Crown of Fangs

A New Hero

Returning to Korvosa the Party reconnected with Cressida and the other leaders of the rebellion. Cressida informed them that there were a few "loose ends" that needed tying up before they were ready to launch their challenge against Illeosa using Neolandus as their legal key to unset the usurper and gain the support of the nobility, guilds and merchant houses in the city.

Cressida's Tasks

The first of these "loose ends" they decided to tackle was the appearance of a new "hero of the people", Trifaccia, who had emerged on the streets following the apparent retirement of Blackjack some months ago. She felt this new hero was in fact a false one and acting to discredit the rebels. In the finest tradition the Party began scouring the local taverns, the thieves guild and temples searching for information about this new hero.

Their efforts were obviously noticed as a few days later while traversing the market square as a group of about a dozen “rebels” surrounded the Party and began shouting taunts and flashing weapons. The thugs began insulting them and demanding they leave the city, saying that if they truly were here to defend Korvosa, they would never have left the city. Brand took exception to this verbal assault striding forward punched  one of the thugs. This abrupt escalation into violence  proved unpopular with the crowd who seemed to  be swaying in favour of the jeering and tensions started to rise, escalating further when Variel cast fear at a group of men nearby, causing to flee in terror. Suddenly Anton realised that some of the jeers and insults being thrown at them were curiously worded! He had little time to react  to this as suddenly be was baleful polymorphed into a piglet! The crowd seemed to find this transformation vastly amusing and amid the sudden guffaws, various comments were made about the judgement of the gods falling on the Party.

Suddenly a cloaked figure stepped out of a nearby alleyway. The masked man saluted the Party by raising his scimitar; at the same time, the surviving “rebels” who had taunted the Party cried out in panic and fled into the city with cries of “It’s Trifaccia! Let’s get out of here!” The new hero immediately launched into a monologue, announcing himself as the true hero of the peace-loving people of Korvosa, unlike those rowdy rebels, breaking the Queen's Peace and causing trouble. The crowd cheered and cheered again as Trifaccia challenged one of the Party to a duel, which needless to say Brand accepted. As the duel commenced, the crowd in the market square gathered round , members of the public picking their side and a large number of bets being placed on both sides! It quickly became apparent that Brand was gaining the upper hand, and suddenly Trifaccia's body twisted and changed revealing his true form - an efreeti- much to the dismay of his supporters in the crowd! This transformation did little to change the course of the battle and as Brand continued to gain the upper hand, the efreeti abruptly cursed and used plane shift to flee the battle.

The Party gathered round the victorious Brand, Groobi offering healing, when suddenly a shadow was cast over the market square as a huge black form flew overhead.

Grey Mistress, Black Dragon

The Party scattered, taking what cover they could amongst the market stalls, as first one then another line of acid crashed through spewed forth by  the black dragon circling overhead. While the spellcasters retaliated as best they could with Lightning Bolt spells. Groobi and Brand, already badly injured by the breath weapon attacks came under further assault the dragon descended to the ground and attacked them. As the dragon landed they could see a Grey Maiden  was mounted on it's back. As she used a healing potion on Groobi, Halleth noticed that the Maiden seemed to be struggling against the dragon from her saddle, just before Variel blasted the woman from her perch with a Lightning Bolt. The unfortunate woman fell head-first onto the cobble stones knocking herself unconscious. Groobi cast heal on herself before casting Destruction on the dragon as it launched itself once more into the air. As Variel and Anton cast lightning bolts, the dragon suddenly emitted a pool of darkness around itself obscuring their view. Groobi, switching to darkvision, was unhampered by this and cast another Destruction, causing the dragon to retreat in the direction of Castle Korvosa. Brand and Halleth quickly secured the dragon's unconscious rider, whom Halleth recognised as Sabina Merrill, the Queen's bodyguard and leader of the Grey Maidens.  The Party retreated back to their rented house. Anton had some difficulty keeping up in piglet-form before casting fly! Halleth immediately left to report back to Cressida, taking a circuitous route.

