentacle’s reach. My companions proved their worth yet again in driving the thing back to its lair while I saw to the wounded. One in particular had been in the monster’s maw and taken a deep gash. I feared an infection, filth fever most likely, and directed him to see Bryndol the following day, at which point I planned to administer one part leechwort dissolved in three parts water to be taken—what? You want to hear more about how Sav and Shakro fought the otyugh? I’ll never understand people’s fascination with the pair. It’s true, they fought many mighty foes with many mighty weapons. I’m sure in this particular case they showed great strength and skill at arms as they dodged, dashed, chopped, and hacked at the beastie. I guess it was all very impressive. Apparently more impressive than my efforts to save a man from rotting from the inside out. Anyway let’s—yes, I promise you Sav used his biggest sword. Now after that—yes, yes, I suppose Shakro did throw himself between the monster and the innocents like they always say. Can we just—no, I’m moving on now.

Eventually we made our way not to Sarenrae‘s shrine but to the Pantheon of the Many. There Sav begged favor of Abadar’s holy man, only to find his deity’s blessing came with a coin cost. Typical. Shakro bargained with some acolytes of his order for healing, but they were exhausted of spells. Typical. I swear, I’ll never understand why people have such a hard time recognizing the value of practical, reproducible medicinal techniques anyone can learn when the gatekeepers of divine healing so regularly turn them away. Are the destitute no more deserving of their god’s blessing than the moneyed? If ten men are badly hurt and the cleric has only three spells to bestow, are the seven expected to be content with their suffering? It’s a crock, I tell you! One big racket led by scheming solly-sop-sons-of-Chels…sorry, sorry. Carried away again, you know. Where was I? Yes, yes, the Temple.

Desna‘s servant proved more practical than the others, as I knew she would, and had on hand the materials for proper first aid. I thought I would be generous and attempt to stitch Sav’s remaining wounds first, perhaps teach him a lesson on the dangers of relying on divine pinch-pluckers for healing. Instead the big baby squirmed so badly I could barely get a bandage on him, much less provide meaningful treatment. I had expected better from the man who faced down Lamm even while half his guts were spilling out of a terrific stomach wound, but I suppose a fear of needles is a fear of needles. I did manage to extract a crocodile tooth that had still been embedded in a partially mended gash (another example of why thorough inspection of any injury is essential, even when spellcraft is employed) which would later prove pivotal, but that’s another story. I treated my own injuries, though I was unable to do anything about the strength-sapping spider venom still coursing through my system. Only time and sleep could do for that, which I busied myself with obtaining right there on the temple floor, until Sav woke me on account of some “watch duty” I was in no way aware I had signed up for. And usually you know everything you’ve signed up for with Sav. He was still bitter about the needle and growing suspicious of my identity, I think. The rest of the night passed uneventfully but restlessly, though I recall some priest proselytizing about Norgorber. You ever have dealings with the Reaper of Reputation or his followers? Creepy sort. They could all do with a little more sunshine. I hoped then to never have to meet one of their kind again.

Dawn came, as it usually does. Shakro rose to greet it with his fellow followers while Sav and I went to a nearby inn for coffee. Well, Sav went for coffee. I went for a flat workspace to perform some minor alchemy. I was weak and weary, but I had to be prepared, after all. Korvosa was proving a stranger city by the day, and though I knew I didn’t know what would happen next, I had no idea how little I expected what happened until it did.

Ooh. That sounds like a good stopping point. Which is convenient because I’m tired. Leave me be now, and maybe I’ll tell you more when I’m up for it.

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At the Shrine of Sarenrae

Sav sat and laid back against the shrine of Sarenrae, watching Terrez scurry away to keep watch. “What a strange little man” Sav thought. He let his thoughts wander as sleep came over him. With the death of the King, the city rioting, and the Guards blocking off parts of the city, it seemed sleep had been waylaid as well.

The thought of Gaedren, bloodied and beaten, awaiting trial at Citadel Volshyenek made him smile. He hoped that scumbag would be judged by Arbiter Zenobia Zenderholm. She had a reputation for cruelty, and criminals like Gaedren received just punishment. The majority hanged. She was not only a judge, but a cleric of Abadar. That put Sav at ease. There would be justice for Arbon after all.

