|Queen Ileosa ("Trinka")|
This is awkward because the oracle in our group, Ashe, has already become carnally involved with her after meeting her while she was incognito posing as the young student "Trinka" at the Academae. Nevertheless we slipped out of the school and made our way through the streets to the royal castle to see how "Trinka" was doing, found the king dead, the queen detained, confusing clues pointing towards necromantic magic--and we are still on the hook to finish an earlier quest to return the remains of a Shoanti chieftan's son taken down into some big crypt in the graveyard. In short, we've had a pretty full morning.
With our only big clues being the poison in the king's body and a strange necromantic spell on the queen, which makes her ill when Ashe goes any distance away, we decide some research is in order. The University of Korvosa has the best library around so it's the obvious place to start. Sanjay is understandably apprehensive about leaving the obvious safety of the heavily-guarded castle to venture out into riot-torn Korvosa. Peering out some arrow slits we see some overly-armored types have arrived to deal with the crowd out front--some of the local Hell Knights from the Order of the Nail. Sanjay determines that their presence simply provides yet another reason to stay inside for the time being.
|A Hell Knight|
While we observe, a group of castle guards exit the front gate and descend the main stairs to assist in pacifying the crowd. The queen is suddenly seized with the determination to intervene and dashes down to the gate. Ashe grabs her arm, a rash act when dealing with royalty, and tries to argue her into staying. She quells him with a brutal glance fit for queen. Ashe tries pleading but it is no use and the rushes off. Our tiefling classmate Slade smacks the back of Ashe's head in irritation. Our elven friend Talla Sleipnir (who is quite adept with her twin blades) rushes after the queen, also calling ahead to alert the guards to her majesty's arrival. Queen Aliosa commands the Hell Knights to cease and desist but then launches into a disjointed explanation for the crowd about the king's poisoning and false rumors of a sorceror being involved. The scene becomes awkward and Talla, sensible as always, begins dragging the queen to safety. The rest of us rush down and help Talla, with the urging of the castle guards. Outside the Hell Knights and angry korvosan mob mill about in confusion at the queen's sudden outburst.
Back inside Talla remonstrates with the queen. "So, you want to go out into an angry mob, who wants your head for killing the king, and you run out and say the king was poisoned, and there is no sorcerer--are you crazy?" The queen is rather abashed, no doubt still a bit confused from the unsettling events of the past two days. Talla shoos the rest of us off to research the two clues we have from investigating the death of the king: poison and necromancy. Sanjay is still reluctant to leave, especially with the added element of a force of Hell Knights eager to "restore order". Our new friend Axios Leroung, a young human former gladiator from Cheliax with a mysterious heretic's brand, wisely suggests we find a side exit. Before heading out we decide that Sanjay and Crow-Eye (another wizard student, a young human Azlanti chap) will research the poison, because we both have a great antipathy for necromancy, and Ashe, Axion, and Slade will research the necromantic effect. Talla claims no knowledge of either topic and volunteers to stay with the queen, in case she decides to rush off somewhere dangerous again.
Heading downstairs we meet Field Marshall Cressida Kroft of the Sable Company. Sanjay is excited to meet a member of this company, famed for their hippogriff mounts, but is able to contain his enthusiasm. Field Marshall Kroft reminds us of our sworn quest to retrieve the body of the chieftain's son and we assure her that we are on the job. She then introduces us to a tall human man, well-dressed, with salt-and-pepper hair. This dashing fellow is Vencarlo Orisini, swordmaster at the Orisini Academy where they teach swordsmanship. Orisini asks about a member of our group who is gaining a reputation for swordplay and we inform him Talla is upstairs attending to the queen. Orisini then offers to escort us through the streets. We are hesitant to accept, since his manner is somewhat mysterious. But the Field Marshall assures us of the swordmaster's bone fides and we reluctantly accept his offer.
We leave the castle and begin making our way to the university. As we walk Orisini takes note of our newest companion, Axios. Orisini points out that the people of Cheliax, whence Axios has come, are quite open in their worship of devils. Axios is somewhat taken aback but counters that not everyone of Cheliax is of that persuasion. Orisini continues his probing, commenting that we don't seem like the usual types at the Academae, with the insinuation that the residents there are likely devil worshipers. Our tiefling companion Slade suspects Orisini is referring to him, and by extension all the tiefling guards at our school. Orisini demurs by stating that being of fiendish ancestry does not necessarily make on a worshipper of devils. Slade states clearly that he would be glad to kill a devil. Orsini changes the subject, asking about our relationship to the queen. He reveals that he is aware she has assigned us a task. He goes on to mention rumors that the queen has been spotted visiting the temple of Asmodeus in town. Sanjay feels the need to defend the queen from such rumors and explains we have not witnessed any such visit and know of no connection between the queen and that temple. Eventually we arrive at the university. There is some signs a mob was present sometime earlier but the coast is clear and we enter without incident.
