Curse of the Crimson Throne

Recollection 7

You again? What are you doing here? I thought you forgot all about me. Feels like an age since you were around last. I suppose you’ve come for more stories, haven’t you? What am I, some cheap entertainment, huh? Just show up at old Twitchy’s door any time ye please and he’ll pick up right where he left off. Bah, I won’t have it. I’m not here to cater to your whims, you know. I have things to do. No time to recount every minute detail of my wonderfully eventful life. Nope. No. I won’t do it anymore. Best you’ll get is a summary.
So what do you want? That pseudodragon heist? Turned out to be quite simple, really. Took a swim to the King of Spider’s throne room on the Eel’s End, popped a window open, applied a little acid to his cage, and away we went. Majenko was his name. Pleasant chap. Took me on a nice little aerial tour of North Shore.

What else? That was around the time I got my shop started, I suppose. A good location not far from the Gold Market, plenty of foot traffic. Spent weeks getting everything set up inside. I can’t tell you what a joy it was finally having a proper workspace for experiments and procedures. An alchemy lab, an infirmary, even a proper store front to sell my remedies and services. And, of course, the back room… All in all the place was a dream come true.

Am I done regurgitating stories for you? Will you leave me be now? I see the look on your face. There’s something else. Ah, her. Should have known you’d ask about her. You remember the part where we arrested her? Well, after that Trinia sat in the Citadel dungeons for a while. I made Cressida promise not to mistreat her, and I was sure to bring her painting supplies so she could occupy herself while stuck in that cell. I had taken a fancy to her, as you might guess. Didn’t dare reveal who I was, obviously, but I admired her in my way. For days and weeks Sav and I pressed Cressida for information on her impending trial, but always the answer was, “Later,” or “Nothing’s been determined,” or “You’ll be the first to know.”

Then the field marshal sent us on a mission. The son of a Shoanti chief had been murdered in the city, his body sold to a necromancer named Rolth for nefarious purposes. If the corpse was not retrieved and laid to rest properly, it might ignite the already smoldering tensions between the local tribes and Korvosa. You can guess who did the retrieving. Rolth’s lair was deep in the catacombs below the Grey District. He was not present at the time, fortunately, but many of his minions and—pets—were. Derro and Otyungs were bad enough, but if you saw the sickening perversion of life that was the carrion golem…

We found the Shoanti boy’s corpse, piece by piece, while I happily looted anything and everything that might have aided me in my medical and alchemical endeavors. We did the job without pay, much to Sav’s chagrin, but we had been promised rights to anything we found in the catacombs and I was thrilled to add several instruments, a small library of—unusual—knowledge, and some valuable specimens to my collection. My excitement turned to ash the minute we made it back to the Citadel, however, and—hey, pay attention. This is the part where Trinia comes back into it. You thought I was going on a tangent, didn’t you? Well if you would stop fidgeting around and listen you would understand where I’m going with this.

We got back to the Citadel only to be greeted by a distracted and distraught Cressida. In the mere hours we had been gone, Trinia had been brought to trial, convicted of regicide, and sent to the gallows. Bad timing doesn’t even begin to describe it. I had never seen the field marshal so defeated, and my own mind raced for solutions as we hurried to the square where the execution was to occur. Perhaps I could disguise myself as a guardsman and lead her away. Perhaps I could disguise her and help her slip into the crowd. I knew the consequences would be severe, but I could not live with myself if I did nothing. It wasn’t simply that I fancied her, you see. I was the one who had captured her. Promised her fair treatment. Promised her that everything would be okay, would turn out for the best. I never believed her the killer, not for a second, and I was sure she would be freed once the queen’s mad accusation had been proven false. But there she was, standing on the gallows next to that solly sop worm Gaedren Lamm, a stained rope chaffing her slender neck, and me without a single way to stop it.

I thought of that battle in the woods on the road to Kintargo. You remember that one. I had been shackled, able only to watch as my travelling companions were cut down one by one by bloodthirsty highwaymen. Helpless. Utterly helpless. Even without the shackles, even with all my schemes and disguises and potions and clever little tricks I was helpless to stop her death. I watched Gaedren’s body swing and did nothing. I watched the executioner about to pull the lever on Trinia. And even when her salvation came from another man, that Black Jack, all I did was watch. As the legend himself delivered his hero’s speech about the death of tyranny, as he did battle with the executioner, as he nearly died in the attempted rescue I was idle.

Then Sav fired off an arrow. Sav. Shot at a city official. The shot went wide, but it was enough to distract the executioner and let Black Jack and Trinia escape. It wasn’t a perfect plan. Honestly it wasn’t even a plan. Just a gut reaction. But it was enough. Sav acted and it was enough, but I did nothing.

Leave me be now. There is more to tell I suppose. The sickness came next. But we should save that for a later time. For now, leave me be.

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Everything Ends, Everything Changes
It is a different world in the blink of an eye if you are not paying attention.

Sav’s head spun. It felt like reality shattered around him, the world crumbling before his eyes. Nausea threatened to overwhelm him,and he felt like the time Fresh Fish Fred sold him the discount mussels down by the pier. It had all started so innocently, so diminutive and impossible to perceive. Korvosans liked their routines. For Sav, routine meant odd jobs, perhaps a little breaking and entering, and the occasional stab (both dispensed and received). All perfectly withing the rule of law of Korvosa, of course. Or close enough.