Arbon, who was supposed to have gone one to Sable Company to become the ranger she had always wanted to be. Arbon, whose lifeless body he had found while on the search for Gaedren, consumed by the drug Shiver.

Then there was Grau. The three of them had been inseparable growing up at Mainshore Ward. Arbon and Grau had shown great promise, one going to Sable Company, the other to become a guard under the tutelage of none other than Vencarlo Orisini. Sav had been the half-breed misfit that tied them together in their mischief, methodically getting them into trouble all the time. Now Arbon was dead. And after years without contact, he had run into Grau, drunk and dirty, a broken shell of his former self, kicked out of Orisini’s tutelage over a woman. It should have been Sav. Sav was the one without the discipline to be a guard (although systematic in his troublemaking), without the commitment to a cause other than to a city he loved.

Now Korvosa seemed to be in flames. The death of the King sparking massive riots. Sav found it more amusing than worrying. That was just the way Korvosa worked, he figured. It was how it vented steam every once in a while. Without the occasional riot, the sporadic otyugh breaking free from the sewers, or a massive battle between pseudodragons and imps over the Korvosan sky, the city would fall apart. Korvosa was a living entity in Sav’s mind, and everything, from authorities to arbiters, from royalty to pickpockets, were just a tiny part of a larger entity. Besides, Sav did not much care for the King or Queen.

Shakro, the half-orc priest, shifted slightly and mumbled in his sleep. It half sounded like a prayer. Sav could see the armor he wore under his priest’s robes, and that made him chuckle. It was the exact reflection of good ol’ Shakro, seemingly calm and collected on the outside, but with a fire raging inside. At least that was the impression he had gotten so far. Completely unlike Terrenz, always twitching and scurrying and poking around. The gods had a strange sense of humour, he thought, joining their paths like that.

What a trio we must make, Sav though, as he finally drifted off to sleep.

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First Recollection

Ah yes. Yes. I do remember now, how it all started. I suppose it was not so long ago, really, though it feels long. I was different then; young still, though I fancied myself a proper Rat, and hopeful of my prospects as a physician. My wild days, when I thought the world could be understood only through experience, and sought understanding in whatever dark corner I found it. A fine time for me, discovering the depths of my capabilities and limitations both. A time when unexpected friendships were forged and lurking enemies confronted. A time of terrible trials and thrilling triumphs. But there is plenty to tell, and we’ll never begin if I don’t get on with how it started. Yes, yes. It started, you see, with a card.

This was just a little while after I had first moved to Korvosa, you recall. Skelt—that’s—you remember my niece, don’t you? Dark coat, squeaky voice? Anyway, Skelt had already been in and out the stockades, laying low at old Eries Yelloweyes’ house for days. Though she was cleared of the murder, there were still many in the city ready to skin her on sight. I knew Gaedren Lamm was behind her framing. Nasty old bugger. One of the worst examples of a Human male I’ve ever encountered. No way to prove it though, and nothing more to go on than the word of a dead fisherman. I was lost, wandering the streets of a strange city with little more than a name and a bad reputation.

Then the card came. Cleverly slipped between the teeth of my most recent patient. Part of a Harrow deck. The Sickness. Someone in this foreign land knew me better than I liked. With the prospect of meeting others in pursuit of Lamm, however, I had no choice but to follow the instructions scrawled on the card’s back.

I did not arrive unprepared, however. I knew Bryndol would not do for such a clandestine meeting. Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself. Bryndol was my public face at the time, my doctor’s face. I did not want to risk sullying that identity with whatever business I was about to get involved with. So when the half-elf with that slab of metal he called a sword and the giant green-skinned holy man stood in Zellara‘s parlor asking who I was, I needed a name fast. I mumbled something indistinct in the hopes they would soon forget—Terrence or Terrez I think—and so they knew me for the time. This was Sav, of course. Yes, I know you’ve heard all about Sav, but believe me when I tell you the man was nothing like that. He was much worse. And Shakro? Let’s just say it’s all true. But at the time they were as strange to me as the harrower who came to join us.

Zellara told quite the tale. She had even more reason to hate Lamm than I did. I gathered the others had similar experiences with that low-down-solly-sop-son-of-a-Chel. Ah-hem. Sorry. The memory gets my blood up. Yes we all had reason to hate him, though it seemed the grievances of the others were mature and refined through years of seething, while my problem with the man was still fresh, could still be set right. This alone was cause enough for me to join their personal crusade against Lamm, but Zellara gave strong portents for our venture. It’s funny now, to think how easily I trusted her. The words she spoke seemed like Desna’s own, however, and I took the dead woman at her word.