Back at the castle Talla hears a knock at the door to the queen's chamber. The queen recognizes the visitor as one Venster. The bodyguard who is also in the chamber explains that Venster is a half-brother to the deceased king. The queen allows Venster admittance to her presence but insists he speak with Talla and the bodyguard present. Venster reminds the queen that she hired a person to paint a portrait of the king and suggests that person may have been the poisoner. The queen remembers the painter. In fact it was she who found the woman to come paint. The painter and the king were alone on-and-off for about a month and thus she had many opportunities to poison him somehow. Talla wonders why this particular woman would want to poison the king.
And back at the university, Orisini takes his leave of our heroes and goes off into the university on business of his own. Our group heads directly to the library and commences the research. After some searching Ashe finds information about a cleansing ritual which can only be performed by a cleric of Pharasma. He recalls there is a temple of the Lady of Graves here. Ashe also remembers a night time ritual or performance where the pharasmins summon undead and then battle them. Sanjay tries numerous books but only finds an old news sheet item mentioning a relevant-sounding incident in passing. Ashe thinks he may have to get in contact with some shady types to learn anything more.
At the castle, the queen again grows ill with separation from Ashe due to the strange necromantic malady. She does take the time to inform the Marshall about the painter.
Ashe heads off to the temple of Pharasma and we accompany him into the troubled streets of Korvosa. We arrive at the temple without incident. It is imposing, surrounded by a wide graveyard. Ashe knocks and priests greets us, asking if we need assistance due to injury in the rioting. Ashe explains that a royal personage is in need of a cleansing. The priest invites us in to wait and leaves to inform one more senior. He returns a short time later with an older cleric, the chief priest of Pharasma at the temple. They ask about this royal person, mentioning they've heard the king was poisoned by a sorceress. Ashe explains that we ourselves are just students but are friends of the queen here on her behalf. He explains about the old reference to a cleansing ritual of the Pharasmins and asks if they can help us. The high priest agrees to help. After arming himself and arranging a small armed escort he accompanies us back to the castle.
The streets are quiet and at the castle the large, restless mob has been replaced with several scattered corpses. We enter and the Marshall and seneschal of the castle greet the high priest and bid him welcome. We follow the high priest up to the queen's bed chamber where she waits, still ill. The priest first calls on his divine powers and determines that she is cursed. (Cursed to fall for Ashe, thinks Sanjay.) He brings out an ancient-looking scroll and reads it with much passion. An effect occurs, which we are later strangely unable to recall clearly, and declares the queen free of the curse. Sanjay and Slade use their arcane powers to assess the queen's status. Sanjay finds only a small bit of magic left, which he finds is a bit of abjuration magic on a ring she is wearing. We are all pleased and relieved---until Sanjay realizes that we now have no excuse to delay returning to the crypts once again.
With the queen apparently safe, we debate returning to the crypts to look for the chieftain's son's body. Sanjay is less than enthusiastic, but admits that we did agree to pursue the quest. The queen jokes about coming with us again. Talla points out that the queen is now the sole ruler. She further suggests the queen should pull herself together, meet with her advisers, get word out to the people, and call a meeting of all the nobles of the kingdom. Maybe then, Talla offers, we might consider sneaking her out for an adventure some day. Sanjay is mildly surprised at this offer--especially with the bodyguard still standing right there. Before we leave the queen instructs us to be mindful of our commitment to the chieftain. She gifts us with a pair of healing potions each to keep us safe. We thank her (Sanjay is particularly relieved) and take our leave.
Not long after we arrive back at the crypt. Once more we descend the stairs and enter the large square room with large pillars. [At this point our GM Kirk swapped in the crypt map. At first the screen went black--because of course he had not set our lighting conditions. We worked on getting each character's light/vision radius and degrees of field of view for a bit. As soon as Kirk set the area for my Light spell, I could see the map lit appropriately--as shown below--pretty cool! The light radius moved beautifully as I moved; my light spell radius moved and illuminated with proper shadows!]
We proceed carefully and at first the place is deserted. Suddenly Talla spots a statue down a side passage--but no, it moves! Ashe heads down, glaive ready, to investigate but the rest of hang back. [Here we paused to struggle a bit with how to bring up the turn order window which automatically displays the characters' order in the round based on our Initiative rolls.] Sanjay cast his newest spell, Protection from Evil, partly because it seemed like it might be handy here and partly because he was eager to try it out in the field. The narrow passage prevented most of us from engaging the zombies and odd tentacled creatures in the room at the end of it, but Sanjay was not overly disappointed at that turn of events. The fight is short and no one dies. We find a pair of young man's legs with Shoanti tattoos and figure that must be the uneaten portion of the missing tribal scion. The room is ankle deep in mud, moldy rubbish, and repulsive excretia of several types. We hold our noses (literally) and search it all. Sanjay is surprisingly effective, perhaps in his eagerness to find anything and get out, finding an amber necklace, a silver dagger, and a sealed elixir of unknown type.