While pondering what to do with Sabina, they suddenly hear a great roar outside. Stepping out to investigate Brand discovered that the dragon had followed them somehow. Anton The Flying Pig began casting phantasmal killer spells but he dragon managed t shrug them off as he attacked the house, crashing through one of the walls in an attempt to get to Sabrina. Cornered in one of the hallways, the Party managed to fight a desperate rearguard action before a desperate final blow from Brand slew the dragon. Realising their safe-house was probably compromised they dropped Sabrina off  with Cressida and then took a room at the nearby inn, Variel casting Magnificent Mansion within it for additional security. That night most of the talk at the bar was not so much of an efreeti impersonating a "Hero of the People" or even a rogue dragon attacking the city but what the sight a flying pig being seen in the city might portend! 

Next morning they met with Cressida who informed them that Sabina had in fact realised the error of her ways and had defected to the Rebellion. She had supplied some information and even some sketch maps of the current position within Castle Korvosa, and had even offered to rally those Grey Maidens still loyal to her to the cause.

The Castle Dungeon

The Party spent some time discussing and planning tier first foray into Castle Korvosa deciding the best place to start looking for Ishani was probably the "dungeon" level marked on the map. They spent some time poring over the sketch maps provided by Sabina and identified a likely location to start their search from. Halleth then laboriously calculated the depth the room was inside the walls from the exterior.

That night they clambered up the far side of the great pyramid the castle was built atop and Anton and Variel used dimension door to get them in.  The arrived in utter darkness and Variel quickly cast a light spell for those without benefit of darkvision. They were in a huge chamber which has a very high ceiling supported by pillars decorated with a spike motif. The floor of the chamber was a mess of empty treasure chests, upturned urns, and other containers; here and there a single coin or tiny gem glitters. It looked like someone had recently ransacked the place! There was also a secret chamber where they found a stone coffer that looked like it had been the age-old resting place of the Crown of Fangs.

While Halleth scrabbled through the wreckage retrieving what little of value that was left, Groobi led the way through to the next chamber where  burial niches lined the walls of a large crypt, that contained several sarcophagi. The last resting placeCastle Korvosa of the rulers of Korvosa. They quickly discovered that all of the tombs had been violated and anything of value stripped from them. Most oddly, in the sarcophagus of the late unlamented Eodred II, someone had placed dozens of dead stirges, their bodies crushed and broken, throughout the coffin with his corpse.

They proceeded through the dungeon level discovering that it did not appear to be used as a dungeon but rather for storage and whatever had once been stored there - valuables presumably - had all been removed! They discovered what appeared to be a bricked up chamber. Groobi removed the obstruction with a disintegrate spell and in the room beyond they  found a partially decomposed corpse, mouth agape in a painful death scream, which lay slumped against the wall at the entrance. The corpse, which was clad in a rich, dark purple outfit, was that of a thin, bearded humanoid with pointed ears and a pair of vestigial horns sprouting from his brow. Halleth recognised the body as belonging to Venster Arabasti, the late king’s bastard half-brother.

Passing through a strange circular chamber with a sixty-foot-high ceiling supported by an odd huge greenish-gray pillar in the middle, they found a stone spiral staircase ascending upwards, presumably to the castle proper. Beyond this they found an  elongated chamber decorated with bas-reliefs depicting a great market in a bustling city. The floor was littered with debris and fragments of ceramic, glass, and bronze, as if hundred of containers were smashed to pieces a
long time ago. Four alcoves in the south-west wall each contained a statue of a kneeling servant with an oversized head, but the statues were too crumbled to be otherwise recognizable.