Well after forging our little pact and signing on the dotted line Sav presented us—yeah, no one tells you that bastard is a stickler for paperwork—we went off to confront Gaedren at the hideout Zellara had discovered. It was a warehouse of sorts, built out over the Jeggare like the dozens of others that line West Dock. Lamm had it staffed by his personal army of street children. Some sort of fish processing. All I remember is it stunk worse than the Gray District after a summer’s worth of rain.

There was the usual sort of sneaking and plotting—I won’t bore you with the details—before Sav and Shakro, accounting themselves worthy fighters, bravely decided to burst through the front door. No, even as strangers I had no reason to doubt their skill at arms. That hunk of sword Sav carried around was the sort of thing that got you into tavern fights with sailors looking to show off, then got you back out of them if you were any good. And need I say anything about a priest who’s taken to wearing armor under his habit? While they busied themselves with the inevitable chaos that tends to result from marching unannounced through the main entrance of a crime den, I determined to ensure Lamm would not escape in the confusion. I found my way ‘round the back of the warehouse, ditched my gear, got up to one of my—ah-hem—usual tricks, and tried to scout the remainder of the place. I, ah, don’t remember precisely what happened but I know I was the first in the room with that vile excuse for a human called Gaedren Lamm. Sufficiently explicit screams brought my two belligerent companions running. They did their thing with commendable gusto, once again buying me time to become Terrace again. Sav even did me the great service of suffering severe bites from a pet crocodile Lamm apparently kept close at hand. It wasn’t until I inspected his injuries that I realized exactly what sort of creature had mauled the corpses that had been pinned on Skelt. Though Shakro was overeager to cast his wonderful beautiful lovely healing magic bestowed by the grace of his perfect gracious benevolent Sarenrae, I sought some way to use these wounds as evidence for Skelt‘s case. I ran back to the city streets, hoping to track down a guard to bare witness and later testify on the matter of the bites, but just when it seemed my problems might be solved, the whole city went to hell. Apparently dead kings deserve more attention than dead dockworkers, and the guard was too preoccupied with scurrying around like blind mice to address our little incident. Sav got his healing, I lost my evidence, and to make things even better the spider venom in my veins was rapidly sapping my strength. Oh, did I mention the spiders? Yes, things were looking very bad indeed, and all that was before we found Zellara’s mouldering head in a box in Lamm‘s bedroom. Looking back, I should have known then and there to drop my business and get out of Korvosa before things really started getting dangerous. Honestly, I probably did know. But I did not leave when I should have. I stuck around and, well, we’ll get to the rest. All I’ll say now is that, in that stinking warehouse on the river, inspecting the recently long deceased head of our only contact in the rotting hideout of a degenerate criminal, with revolution threatening to erupt in the streets around us, I felt something that would drive me forward into the greatest adventure of my life. More than fear or desperation, more than vindication or relief, I was, as ever, compelled by an exceptionally unhealthy dose of curiosity.

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Reptilian feeding habits

Gaedren should have died. Gaedren would have died, if it were up to me. It would have been completely within the confines of the law, and by Abadar, it would have been the right thing. Instead it was me holding my own guts from spilling out and the blood loss threatening to extinguish my life. Shakro, the big half-Orc, stopped me from impaling Gaedren against the wall. He then used his healing on my wounds. I guess he saved two lives that day. Unlike Terrace, that funny little man, who seemed fascinated with the effects a crocodile bite will have on a half-elf torso, and seemed disappointed when Shakro saved my life.

This is not how I expected my day to go when I heard the knock on my door. Opened to see a figure scurrying away. I was about to give chase when I saw a Harrow deck card on my doorstep. I picked it up and examined it. It appeared the list of Gaedrens victims was growing, and now someone wanted to do something about it. Good. As if I needed one more excuse to bring Gaedren to justice.

I followed the instructions on the card, and made my way to 3 Lancet Street at sundown. That’s where I first met Shakro and Terrace. They too had been invited by Zellara, our hostess, in her search of retribution. Zellara was a fortune teller, and saw in the cards good fortunes for us. We strode off with confidence.