So when he found himself drawing his bow and letting fly an arrow, the intended target an officer of Korvosan justice, everything came crashing down. Sav realized that little by little, drop by drop, both he and the city that he loved had changed. The fact that the shot went wide and he missed did not matter. He had not intended to miss, and that was what was important. At least to Sav.

How was he supposed to have known things would change so much in such a short time? Korvosa had a habit of surprising you, throwing challenges and tragedies at you, showering you with luck and fortune one day, and taking it all away the next. Sav had no reason to think this time it would be any different.

What had started as an inevitable collaboration with Twitch and Shakro had grown beyond their mutual hatred of the villainous Gaedren Lamm. The three misfits worked well together, despite the considerable differences amongst themselves and the city around them. Perhaps that was why, even in disagreement, they had taken on job after job with, in Sav’s opinion, overwhelmingly positive results.

So when Field Marshall Kroft tasked them with finding the nephew of a Shoanti chief, Sav’s principal concern was that the Field Marshall was not paying them enough for their outstanding services. The fact that they would have to descend into a mausoleum in the Greys to recover the body of the nephew from the hands of a necromancer, and the risk of outright war between Korvosa and the Shoanti, were not as important to Sav.

Once below the city, in the dark tunnels that spread under the most dreaded district in Korvosa, Sav and company had run into animated skeletons and the mythical derros that snatched up people from the surface, never to be seen again. They battled a flesh golem, an ogrekin, and even an otyugh. They rescued a group of prisoners, amongst them Deyanira Mirukova, who had sparked Sav’s interest in the Opera, something that had never even crossed his mind.

Sav had enjoyed every moment of it. Even on the brink of death, fighting Vreeg, that last derro, his life slipping from him as he mustered the strength to swing his sword relentlessly at the vile creature. If it hadn’t been for the acrobatics of Twitch, darting all over the place, and Shakros strength and determination dealing that final blow, Sav would surely have expired there. In the last few months he had come to rely more and more on his companions, depending on them in and out of battle. Things had changed, and he had been enjoying himself too much to have noticed. The city in chaos, riots on the streets, necromancers and derro under them, the wrong person framed for the murder of the King, Sav had failed to notice that the world around him was not the Korvosa he had grown up in.

By the time they emerged from the mausoleum and discovered that Trinia, the poor, innocent painter, had been found guilty of regicide and was to be hanged at any moment, Sav felt as if he had climbed out into a completely different city.

All three of them, Sav, Shakro and Twitch, had stared dumbfounded as Trinia was led to her execution, frustration and helplessness threatening to overwhelm them. And then a miracle. Blackjack, the legendary hero, appearing out of nowhere and spiriting Trinia away. When the executioner was about to strike at the famed folk hero, something in Sav’s mind snapped.

Sav was not thinking when the drew his bow and shot at the executioner. Sav had just acted. It was the right thing to do. And yet, it was wrong, and illegal, and reckless. That he had missed made no difference. The deed was done. The threshold crossed. He bought Blackjack enough time to make his escape. The price for his actions Sav did not know. But the way things were progressing, Sav knew he would end up paying dearly.

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Job register # 7
On killers, rumours, and not getting paid

This is why I never became a city guard, thought Sav as he listened to Field Marshal Croft. She listed excuses as to why they were not getting paid for their most recent job.

The city is in chaos, she said. We are stretched thin, and our coffers are depleted, she continued. The death of the King has put us in a difficult position, we have nothing to offer but a promise to pay you as soon as we can, she insisted.

Sav hated being in the position of having to keep asking for payment, especially when it came to people he liked, and people he knew were desperate, and telling the truth. It was all too frequent in his experience. And more often than not, he would end up getting paid in old food or worthless trinkets that he would then have to figure out how to barter.

Yet he had to insist. Not because of greed, but because of professionalism. Because he provided a service, and you paid for services. What happens when you go to the tavern and inform the barkeep you have no money to pay for your food and drinks? No excuse would spare you from a visit to the Citadel, or at least a good beating.

So why should his services be any different?

Sav needed the money. He had rent to pay, a thirst to quench, and equipment to repair. Lucky for him he had not been stabbed, slashed, or clubbed on the last assignment. Not that the risk had not been there, chasing a regicide suspect through the shingles. Sure way to fall a couple of stories and brake a bone or two, and that was if you were lucky. If fortune did not favor you, you could well end up being eaten by shingle spiders.

The thought of shingle spiders made Sav shudder. He was not irrationally afraid of them, he insisted. His misgivings were firmly set on facts. He had the right amount of fear for them, the same as one would allocate to other things that would kill you in excruciatingly painful ways, like giant crocodiles and swords.

Like crime lords.

In particular, crime lords like Devargo, the self proclaimed King of Spiders.

For some reason that Sav could not begin to understand, Twitch had become obsessed with the idea of stealing Devargo’s pet pseudodragon. No argument could dissuade his small friend, not even the fact that the city was riddled with thousands of the creatures. He even offered to find him his own presudodragon, preferably one not belonging to one of the cities most notorious crime lords.

