Curse of the Crimson Throne 4E

Musings of a Holy Warrior, Part II

It seems all things remain in constant flux no matter how hard we try to keep things from changing. Just when I believed I had the ritual all figured out, my mind began to reveal more vivid memories, further answers to my families’ dark past—and pass that knowledge to me. It has begun to get harder and harder to remain focused and true to my vows as a paladin, but I still persevere. My dreams have recently taken on a dark malevolence of their own. It has been quite a revelation to me in discovering some of the dastardly secrets my extended families have harbored. Some of my ancestors are akin to the very villains I strive to vanquish today. Unfortunately, they are now a part of who I am, the remnants of my long dead ancestors, both human and elven. The skills that I have found myself drawing on are those of cutpurses, burglars and assassins. In many ways, it just feels wrong to even possess knowledge of such notorious skills, but upon further contemplation and understanding, I simply cannot deny their sheer effectiveness for helping our small band succeed in the daunting tasks laid before us. There does exist an exhilaration in being able to move and stalk like the noble hunting cats. In those instances, I can literally feel the blood of my elven ancestors flowing through my veins, experiencing what they felt when they would scout their woodland surroundings for signs of enemies. On my human side, both the manipulation of tumblers without keys and the meticulous examination of trapped mechanisms present a sense of challenge, akin to solving some great puzzle.

Should I feel guilty for possessing the skills of a trained assassin since everything I strive for fights against such a person? Is knowledge of evil, evil itself? Can I continue to adhere to my vows as a paladin in spite of my methods? Such questions may never be answered, but I am confident they will be in time. I must be resolute and seek guidance from The Inheritor on such matters, keeping up my daily prayers and supplication. For the moment, I will draw on those memories of cutpurses, burglars and assassins to help Harrow’s Justice succeed and stay alive. Perhaps in utilization of such memories, I will gain more understanding as to what it is I have become…

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From the Belly of the Beast

Being marked by a dead goddess doesn’t seem to have any advantages at this point. Waiting for the upside of being responsible for reviving a movement to support La Scalla, but in the meantime, we still have a long road ahead of us to getting Korvosa back on track.

We journeyed to the Temple of the Moon, who needed our assistance with a Red Reaver who took over their temple. Knowing he was vastly outnumbered by our august group, he decided to fly off and leave the temple in peace. Best way for both, we don’t have to kill it and get nasty reaver guts all over us, and he lives. Win-Win.

We noticed in the distance a skull tower that didn’t seem to be there before. Such towers I’m told are created by Ancient artifacts that can appear and disappear at the owner’s whim. I did some investigating and noticed the tread of some pretty high end boots (men’s) and the prints of a woman. Maybe our tourists? The tower was near some Thasalonian ruins…expect those two to pop up again in the future- no doubt about it.

Akram the Truth Speaker arrives and agrees to accompany us to the Cinermau ritual. We trek out into the ash blown lands and we deem Lachellis to be our champion. I mean, he did a great job with the ear thing right? So we all collaborate to get him eaten by this weird beast and after a few tense moments, he cuts his way out, but comes out looking really different. Red from head to toe, bald, no hair anywhere (not even his eyebrows) and he later discovered all his scars were wiped clean. He wasn’t too happy about that, but I suppose it’s a necessary evil. River also went through the ritual, which really surprised the hell out of me, since he’s a puny little thing. Lost all of his tattoos, but for this kid- maybe it’s a good thing for him to get a fresh start on life.

We leave the Cinermau domain and head to lands of the Skar-craw tribe. We get an armed escort into their village and we have a not so welcoming reunion with our old pal Crojin. We are presented to the Sun Shaman of the tribe (who we are supposed to get info from about the crown), and the chief…who looks like an older version of Crojin! No wonder that guy has so much attitude.

Arkam tells the tale of our battle with the Cindermau and yet the Sun Shaman still refuses to tell us more about the crown. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!! What does it take to get basic info out of these crazy Shanti? Well, turns out we need to be members of the tribe. Great, so we petition to become members and guess what? Another crazy ritual has to be accomplished before that happens.