AS Halleth followed Groobi into the room her torchlight fell on the statues which began glowing, suddenly they all felt what can only be described as a powerful and overwhelming mind brush against their own. This brief contact stunned and paralysed everyone except Groobi and Fluffy, in a combination of awe and humility. The glowing energy on the statues detached and resolves into a group of four shining children, who attacked those in the room. Groobi, badly burned, and on fire, quickly withdrew, but Halleth was left, frozen in the rooms  the four shining children turned their attention to her , rapidly turning her into a burning pillar of fire.

Fluffy, under Wulfric's mental direction dragged those still unable to move back into relative safely while Groobi flew into the room using her Celestial Armour, and heedless of her own danger dragged the burning unconscious and dying Halleth's body up into the air and out. he desperately tried to put of the flames engulfing them but to little effect until he suddenly recalled an obscure piece of knowledge that  the  fires from a burning child could only be extinguished in complete darkness! This was quickly achieved by tossing a cloak over Variel and her light spell. A couple of heal spells later, she and Halleth were returned to full health.

While the others rested, waiting for the magical effect holding them immobile to pass, Groobi recalled that that shining children had only attacked after Halleth entered the room bearing a torch. She moved into the room cautiously, using only her darkvision and was able to pass through into a crypt beyond where where found a stone sarcophagus that appeared to have been broken out of rather than in to!

After this dangerous encounter Anton teleported them back to the Temple of Pharasma. After a brief consultation with the clerics there, they headed to the nearest pub and a well-earned stiff drink, stopping off at a sage's on the way to get them to investigate who might have been entombed there.

The Lower Guardroom

Heading back into the castle's dungeon level, hoping to remain unnoticed, the Party took the spiral staircase they had found. It emerged into what appeared to be a storeroom, from which they quickly moved out, Groobi leading the way. AkaruzugFollowing a short corridor southwards opening a door into a spacious guardroom which contained a large fireplace, a central table, and numerous armour and weapon racks (all of which were empty).

Suddenly six erinyes teleported into the room, two of them airborne, and began attacking them with spell, sword and bow. The Party deployed into the . A frantic melee ensued, Variel, Anton and Groobi firing off spells while Brand and Halleth engaged the devils. 

Just as the Party were gaining the upper hand, reinforcements for the erinyes arrived as a squad of Grey Maidens charged into the room, joining the fray. Ultimately it made little difference as the Party slew all of their opponents save one of the Grey Maidens who had been transformed into a small kitten by a baleful polymorph spell from Anton!

After a brief pause for healing, they explored the nearby rooms, discovery what appeared to be a laundry and a mostly empty wine store. Halleth liberated some of the remaining bottles, only for Groobi to take them and smash them on the floor, much to Anton's dismay as he recognised the labels three bottles of 20-year-old “Cayden’s Gab” brandy !

Moving fdown a short corridor to the west Brand and Halleth found their way into a large chamber that smelled of seasoned wood. It contained a long table with four wooden chairs on one side and a single stool on the other. Torture implements, including a rack, an iron maiden, and a complex pulley machine, were arranged near the walls, together with a wide range of crafty restraining devices.

A strange statue stood against the southwestern wall, motionless and appearing to be little more than a grisly frame for what Halleth recognised as  Ishani Dhatri’s body, crucified on it.  As Halleth approached towards it the grisly apparatus t lurched to life, Ishani’s obviously  dead body screaming somehow in mindless pain.

Ishani Recovered

Battle was joined with the lumbering construct, Ishani's corpse continued it's mindless screaming in agony throughout. While Brand, as ever, stepped forward to engage in melee, the spellcasters fired off their best spells occasionally distracted by pulses of dark energy that  attempted to drain their very souls, fortunately only Anton was badly affected. Groobi and Halleth managed to keep everyone, Brand especially, alive. Things were briefly complicated when a patrol of erinyes teleported behind them and joined the fray, but it only prolonged the inevitable.

The Party recovered Ishani's corpse, which thankfully had stopped screaming on the destruction of the construct, and teleported to the Temple of Abadar where they managed to get Ishani raised. Once he had recovered from the trauma the cleric told them that he had been betrayed by his sister, a powerful wizard who had seemingly fallen under Illeosa's sway, He also told them that Illeosa herself was not in the castle, but had gone to a "place of power" with someone playing her role for those remaining in Korvosa.