More surprisingly, Shakro was all in favour of the endeavor. Theft! The half-Orc was unlike any priest he had ever known, or even heard about, for that matter. Shakro may not have been graceful crashing through the butchers window, or darting through the shingles. But he had seen the violence that hid behind that calm demeanor, the strength and brutality that could be unleashed like some divine wrath. Not the usual traits of men and women who wore robes. Then again, most religious people did not wear amour under their robes.

His objections not heeded, Sav agreed first to scout Eel’s End, the boats Devargo’s business ran on. A drug-den in one, a gambling hall in another; a flophouse for drunkards and derelicts in a boat contrasting with a brothel in the other. If Twitch was about to risk their lives saving some flying lizard, he might as well have as much information as possible.

It took a few days for Twitch to work out his plan. Sav used the time to get Korvosa under his feet and listen. An assassinated king sending the city to riots was bound to stir some groups and individuals in Korvosa.

Talking and bribing people, especially those in low places, is a great way to learn what the city is thinking. And the city had a troubled mind.
People talked, as they usually did, about Blackjack. A legend, a folk hero to save them, to appease them and lull them into a false sense of comfort. As it always will be.

More interestingly, there were rumors afloat about the king’s killer being a Red Mantis assassin, sent by the Cheliax. They wanted, according to Sav’s informants, the population divided between those supporting the crown, and those against it. They wanted Korvosa in the hands of a weak queen. They wanted the city in chaos, disorganized, ripe for the picking. The usual Korvosan paranoia, thought Sav. People always thought the Cheliax were plotting to take over. A grounded fear, to be sure, but very loosely grounded at that.

Even if the rumors were completely untrue, they made more sense than that young painter, Trinia Sabor, being the real culprit. When Field Marshall Croft sent them to apprehend the murdered King’s prime suspect, she was not what he was expecting. Coming willingly to the Citadel was not something guilty people often did. Sure, she gave them a small chase, but it was clearly it was more from a sense of sense preservation than an attempt to escape being taken the authorities. Twitch put the run to a quick end, and using his skill at disguises, concealed Trinia so we could walk undisturbed back to Field Marshal Croft.

In their brief interaction, Sav was convinced they had the wrong person, and was confident Croft would sort it out quickly. Especially with the real killer out there.

More worrisome were the rumors of Shoanti tribes waiting to seize the opportunity to take back what they though exclusively theirs: Korvosa. Sav liked the Shoanti. They were, all in all, a good bunch. But as with any large group, you always got a couple that leaned a bit on the extremes. Those that considered violence not only a solution to most of their troubles, but the ideal solution to any sort of trouble at all. And those always brought out the worst in people.

He took comfort in that the rumor came from a storyteller. Traveling storyteller made their living spinning tales. And to make a living out of that, the tales you spin must at least have a bit of violence in them. Even romances and comedies frequently featured someone getting stabbed. At least the good ones did. You don’t get quality entertainment unless there was some possibility of dismemberment.

It took a few days for Field Marshal Croft to summon them again after bringing Trinia to her. While Sav was happy for the steady stream of work, he felt slightly irritated by the lack of payment. It was a good sign that Croft would call on them for important matters, but being esteemed by the captain of the Korvosa Guard did not count as valid currency back at the tavern.

Field Marshal Croft was accompained by an old Shoanti of the Skoan-Quah tribe. There was a new job for them.

The Shoanti on the verge of war, a Necromancer in The Grays, and no pay to speak off. It bothered Sav that he was no longer surprised. Twitch and Shakro readily accepted, not bothered by the lack of payment, despite them being the ones who spent most of the money on their trinkets and poultices.

But with the promise (in signing!) that they were allowed to keep whatever they found on their search for Rolth the Necromancer. And Necromancers collected valuable things, right?

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Sixth Recollection
Plotting a caper, Pursuing a painter

The days after our encounter with Devargo were a strange time for me. I found myself obsessed with the thought of that pseudodragon locked away in the Spider King’s lair and set all my faculties to the task of freeing it. Never before in my life would I have guessed I’d be plotting a heist, especially against a powerful figure. Don’t mistake me, I’ve skirted the fine line of the law many times in pursuit of my profession, but always for a cause I knew was moral and right. This was—something different. A personal need to see that creature released from its suffering mixed with some perverse desire to stick one to the King of Spiders, though he had done me no injury.

Sav was happy to join me for a few trips to Eel’s End to partake of the drinks and gambling while scouting out the establishment. He had many thoughts on how best to pull off the jailbreak, though he shocked me when he refused to take any part in the actual proceedings. Never before had he said “no” to a proposition, and I was forced to confront the fact that there was either an honorable streak hidden under that coarse exterior, or that he had, shall we say, a very well developed preservation instinct. Not that I blamed him, but I confess it was a disappointment.

Similarly, Shakro stunned me with his insistence on helping. Surely not many priests would be willing to get mixed up in that sort of thing, but he refused to let me throw myself into danger alone. A brave soul, though not a subtle one. His talents were the sort that I hoped not to need in this endeavor, but if I did need them I would need them very much. Honestly part of me suspected he was hoping I’d get caught and beat to a pulp just so he could bust in, save my skin, and justify the exorbitant price of his shiny new curing wand. Yes, yes. The majority of our shared earnings traded for a magic stick. For that price, I could have had hundreds of salves, tonics, and admixtures for dozens of different ailments, and he goes and gets an overpriced trinket with the same effect as a roll of gauze and a good night’s rest.

