Curse of the Crimson Throne
“Not only couldn’t I imagine living anywhere else—I simply wouldn’t. I’m a good man, a faithful husband, a loving father, and a responsible citizen. What I do has a purpose—and that purpose is to keep Korvosa safe. It might not be a glamorous job, but it’s as important as anything else. So if you’re looking for trouble, might I suggest Magnimar or Kaer Maga? You’ll save yourself some hard labor and me a lot of paperwork if you do.”
— Captain Tevigant Bereskan, Korvosan Guard, South Shore Garrison
Korvosa, the Jewel of Varisia, has long sparkled on Varisia’s southern shore. Established 300 years ago by Cheliax at the height of that empire’s expansion, the city now commands its own destiny. A line of Korvosan kings and queens emerged to rule the city, establishing an infamous seat of power—the Crimson Throne. Rulers have sat upon the Crimson Throne for more than a century, and the city has flourished. Yet the monarchy always seems on the brink of disaster. The Crimson Throne is not a prize to be won — it is a curse. No monarch of Korvosa has died of old age, and none have produced an heir while ruling. Even though King Eodred II controls Korvosa more fully than any previous monarch, that control remains tenuous, and many had secretly counted the days until their latest king falls to what they call the Curse of the Crimson Throne.
And it looks like their dark prophecy shall hold true: King Eodred II is dead! Deceased under mysterious circumstances, Korvosa is abuzz with rumors about the true reason of his death: Was it an assassination planned and executed by one of Korvosa’s long-time enemies? Was it his sinful life finally catching up with him? Or was it even his young and beautiful wife, Queen Ileosa Arabasti, pulling the strings behind a sinister plot?
Whatever the reason, the death of the monarch has plunged the city into turmoil and brought it to the edge of anarchy. The Korvosan Guard under the leadership of Field Marshall Cressida Kroft is doing its best to keep up at least a modicum of public order, but in some parts of town, rumor has it that the Order of the Nail has been sighted.
Little did they know, where this unlikely alliance would take them: After dealing with renegade guards, opportunistic politicians, and defusing a situation that might as well have turned into open war, the mercenaries witnessed the last-minute rescue of the alleged kingslayer, Trinia Sabor, by Korvosa’s folk hero Blackjack.
When the dust in the aftermath of the botched execution had settled, the atmosphere of dissent simmered down to a relieved and almost content mood. With the kingslayer named and on the run, the Queen held the reins of the city in a tight grasp. It seemed like the proud city of Korvosa finally has its order back.
But Pharasma sometimes is a cruel mistress and while the city’s populace tried to pick up the pieces after the recent chaos, death and calamity loomed just beyond the horizon…
For unnoticed by the people and the government alike, a dangerous enemy had crept into the city: a vicious plague, which quickly earned the name blood veil.
At first, only a few people were affected: the old and the very young quickly fell victim to aggressive disease. But soon, the number of victims rose into the hundreds and has soared ever since to the extent that eventually, there was at least someone sick in every street, in every alley, and at every corner. And blood veil proved to be a vicious enemy indeed, since it left its victims with only seven days to the grave.
Especially the poorer districts were hit hard by the plague with divine magic being far too expensive for the simple folk to afford. The Queen has entered crisis mode and with swift actions founded a group of doctors to tend to the diseased, the aptly named Queen’s Physicians, and an order of elite female bodyguards called the Gray Maidens to protect them in the streets from the unwashed masses.
Dire are the times, with every family mourning victims to blood veil and the city once more in the grasp of a disaster.
But dire times can produce unlikely heroes: Thrown into the spiral of events, Shakro, Sav, Twitch and their new-found ally Gazel not only combated the plague wherever it reared its pustuled head, but also managed to quell a wererat rebellion before it even began, reveal a charlatan’s so-called cure to be nothing but a fake, and finally even uncovered a cabal of a few Queen’s Physicians, Gray Maidens, their necromancer ally Rolth and even the head of the Queen’s Physicians himself, Dr Reiner Davaulus.
But their treachery had gone even further: they were led by a priestess of Urgathoa who was beaten by our heroes once, but returned with the help of her unholy goddess to raise an apocalyptic horde of plague zombies to flood the city.
It was only by the courage of Sav, Shakro, Twitch and Gazel that Korvosa was yanked from the brink of disaster once more.
After Twitch was able to find a cure for blood veil by comparing his own notes with what little information he had been able to find in the conspirators’ headquarters, the plague slowly receded until it could be contained to small pockets of infected colonies.
With many questions left unanswered, the reigns of rule now firmly in the Queen’s hands and the Gray Maidens at her beck and call as her strong arm of law and order in the city, Korvosa is looking at an uncertain future.
And what exactly has the Queen planned for her city? After she miraculously survived a recent assassination attempt by the Commandant of the (now dissolved) Sable Company and killed her attacker with his own weapon, suspicions of infernal pacts or even darker magics are running wild.
Maybe Vencarlo Orisini can shed some light on the issue as he has leaked that he acquired sensitive intel. Unfortunately, his last known location is the quarantined district of Old Korvosa and it appears that Red Mantis assassins are after him to boot.