We followed her instructions to where she told us Gaedren was holed up at the moment, a dilapidated building by the canal. After considering our options, we concluded that there was no better choice than go in the front door, Shakro yelling the secret code so that Gaedrens Lamms would scramble, and we would proceed to apprehend Gaedren. This is why I like strategies better than plans. Plans never go as they are meant. As soon as we opened the door, I was forced to hit a massive dog in the head with the flat of my blade. Fortunately that knocked it out. Then I got shot with a crossbow by a tiny, screeching man who would not put down his weapon, while Shakro scuffled with a terrifying orc named ‘Giggles’; old acquaintances, it seemed. That was the moment I lost sight of Terrace.

I used the pommel of my blade to knock the pest out, and I secured his hand and feet with some spare leather strips I carried with me. Giggles did not seem to fare any better. I do believe Shakro killed him. I did not stop to check, as I ran to the back of the building, down a flight of steps, and jumped down a hole into the water below, to where screams were originating. Things had been going well up until that point.

A small girl shot past me and into the building, and I ran after her. Could not see her once I was inside, but I did see Gaedren standing menacingly in a corner, crossbow in hand. I could hear Shakro behind me. Gaedren would have no choice but to surrender. I knew him for a coward, he would attempt to escape, but I was sure that the two of us would be able to prevent that.

What I did not expect was a giant crocodile jumping out of the water and choosing me for a late evening snack. I don’t think I had ever felt so much pain. I brought down my sword on its head, and that seemed to hurt it, but its thick hide prevented it from going too deep and killing it. Nature can be so infuriating sometimes.

Everything after that was a blur. The world turned red as I slowly made my way towards Gaedren with nothing but death in my mind. I could smell it in the air. I managed to slash him severely, and my next blow would surely have finished the job, if not for Shakro interfering and

knocking Gaedren out.

I collapsed as well.

The world slowly came back as Terrace fawned over my wounds and Shakro healed me. The stench of death persisted. I thought it was all in my head, but something was amiss. Shakily, I got on my feet. There was a locked box in the corner of the room, where the stench was stronger. I fidgeted with the lock for a moment, and managed to open the container without much trouble.

I stepped back as Terrace picked up a bundled package inside.

A package with Zellaras severed head.

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Prolog
How it all began

Korvosa, Fireday, 23 Desnus 4708 AR. King Eodred II is sick, and has been so for quite some time now. His last public appearance was months ago and even though he never particularly liked facing his subjects, he has always been aware how important these events are.
People are talking on the streets: Some say the queen is behind this. Some say Eodred’s unhealthy and immoral lifestyle has finally caught up with him. But everyone agrees on one point: The silence from the towering Castle Korvosa is unsettling. There is trouble brewing in the lower-class districts. People are talking about a revolution. Some already openly declare their unhappiness with their current rulers: They call them a cradle-robbing dirtbag on his last legs and a stuck-up wench who does not even care about the city. The city is perched on the edge of anarchy. All it needs is a little push.

But the day-to-day life is hardly affected by all of this, as is usually the case with the royalty. And you certainly have entirely different worries today, for this morning you received a message in the most unusual way: It was written in bold ink on the back of a colorful card, about 5 by 3 inches.

Miikas “Twitch” Skiviks was about to start an autopsy on a body he had recently acquired and pulled back the burial shroud to find the corpse holding the card beneath its teeth. Surprised, he carefully removed the card and found a picture of a sick woman on the card’s face.

Sav Dunid was startled by a frantic knock on the door to his office and opened to find a suspicious looking cloaked figure hightailing it down the street. He was about to start running after him when he noticed a card lying on his dusty doorstep, showing a man, as tall as a mountain, carrying a slain giant crocodile.

Shakro was performing his morning prayers with his face turned towards the rising morning sun. When his eyes had adjusted again and the spots in his vision had cleared away, he was surprised to find his card resting on his copy of The Birth of Light and Truth, its face showing the image of a smith hammering away in an impressive forge.

The message on the back of your card reads:
I know what Gaedren has done to you. He has wronged me as well. I know where he dwells, yet cannot strike at him. Come to my home at 3 Lancet Street at sunset. Others like you will be there. Gaedren must face his fate, and justice must be done.

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