So enrapt was I with my schemes that I hardly noticed how Korvosa was devolving around me. I was making the final preparations for the heist when Sav came banging on my door with word from the Field Marshall. She had a job for us, as usual. She didn’t have payment to offer, as was becoming disturbingly usual. There was a woman, a young painter named Trinia Sabor, who’s name had begun to circulate throughout the citizenry. Don’t know if you’re familiar with her work, but she was—ahem—up and coming at the time. She had just gotten her first big break when she was hired to paint a portrait of King Eodred II himself, but the commission had not garnered her the sort of public recognition she had hoped for. You see, the Queen was accusing her of poisoning the late monarch, and the mob was out for blood. Cressida thought it strange that Ileosa had released Trinia’s name to the masses instead of the guard, and ordered us to apprehend her for interrogation before she was torn apart in the streets.

Straight away we ascended to the Shingles and began hunting for her studio among the ramshackle rooftop dwellings. The situation was grave yes, but I wish you could have seen Shakro and Sav up there. The orc was lumbering along in his heavy armor, every rotten plank creaking under his weight, while our brave swordsman’s eyes kept darting to every crevice and shadow as he fretted incessantly over shingle spiders. Come to think of it, maybe he just had a thing against arachnids. His refusal to go against the King of Spiders, his constant warnings about spiders dropping from the rooftops. Perhaps it was a phobia all along.

Regardless, we made our way to Trinia’s apartment. I thought to knock politely like civilized folk, but the others advised to be more subtle. So along the walls and over the roof I went scrambling to try and get a view inside. Instead of a window, I spotted a shock of blonde hair on the rooftops across the road. Trinia was smarter than I had given her credit for, and she was getting away. Warning the others, I unstrapped my stilts, downed an extract I had been saving for just such an occasion, and gave chase.

I always considered myself rather nimble, though most folks outpace me easily on their gangly, striding legs. With the extract coursing through my veins, it was a thrill to find my feet moving so expeditiously, rapidly closing the gap to my unsuspecting quarry. She only noticed me when I was practically upon her, and by then it was too late. I pounced in front of her, and we eyed each other for a panting moment. I admit her beauty was striking. A face such as hers seemed incapable of conjuring a killer’s scowl. Then she stomped on a rotten board, breaking a hole clean through. I was nearly bowled over by the force, but before she could drop away my instincts kicked in. I lashed out with my scarf, catching her foot and tripping her. She rose and tried again to escape, and again I toppled her. Not wanting to inflict any further hardship, I begged her to stop, but again she scrambled for the exit. After being sent sprawling for her a third time, Trinia finally gave up. There were tears in her eyes and a bruise on her cheek as she submitted to capture, and I fear my attempts to comfort her had little impact.

Eventually the others caught up. I haven’t the faintest idea whatever took them so long, but together we agreed on a plan to get her safely back to the guard. A thorough disguise dimmed the radiance of her features sufficiently, and we set off to turn her in. Along the way I felt compelled to inspect her apartment for evidence. Not only was there no indication of nefarious activities, but the aspiring artist knew not even how to properly store her paints. She seemed not to have a chemist’s mind or aptitude, only further confirming my doubts. Either Trinia was very good at pretending to be something she’s not (and who better to know), or she had been framed. I suspected the latter. The best painters always get framed.

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Fifth Recollection
Spiders and Eels, Dragons and Knives

Did I ever tell you about time I met Devargo Barvasi? Rather an unpleasant fellow, but then again, unpleasant fellows are often the most interesting. There’s inevitably something wrong with their insides. This one thought he was a king. Well, King of Spiders at least.

It started off like any other day. I was minding my own business, conducting research on the kitchen table, when Sav came bursting in with news that Field Marshall Kroft was looking for us. We had done some work for her before, you may remember, and it seemed she was looking to keep us on her retainer as semi-unofficial problem fixers. The prospect of a little excitement and a nice payout thrilled me more than I cared to admit. I had been hard at work with my little chemist business, trading my goods for more favors and promises than gold, so the thought of some real coinage in my pocket was most welcome.

Alas, Kroft had only favors to ask as well. She and a noble, one Vencarlo Orisini, were concerned over—oh, I take it you’ve heard of Orsini? So had Sav, who began fawning over the man before he could even get a word out. He seemed pleasant enough, a swordsman with flair and a preference for nimbleness over brute strength—qualities I can appreciate in a fighter. I came to appreciate his magnanimity and the depth of pockets more.

He and Kroft were concerned over another noble, Darvayne Gios Amprei, who was the usual sort of Chellish bastard. Had a plot to drive the city’s economy into ruin and buy up all his favorite parcels of property for himself, unless we could find evidence to render him illegitimate. As the usual sort of Chellish bastard, Amprei had a long list of vices which he usually satisfied at Eel’s End, a moldy little wharf on the wrong side of North Point where several ships moored together formed a den of sin. I had seen it from the shore before. That place sometimes proved an end for more than just eels, and the narrow, nasty, undisturbed beaches in the vicinity yielded a wonderful variety of specimens ripe for collection.