The Maiden's Barracks

The Party rested for a couple of days, Anton spending time in the local hostelries gauging the mood of the population and sensing a swing against those supporting the queen. Eventually they felt it time to strike again, this time at Brand's urging against Togomor - the Seneschal. In the small hours Anton teleported them into the castle and too the secret staircase up to the level above where they had found Ishani. Finding themselves  in a series of workshops.

Exploring the area deeper, Brand and Halleth heard voices. Brand took a potion of invisibility and sneaked forward, finding himself in a barracks area where a squad of Grey Maidens were rousing themselves for their early morning shift. Brand tried to scare the Maidens with mysterious voices urging them to surrender but only succeeded in making them raise the alarm!

The Party retreated to the secret stairwell until the hubbub had subsided, but on exiting found themselves under attack by barbed devils. As the Party struggled with the devils a squad of Grey Maidens stumbled upon the combat but swifty retreated when the squad leader was hit with a destruction spell by Groobi and the remaining squad members fire-balled by Variel. Anton managed to dismiss one barbed devil and disintegrate another, before Brand and Halleth managed to despatch the last.

The SeneschalTogomor

Wandering somewhat aimlessly through the castle, the Party somehow managed to avoid any of the guard patrols, though they did manage to find some more barbed devils, in an illusory hell-scape, who fled quickly, more seemingly in fear of Setherial than the Party in general!

They passed through an old abandoned temple which Groobi identified as being an old temple of Aroden and then made their way up to what appeared to be the main "public" level of the castle. This level seemed to be less stripped bare of it's treasures than the lower levels, although they did find a gallery where the pictures of the previous rulers of Korvosa had all been vandalised.

Brand eventually found their target, the seneschal Togomor, a bloated individual living in conditions that at best could be considered a pigsty! As the fighter opened the door, Togomor almost casually cast horrid wilting on Brand, Brand immediately slammed the door shut and called for backup, but by the time they opened the door to t the disgusting bedroom, the seneschal had fled somehow, Variel confirmed that he was not hiding invisibly anywhere.

Moving swiftly on.  Brand and Wulfric slaughtered a couple of guards standing outside a heavy set of gilded doors. As they charged through the doors immediately seeing another couple of guards, Halleth, bringing up the rear, recognised the doors as leading to the throne room!

The Throne Room

As Brand charged forward, quickly followed by Halleth they spotted two hulking figures behind the guards, burning flames swathing their forms - nessian warhounds. Battle was joined! Illeosa rose from the throne and began declaiming trying to suggest that they leave her presence. Variel summoned an earth elemental to aid the combat before firing off magic missiles.

Meanwhile at the back of the fray, Groobi and Anton's preparations were rudely interrupted by the arrival of a cornugon, lashing out with a spiked chain. As Brand and Halleth and the elemental hacked their way to the throne, the devil's spell resistance proved extraordinarily problematic for Anton's magic - multiple spells fizzling out. Groobi fared slightly better, but those spells that did get through seemed to be less effective that she would have hoped.

Things started going bad rapidly as Brand's bloody approach to the queen was cut short when someone, Ishani's sister  Vavana hit him with a feeblemind and then a hideous laughter spell. Variel went down under a swathe of attacks from the cornugon, but fortunately Groobi was standing nearby with a heal spell. Brand mindless as he was managed to shrug off the hideous laughter spell and then followed the queen's suggestion to leave. Halleth tried to withdraw but blundered into a room full of Grey Maidens!

The Party was in full retreat, when suddenly the tide of battle shifted, aided by two things, firstly one of Anton's spell's finally got through and secondly a heal spell from Groobi, returned Brand to combat effectiveness. The devil swiftly fell and the Party charged back into the Throne room.