As our heroes have uncovered, he had recently been visited by a notorious local artist called Salvator Scream.
After the party finally managed to get into contact with him, the painter indeed draws a clearer picture of what is going on: From the mouth of his close friend, the city’s seneschal Neolandus Kalepopolis, Salvator had learned the truth many had already suspected.
But even this did not seem to be the full extent of the young Queen’s treachery. The seneschal made some cryptic remarks about how Queen Ileosa had “changed” recently and that there was “something not quite right about her” – but unfortunately he was unwilling to divulge more information to the destitute painter, judging that the less he knew, the safer he were.
Yet an artist’s simple home is not a secure hideout— both Neolandus and Salvator knew this. Salvator had connections with the Arkonas (they were one of his greatest patrons), and when he suggested that Neolandus seek them out for asylum, the seneschal begrudgingly agreed. Salvator escorted his friend up to the Arkona Palace late one night, just a few days before the quarantine occurred, and has not seen his friend since.
Our heroes have no choice but to follow their only lead to Arkona Palace and try to find out if the patrons and guardian angels of Old Korvosa will live up to their altruistic reputation – or if the rumors about their secret underworld dealings turn out to be true.
Unfortunately, it seems as if the latter were closer to the truth. Glorio Arkona, the reputed philanthropist, admitted to be hosting Vencarlo Orisini and Neolandus Kalepopolis, but he was not above playing a little game with our heroes. Instead of just releasing his guests, he all but forced the party to enter the infamous dungeon deep beneath Arkona Palace, where he claimed to put the missing allies for their own protection.
Even before entering the Vivified Labyrinth itself, the heroes stumbled across the terrible secret of the Arkonas! But the stakes were high and time of the essence, so there was nothing that could be done about it at the time.
Instead, the party dove deeper and deeper into the mind-boggling mechanical maze, blasted by cunningly placed runes and harassed by vicious and devious foes. Finally, they were able to rescue both the swordmaster and the former seneschal.
With great urgency, Vencarlo insisted on leaving the city as quickly as possible. He had seen what the Queen’s apparent allies, the Red Mantis, were capable of and he knew that Neolandus possessed knowledge that might threaten her power…
Once they made it safely out of Korvosa and trekked all the way to Vencarlo’s contacts in the nearby town of Harse, the party finally learned another piece to the dark puzzle of Ileosa’s rise to power.
Apparently, she had gained access to relics left behind by a powerful agent of Zon-Kuthon, the god of pain. This legendary general, named Kazavon, had brought the orcs of the Hold of Belkzen to their knees before attacking Ustalav and Lastwall, until he had finally been defeated and his remains scattered. But according to the legends, fragments of his essence had lived on in mysterious artifacts long forgotten.
Neolandus knew that Queen Ileosa had been “borrowing” the treasury key to look through Korvosa‘s treasures. He was also familiar with several old and obscure legends about the rooms below Castle Korvosa – chambers, it was whispered, used to hide something of great power or terrible evil. He had heard mention of something called Midnight’s Teeth, believed to be a sacred relic of great import to the Shoanti. Circumstantial evidence indicated that the Shoanti kept these teeth somewhere inside the pyramid that now served as Castle Korvosa’s foundation.
However, hard facts about Midnight’s Teeth remained sparse, since Korvosa‘s founders had not thought it important to preserve much in the way of Shoanti culture. Yet the Shoanti had very strong oral traditions, and if anyone knew the truth behind Midnight’s Teeth, that truth was doubtless hidden among their historians up in the ashen wasteland and burning plains of the Cinderlands.
And so our band of heroes made their way into the Cinderlands and tried their best to establish contact with the Shoanti tribe. Unfortunately, the one tribe that might know the full history of the Midnight’s Teeth turned out to be the most xenophobic and reclusive one, as well.
By showing off their physical prowess in a friendly game of Sredna, obtaining the Mark of the Thrallkeepers in an ancient Thassilonian temple, helping the Lyrune-Quah reconquer one of their sacred sites, and even by following in the footsteps of an fabled Shoanti hero and facing the legendary Cindermaw, the heroes of Korvosa were gradually earning the tribes’ respect.
But while still trying to win the Sun Shaman‘s trust, Shakro received an urgent sending from the temple of Sarenrae back in Korvosa: the iron boot of martial law was weighing heavily on the necks of the people of Korvosa and there might just be chance to strike at the Queen’s recently-founded shock troop, the Gray Maidens, and learn more about what exactly was going on behind the thick walls of Castle Korvosa.
After rushing back to the city, the Shakro and his friends met up with the fledgling resistance, at that point led by Cressida Kroft, Keppira d’Bear, and, surprisingly, Boule, the guildmaster of the Cerluean Society. The resistance had learned about a secret passage that led straight into the basement of the Gray Maidens’ headquarters, located in the Longacre Building. Curiously, the Longacre Building had previously served as Korvosa’s highest court, presided by senior arbiter Zenobia Zenderholm, who was known for her strict, but fair rulings. What evil machinations had forged the alliance between the Queen and the Hanging Judge?