We were tasked with infiltrating the vice house and bargaining with the self appointed ruler, the King of Spiders, for evidence on Amprei’s misdeeds. She gave us a bag of gold, promising the leftovers of whatever Devargo didn’t take—hah—and sent us on our way. Fortunately, Lord Orsini was better prepared to motivate us and, after leaving the Citadel, he payed us a hefty sum from his own coin purse. Coincidentally, it was then that I decided I truly liked the man.

After loitering about the casinos, taverns, and drug dens of the End, we finally decided to knock on the front door. The two guardsmen allowed us entrance when they realized we meant business, though Sav and Shakro had their arms predictably confiscated. Why they insist on such bulky, attention-drawing weapons is beyond me. Inside Devargo’s throne room, which turned out to be little more than the main cabin of a moldering ship populated with lick-spittle lackeys and festooned with webs, we met the King of Spiders himself. A tall, sallow man, he was predictably megalomaniacal and bloodthirstly, though I’ll give him that he really knew how to stick with a theme. Spiders on his throne, spiders on his armor, spiders on him. Beside him he kept a pet pseudodragon in a cage. Poor thing looked like it would rather be trapped in an imp’s nest.

Sav did the talking and promptly gave up all of the bargaining money. Devargo of course agreed to the arrangement on the condition that he got a little entertainment in the form of a Knivesies game between Shakro and his personal champion. It was almost boring watching Shakro predictably beat the other orc bloody, up until the pseudodragon began whispering to me. While everyone else was distracted, the dragon me begged to be released. Yes, yes, I know pseudodragons can’t talk, but it seemed nobody had informed this one about it. The lock on the cage was far to complex for me to pick without the proper tools and no key was in sight, so after Shakro had his fun I propositioned Devargo for a higher stakes game with the dragon on the line. Alas, I am no negotiator, and I got nothing out of the King of Spiders but suspicious looks. As we left Eels End with the bought and earned evidence in hand, I gave one last look back to the pitiful prisoner and made a vow. It’s not everyday one gets to study a dragon, after all. Even a small one.

The others were skeptical of me, though they agreed to lend their aid. I was still getting used to having others who would take my word for what it was. The Field Marshall was most pleased with our work, though she seemed almost disappointed that the King of Spiders was still living. It was like she was expecting the whole endeavor to devolve into a bloodbath! Rude, I say. I’d like to think that the work we that day made her realize our capacity for more—delicate—operations in the future. I made arrangements to appear as a witness for the Lamm trial, then we went off with Orsini to chat the finer points of swordplay. Though he preferred the large blade of a rapier his words on the importance of swiftness and precision in each strike, how not a step or a swing of the arm must be wasted, stuck with me even to this day, and I consider myself a better fighter for even the briefest of lessons under that master swordsman.

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Fourth Recollection
All the World's Meat, Justice for Vancaskerkin, Twitch Unmasked

Made you squirm—didn’t I—waiting all that time to find out what would happen next. Lucky for you I’m in a talking mood. I left off just as we were preparing to infiltrate that horrid butcher shop. Shakro was laid out on a display table and Sav injured, but that did not stop the ambitious elf from wanting to push forward. We still had Vancaskerkin to track down, after all. I, however, had doubts. Not of Sav’s resolve or ability to split men in two, but in his wherewithal to take on the remaining ex-guardsmen alone. We needed the priest back on his feet, and we needed it quickly.

I knew the orc could call on Sarenrae’s blessing to heal his mortal wounds if only we could rouse him to consciousness. Much to my chagrin, I had used up the last of my sal amoniac, smelling salts, on a patient just days prior and had yet to replace them. Without the pungent salts I found myself pondering less savory means of awakening him. For a moment I even considered running out to the magic shop and paying an exorbitant fee for a wand of curing, but in recoiling from such detestable measures my mind was driven to a moment of brilliance. It was not the salts themselves I needed to wake Shakro, only the ammonia whose acrid emanations triggered consciousness in the catatonic. Ammonia occurs naturally in urine, though obviously not in such quantities as necessary for our purpose even if both Sav and myself took a piss right up Shakro’s nose. But we were in a butcher’s shop. And butchers do sell kidneys. And kidneys are the organs that excrete the ammonia into the urine in the first place.

Some quick alchemy yielded a tiny but potent dose of ammonia extracted from a kidney mash (not as appealing, I assure you, as the name might suggest). It proved just enough to bring Shakro back to the mortal plane. Sarenrae was a generous as ever with her faithful servant, and soon the priest was back in fighting form. I must confess, I felt a twinge of jealousy as I watched his wounds stitch themselves effortlessly together. The ease with which he heals even the most grievous injuries would be enviable to most, of course. But there was something more. At his command, the damaged tissue seemed to gain a will of its own, and it immediately used this newfound agency to set itself aright. There is something beautiful in that. I knew from my studies that all the divine magic does is hasten the same processes that occur at a much slower rate in natural healing, but still, the ability to conduct the forces of life so elegantly was a gift I would never able to harness.