A holy smite from Groobi quickly followed up by a maximised fireball from Anton proved effective room clearers, leaving most of the Grey Maidens badly wounded and blinded . The queen stood stock still then her form melted into a pool of blood. Vavana seeing this used dimension door to flee, leaving the Party to round up the prisoners and then teleport back to Cressida.

The Seneschal

Next morning the Party was told by Cressida that the Palace had announced that Queen Illeosa was indisposed with a flux and and that audiences were suspended for three weeks. Fearing that this meant it would take them that long to replace the simulacrum or at worst that was when the real Illeosa was expected back, the Party resolved to redouble their efforts, heading straight back to the Castle that evening determined to seek down Togomor, the Seneschal.

Anton teleported them to the scriptorium near Togomor's bedroom, unfortunately the Seneschal was not in, but had instead left them a nasty surprise another cornugon who immediately attacked them as they entered the room. The devil proved initially troublesome, but once Anton had cast feeblemind on him, Brand's attacks with Serithtial and the others spells quickly took the devil down.

They eventually tracked Togomor down in what appeared to be the Queen's private apartments, where somewhat surprisingly the bloated  mage whispered "Thank you..." as Brand delivered the killing stroke. As the bloat-mage died an even more hideous figure manifested in the room, this large monstrosity had the body of a slug with a leech’s mouth at one end and a knot of three human heads at the other!
Illeosa's Contract

A Matter of Evidence

The Party dealt with the slug-like devil that had been possessing Togomor  with great efficiency forcing it to flee via a plane shift unable to handle both the Party's magical attacks and Brand's assaults with Serithtial.  After calling on Groobi's healing they quickly checked the rest of the level finding it clear.

After a brief discussion they decided to skip the 4th level where they believed the Red Mantis were housed and headed up to the attic, where they found the ghost of King Eodred's brother Venster. The apparition bid them return his body from the darkness in return for aiding them. Fortunately Anton recalled that they had found the body previously in a walled-up room in the castle's dungeon level. Once they returned with the bones Venster reappeared.

Venster informed the Party that Ileosa planned on using potent magic found in a place called the “Sunken Queen”
to achieve eternal youth. Although he didn’t know exactly what this entails, he did know that the ritual is based on ancient magic that requires the lifeblood of an army of unknowing sacrifices. In short, he fears that Ileosa has been grooming the citizens of Korvosa to be those sacrifices she needs to achieve immortality. He urged the Party to seek her out at the Sunken Queen and stop her before she can complete the ritual, warning them that even now he can feel strange and potent forces gathering in the spirit world as she makes ready to take the final step.

Venster also suggested that the Party seek out "his mothers tower" a place she spent much time and where he could sense her expending much magical energy, which Bran suggested on the map was the tower with no apparent entrance he had spotted on this level.

Finally Venster offered them the gift of a great magic item infused with the spirits of those slain by Illeosa. When the Party accepted he bid them bring out their harrow deck and Zellara manifested. The two ghosts appeared to commune for a while and then, after a warning from Venster that that not all of the spirits are kindly ones: many were insane or cruel in their own lives, and there is, unfortunately, no way to exclude them from this infusion of power. He and Zellara can moderate their influence, though, by focusing them through the traditions and mysticism of the harrow.

Zellara and Venster both manifest in the room, and the cards of Zellara’s harrow deck flew out of their container to spiral and spin in the air between them. As the ghosts concentrate, the anger and wrath of the city’s dead siphon through them to infuse the cards, which begin glowing brighter and brighter. After only a few seconds, with a final flash of light, the cards settled in a neat and tidy stack on the table.

Anton used dimension door to get into the "room with no entrance" finding it to be a richly appointed study. Searching the room they found some scrolls, Illeosa's contract with the devil Sermignatto, and a magical book  - "Truths of the Siehedron", the book suggested that the ritual  Illeosa was planning would take five days to complete. After which they returned to Resistance HQ.

