Curse of the Crimson Throne

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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