I’m boring you. I can see it in your eyes. I promised you action and only wax poetic. Very well. Even with Shakro on our side, I feared what we may face going through that door into the rest of the shop. We knew not how many men were left, how they were equipped, or where they were. Sav lacked the tact or delicacy to scout out the building without starting a fight, and Shakro was Shakro, so I determined to take on the task myself. This of course required that I let the other two in on one of my little tricks. I had already been in and out of my stilts during the previous battle, so I figured it was only a matter of time until the jig was up anyway. I downed an extract, disguising myself as one of the mooks we had just rendered senseless, and stalked into the back rooms.

Two more former guards were busy hacking up hunks of meat on the butchering floor. Both seemed somewhat unhinged. I played my part as best I could, learning that Vancaskerkin was in his office on the second floor and narrowly escaping rousing suspicion from the less drug-addled of the pair. I left the room, taking great care not to reflect on the fact that some of the cuts they were butchering I recognized all too well from my time at the operating table.

Sure enough, our quarry was busy in his private quarters when I found him. Preying on his fear of betrayal, I goaded him down the stairwell, where Sav and Shakro were waiting to apprehend him. When it quickly became clear he would not go quietly, I thought it might be wise to strike first for once and readied my scarf. Still believing me to be his ally, I had a clear shot at his back and by Desna I took it.

In the storefront I had made a fool of myself against the first two guards, trying vainly to throw force into each swing as one might with a flail. This time I let momentum do the work, instead focusing on steering the centripetal force of the blades. I aimed to slice at his foot, hopefully causing him to fall down the narrow stairwell. Instead I overshot, but the momentum of the weighted blades wrapped the fabric around his leg. Before I could even think about pulling on it, he tried to step forward and tripped himself. Vancaskerkin landed in a heap on the floor, never even aware of what had happened to him before the other two beat him senseless.

The commotion brought the two butchers out from the back. They fought with a brutal, callous ferocity born of wielding red cleavers all day long, taking down Shakro once again and landing dangerous blows on Sav. I tell you, seeing those only so recently acquired acquaintances of mine bloodied and beaten, about to be kicked through death’s door by a pair of thugs,it sent a positive rush of heroism surging through my veins. I mean it. I am not often inspired to acts of bravado, but I had to do something.

Leaping onto the stairway’s banister, I slid down and leapt into position to face down the larger of the two brutes. He didn’t give me recognition at first, but he sure noticed when I executed my new trick again. Or tried to execute. Turns out it’s harder to trip someone who’s watching you try to trip him. He caught my scarf on his blade and flicked, yanking my new favorite weapon from my grasp before turning back to the elf. Well that would not do. I can still remember the senseless fury in his eyes. I had to at keep those eyes on me, at least until Sav was less distracted. So I got his attention the only way I could think of; I slipped in right between his legs. A bit of an unnerving place for me to be, but far more terrifying for him. Yes, yes, yes. Believe you me, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing that moment of panic when a big strong man realizes that the puny little foe has a mouthful of very sharp incisors poised uncomfortably close to his happy bits.

Fortunately for both of us, Sav did in the guards before I even had to draw blood. Two wanted men dead, three incapacitated. An honest day’s work by my reckoning. We quickly found paperwork indicting Vancaskerkin for taking advantage of the growing chaos in the city to prepare for a run on the meat market. The man was stubbornly resistant to questioning, however, and would not admit to any knowledge of either shady business dealings or questionable meat sources. Made no matter in the end, I suppose. We carted him and the others off to Cressida for justice.

Cressida payed us for our labor and thanked us for bringing evidence of the former guardmen’s misdeeds. The Lamm investigation came up, and when the guard captain expressed frustration at being unable to track down Gaedren’s vicious pet, I recalled the crocodile tooth I had removed from one of Sav’s wounds. I had planned to use it to give a physical demonstration of the bite patterns the beast left in its prey, relying on first-hand testimonies from the guards who had handled the previous bodies to corroborate that the victims had been murdered in such a fashion, though Cressida suggested using it as a focus for a scrying spell. Though I believe my practical approach would have yielded perfectly admissible evidence, I had to confess that her method had a certain simplicity and handed over the tooth. She also requested that I appear in person to testify against Lamm and defend Skelt’s innocence, which I of course agreed to without hesitation.

After that the three of us found ourselves free to wander the city, such as it was. One day of riots had not been enough to quell the murmers of rebellion as Sav had insisted, and it seemed that more clashes would be inevitable. For the time being, however, we took the relatively calm evening to lick our wounds and sate our grumbling bellies at the Three Rings Tavern. You should pay the place a visit sometime. Theandra Darklight serves up an excellent cheese platter.

With a luxurious private room for the evening and good food and drink in my belly, a rare sense of security washed over me. Security breeds restlessness, and the room was warm besides. Every bit of the disguise I had been wearing for the past two days was suddenly unbearable. I had a horrible itch between my eyes where the makeup was caked on thick. The bandana wrapped over my ears was cutting off circulation. The robe was stifling and clammy. Sav and Shakro seemed amenable enough. What was there to lose? In a fit of impetuous frustration I ripped my carefully constructed persona of Terrenze apart and revealed, underneath, me.