Cressida was delighted with their efforts in recovering evidence against the queen,  especially after discovering, tucked in the book as a bookmark, a contract with the Red Mantis. She declared she now had enough evidence to bring those nobles and merchangts who had been reluctant on-side to oppose the Queen. She suggested that  the Party hurry to stop whatever Ileosa was up to and she would arrange to seize the city in their absence.

The Sunken Queen

Day One

Wile Cressida began rallying the forces to seize the city from those still loyal to Illeosa, the Party returned home and began planning their next move - and to study maps and charts trying to locate the location of the "sunken Queen" on Togomar's map. Eventually they found a chart that located the "Greenrust Reef" noted on the map as a landmark. Anton immediately sent a messenger to one of the pirate ships anchored offshore and arranged for it to pick them up at the docks before dawn.

Day Two

The voyage to the Greenrust Reef took all of the the next day and most of the following night, but was otherwise uneventfu. Just before dawn the ship dropped anchor about a quarter mile offshore.

Day Three

In the pre-dawn light the Party got into a jolly-boat lowered, by the sailors,  to the choppy water below. Groobi took station in the prow while Variel and Halleth took up the oars. Anton, the only one with any boat handling experience took up the steering from the stern. They cautiously moved their way through the surf where the waves crashed against the reef. Groobi suggester they headed for the rightmost channel indicated on the map that led to the small river or large stream that led northwards.

The Sunken QueenThey proceeded slowly upstream bordered on either side by the mangrove swamps, though at times it was barely more than a channel running through the swamp. At times they had to fight off the attentions of some of the local denizens, a colossal spider and a fishing party of marsh giants.

Eventually as the stream took sharp turn to the east and narrowed and shallowed considerably, they abandoned the boat and too to the air with fly spells. As they moved further northwards, surveying the swamp from the air was difficult as with all the foliage an undergrowth, everything looked the same from above, but Variel and Halleth eventually spotted something angular and artificial looking poking through the foliage.  As they were pretty visible flying, they decided to land and approach stealthily (as they could) at ground level.

After a brief problem with a froghemoth that almost made Variel into lunch, they arrived at what could only be the Sunken Queen. 

Surrounded by the primeval mangroves and draped in sheets of moss and vines, the immense horns that top the Sunken Queen seem to claw at the sky like the talons of an gargantuan monster drowned in an abyss of mud. On the east side of the pyramid, which leaned heavily into the marshy slough, one of the three original horns had collapsed, leaving a jagged, metallic stump. On the south side, barely dented by the elements and millennia of neglect, was a giant relief of a standing, naked woman, her lean, idealized figure immersed in murky water up to the knees.

They spent the next few hours surveying the surrounding area, Halleth even clambered up one side of the partially fallen pyramid, but although they found some strange three-toed tracks, they could not see any entrance, Variel speculatde it may lie under the murky swamp waters.

Day Four

The Boggard Guardians

Next morning after the Party had rested in a Magnificent Mansion provided by Variel, Groobi cast a divination receiving information that somewhere in the pyramid was a "wall that was not". Anton, using true seeing,  quickly identified an illusory wall that masked a deep passageway that had been cut into the exterior of the pyramid. Led by Brand and Halleth the Party moved down the passageway, made difficult by the angle the pyramid was lying at and almost immediately came under attack by a group of boggards, which were quickly slain, allowing the Party to move deeper into the partially flooded interior.

Fortunately they had come well supplied with potions of water breathing, but the explorations were slow and tedious due to the murky nature of the swamp-water. There explorations were interrupted at one point by a another attack by boggards which was once again repulsed before they found two shafts in the submerged area,  one leading up and one down. As Halleth informed them she could hear a faint chanting coming from above the took the upward shaft. The water in the shaft ended about 10 feet short of the end and Halleth climbed up the wall, the others employing various magic methods to get up.

Almost immediately the Party came under attack by a spell-using invisible insectoid creature. In response Variel cast glitterdust to reveal their assailant!