Sav and Shakro didn’t even do me the polite courtesy of letting out a shocked gasp. They simply listened patiently as I explained my story, occasionally asking a question or two, and moved on with the conversation as if a bipedal, talking rat was an everyday occurrence for them. Not a dramatic bone in their bodies, I swear. I do confess that it gave me immeasurable relief that the revelation changed nothing between us, so it seemed. I would have choked on the words then, but I am not afraid to admit now that I had grown rather fond of the pair, and had dreaded what they might think of Miikas of Skiviks den . I may go so far as to say that on that night I finally realized that in Sav and Shakro I had found not only acquaintances or allies, but true friends.

Never tell them I said that.

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7 years of bad luck

You know what’s the problem with humans? Their short tempers. I know, bold statement coming from me. But just think about it, a king dies and the city is on the edge of implosion. Factions are formed, schemes hatch and plots are put in motion, just like that. They’d do well to borrow a bit from the older races.
Thankfully the guard and hellknights were there to “calm” the people down. Problem is, they’re busy with the large crowds, leaving small time dirtbags free to terrorize the city openly. That’s exactly what a group of them was doing when we happened by. I simply “explained” to them that I’d rather not set them straight in a different manner and they left, not without trying to save face with threats though. The funnily dressed fellow was quite grateful and handed us some coin for our troubles.

Moving on from there we were denied passage to the heights. We were planning on spending the night in the Dawnflower’s temple, but had to divert our cause to the pantheon of many. It made for an uneasy night of rest, but still, sleep is sleep.

From there we discussed the reward posted by the queen over breakfast, and decided to check if we were indeed in possession of royal jewelry. You know that little thing we found at Gaedren’s.
That turned out to not only be true, but we were ushered in presence of the queen much to our surprise. She thanked us for the help and had her handmaiden hand us the promised reward. Make no mistake, she is no mere handmaiden. She’s got a better weapon than most of the officers in the city I’ve seen, and she looks like she knows how to use it.
We were handed gold. Ingots. Rather shocking to us, but I guess not to royalty. Then came the unending debate about the finer points of banking. We settled on a joint account and deposited there our little fortune minus a little shopping money.

Sav went and bought himself a bow. Good choice. Nothing bad ever came from being prepared for all eventualities.
Terence did some shopping for his grandma recipes, but when I suggest a tried and true method of healing I’m rebuked. This is something we’re going to regret.

We then paid a visit to Citadel Volshyenek at the urging of the queen. Apparently the guard is still overwhelmed and they think they could use our help.
Field marshall Kroft tasked us with bringing back a stray guard into the fold. Verik something. He apparently abandoned his post in favor of a civilian venture : a butcher’s shop.

Once there, the employees — all looking like deserters — wouldn’t talk to us or let us through, so I made my own entrance.
Ever hear of 7 years of bad luck if you break glass? It proved to be immediately true as one of the guards struck me down. In my defence I was standing on an unstable meat display and hadn’t had a proper night’s rest. Terence managed to patch me up quickly and woke me up with some foul smelling mixture. From then on good old healing magic took over and proved it’s usefulness, blessed be the Dawnflower. We advanced and subdued Verik, but his two other accomplices looked rabid and had to be put down. Unfortunately, they won’t be brought to man’s justice.

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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.

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Session 3, The Castle, the Bank, and the Butcher Shop
Sav thinks 'All the World's Meat' has terrible service to its clients

I have worked for all sorts of people in Korvosa, from respectable thieves and crime bosses, to nobles and merchants of ill repute. Having been employed by what turned out a headless spectre was certainly a strange turn of events. As a general rule, dead people remained dead. Especially those that had been decapitated.

You had to hand it to Gaedren. Only he could inspire so much disgust and rancour as to make one demand justice from beyond the grave. I guess I would have felt the same, if I knew he kept my head as a souvenir.

As if things were not strange enough, you had to add the death of King Eodred fuelling riots all across the city, an otyugh breaking free from the sewers, and to top it off, I got to meet the Queen. This last one was the most unexpected.

I was just finishing my coffee, curiously watching Terrens pick bits of toast from Shakros plate, while we figured out our next steps. What a sight the three of us must make: a half-elf, a half-orc, and a half whatever Terrens is. He tries very hard to not stand out, but there is something hiding behind that thick scarf and hood of his. It’s a wasted effort, but I don’t want to tell him. I think it might hurt his feelings. So maybe he is so ugly his own mother wouldn’t love him, it’s not like Shakro and I fare much better.

Most of the time, I can be quite proud of my skills at observing, but I think the very real possibility of spilling my guts and a severed head in front of me diverted my attention from the other objects in Gaedrens stash. The coffee having had its reviving effect on me, my companions went over the items they had found. Amongst them, a brooch with a pseudodragon and an imp coiled around each other. Specifically, Queen Ileosa Arabasti’s brooch with a pseudodragon and an imp coiled around each other. How Gaedren came across such an object eluded me, but I intended to find out. As soon as we took it back and collected a reward, of course. Walking around in a rioting city with that sort of treasure is a sure way to get killed by both mob and Guard.

We headed to Castle Korvosa, where we figured we could just hand it in to a royal guard, collect our reward, and be on our merry way. An audience with the recently widowed Queen and her beautiful and deadly handmaiden Sabina Merrin was not something we were prepared for, or, at least me personally, wanted.

I know the Queen must have said something important, she addressed us as if the throne room had been full of people and not just us. I was too distracted by Sabina. Not only was she stunning, but the way she carried herself and that sword of hers, you could tell right away she was a student of Orisini. She looked like she would cut me in half in one swift motion if I so much as winked at her.

Thank Abadar my instinct for survival got the best of me and I didn’t try to flirt.

The reward we received for the brooch was, to say the least, overwhelming. I had never seen so much money. We decided to go to the temple of Abadar, the city’s main bank, to deposit it. You just don’t walk around with a small crate filled with coin, not even in an orderly and civilized city like Korvosa.

We spent more time there than I care to admit, trying to figure out which kind of account to open that would be fair and safe for the three of us. It also didn’t help that we had to go to the back of the queue five times, wasting valuable time.

With a bit of coin in our pockets, we followed the Queen’s instructions, and marched back to the Midland District to meet with Field Marshal Cressida Kroft at Citadel Volshyenek.

Field Marshal Kroft is my kind of person. By that, I mean that she was the kind of person that would hire you for a job, in this case assist the Korvosan Guard in an ‘unofficial’ manner, and sign the appropriate paperwork. You don’t want to do an unofficial job for the Guard and not have the proper documentation. The right paper will get you out of all sorts of trouble, and can mean the difference from ‘stealing’ to ‘collecting evidence’, and ‘murder’ to ‘enactment of justice by the authority of the Korvosan Guard’.

Our assignment was simple enough. Find Verik Vancaskerkin, an ex-sergeant in the Korvosan Guard who decided a career as a butcher was a step up from his guard duties. He opened up a shop called ‘[[All the World’s Meat]]’, which sounded just like my kind of place. In fact, the shop was up in North Point, my very own district. Field Marshall Kroft wanted us to check up on him, given that he had convinced a bunch of his fellow guards to follow him. Ask him a few questions, maybe persuade him to come back the Guard. The city was rioting, after all. They needed all the help they could get.

Instead of a conversation, the situation resulted in Shakro jumping in through a window, and me kicking one of his very rude and uncooperative shop assistants in his noble bits. It wasn’t supposed go like that. We were being civil, just asking a few questions. The two so called butchers would not even let us through the door and speak to Verik.

I felt the conversation turning hostile. Must have been their threats that tipped me off. So it took a proactive stance and swung my foot at that particular spot between the guy’s legs. I must hand it to him, he only stumbled for a second, and took a step back, but didn’t go down.

Then they drew their swords, and things got a bit more complicated.

I could hear Terrens skitter behind me, fumbling about with his scarf. Shakro did not appreciate the shop assistance adopting such an aggressive posture. I think that he, like me, didn’t think swords make good butchering utensils. Makes for a sloppy cut.
With me blocking the door and Terrens tripping on his garments, Shakro must have decided the window would make for a good entrance point. He burst there, glass shattering everywhere, shouting in a terrifying voice “WHY WON’T YOU TALK!?”

The effect would have been amazing, had he not landed on a table full of meat and fallen on his back. The butcher, a target presented right in front of him, chopped down hard on the orc priest.

Considering the time for words were over, I used the butt of my sword to bash the other agonizing butcher in the head. This time he went down like a sack of potatoes. I turned to the remaining one, the one trying to turn Shakro into orc beef. It appeared Terrens had thrown a viscous substance at the man, tangling him with some sticky goo to the floor. But his hands were still free, and he still held a sword. I warned him to yield, but common sense was clearly not a quality either of these two possessed.

He stabbed at me as Terrens hopped over to the table and, kneeling besides Shakro, hurried to patch him up and stop the blood flow. I tried to repeat the calming technique I had used on his companion, but this one had a thicker skull, and it took several tries before he went down.

Having been stabbed and verbally abused, my patience was not at its highest. Both shop assistants taking a nap, I walked to the back of the shop and kicked the door in.

Verik and I were going to have a very serious conversation about how to treat your clients.
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On a fireday.

I thought receiving the card on a Fireday would be a good omen, but it didn’t turn out to be all that good unfortunately.
True, Lamm is currently waiting to face judgement for his actions, but it wasn’t easy getting him. We’ve had to face some snotty nobleman and Giggles. I probably should have thought of a better plan than just rushing headlong after learning that the demented drooler was there, but I guess the draw of finally getting Lamm was too strong.
That Sav fellow was quite itchy to deliver on his contract too, didn’t really help with cooling things down. I got to watch him closer next time he gets a client, if there’s a next time. He seems to have the magical ability to produce paper and a quill out of thin air, Korvosan to the bone he seems, always about respecting the procedure. Nothing magical about that greatsword of his though, just plain old slicing and dicing.
I don’t know about Terrez though, or whatever he’s called. He’s just odd. One minute he’s with us, then he disappears, then he’s back later. He somehow brews his own coffee too, but didn’t drink it.

Adding to the confusion, we later found out we were hired by a … spirit? Something doesn’t add up here. Lamm is evil but not stupid, I don’t see why he’d keep her severed head in his stash. The river’s at arm’s reach, one movement and no one would have ever found it.
Then to top it all, the king decided it was a good day to pass away. Angry mobs and nervous guards don’t make for a good combination. Hopefully the sunrise will bring calm to the city.

I think I need to talk to father boris or someone about penance for Giggles.

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