So begins our test of strength and endurance. We are to haul tall stone pillars and hold them in place for a day, before having to move them to a higher ground and do it again for another day. Cake for me, the squishy ones were having a hard time of it though. Didn’t help that we were also attacked by land sharks. So I’m puncturing them with mad arrows while still holding up my pillar and we defeat them – and despite Arith and River dropping theirs once, and Larisha totally damaging hers, we passed according to the Sun Shaman. Bring it!

The Sun Shaman leaves to consult the chief/elders of the tribe before imparting his knowledge of the crown and anything we may need to defeat the queen. So we hang out, got some wicked cool tattoos, and went to sleep. Who knows what the morning will bring?

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Waking Sleeping Giants

After getting some new supplies, we headed out to the Cinderlands, which was where we were headed before we got sidetracked by all this sword business. Arith reminded me we were going to such a desolate place to see our old (and I mean really old) Shanti associate 1,000 Bones to get some advice on how to deal with the Queen and her magic crown. Korvosa seems like a world away these days.

Trina is along for the ride as she’s well-versed in all things Shanti. We are escorted into their village and there are several different tribes present – including this huge guy named Crojin who walks around with an Earthbreaker like it’s a mug of ale. The guy does not like our party and during the Bone Council he challenges Lachellis to some contest of strength that involves them tying their ears together. 1,000 Bones was going to get him off the hook, but we all know that wasn’t going to work and Lachellis accepted the challenge. Luckily, our guy won, which impressed the hell out of me personally. Lachellis is great in a fight, but the sheer force of will he exerts when tested is pretty amazing.

We ask the Council about who can tell us more about the artifacts that the Queen has access to and are told we need to speak to a shaman from another tribe. Easy right? Not so much, apparently this guy won’t speak to us unless we’re officially members of his tribe and becoming such is no easy feat. It involves having a Truth Speaker watch us defeat the Cindemar. In order to face the Cindemar, we have to get the mark of Desna on us first somehow. Something about becoming ‘one with the Globe’ or something. Piece of cake? Right.

1,000 Bones sends us on our way with 4 Shanti escorts with a bunch of cool spells/tricks for our adventure, including Flame Flowers, Silver Sands, Flash Flowers, some Elixirs and more. In our journey we come across a pole with a skull on the top – a recent Cindemar victim? Can’t recall. Oh and someone casually drops that Orsini is Blackjack. What!! Where was I when this was discussed before? Doesn’t really surprise me, but maybe I should pay better attention in the future.

We go to the Acropolis of the Thrall Keepers and just narrowly avoid a fire storm that was raging across the sands. Markings on the Acropolis extols the Rune Lord who created the Sword of Greed – Karzug. Great, more sword stuff. We head inside and find ourselves in a large room with two pools and side hallways flanking the main area. I’m always leery of pools, nasty things tend to come out of them, so I kept my bow at the ready. We explored some of the rooms and came across one with a mermaid statue inside and then one with a bunch of statues of scholarly type guys and tons of writing. River was transfixed by the writings on the walls and spent at least an hour just reading the words of some dead person. We had to physically drag him out of the room (no vampires nearby that I could see) and then we discover a room with a statue of a snake woman statue which was La Scalla, some dead Goddess no one had heard of. She had a flail in her hand that seemed to come free, so I pocketed it in case it was needed for any upcoming encounters. I found a hidden drawer in the status with a puzzle inside that showed us a map on the ceiling of the Acropolis.

We took this chute down and found ourselves in a room with a massive globe. Now the Shanti words are making more sense to me, but how to become one with it? We realize we aren’t alone in the room and come across two…well….tourists for lack of a better term. Shadow Count Lao, who looks Chelaxian and his…bodyguard/paramour – Assira. When we determined they wouldn’t attack us from behind, we made our way to the Globe. A couple of the party went and put their hands on it, some didn’t have anything happen at first, but I sure did. I was thinking about the last temple of Desna I visited many months ago and I felt transported into space, flying and then coming back to our plane. It was pretty wild. The mark appeared on my face after that, the mark of Desna (+4 perception for a month). The others finally had the experience too and we then began to make our way back out of the Acropolis when we were ambushed by Red Mantis.

It was pretty insane fight, the Mantis had this red cloud up that made seeing them pretty impossible, but with the help of our new tourist friends we were able to dispatch them. We head back up and are surprised to find Crojin and some of his men in the Acropolis. The Shanti were bored and started skipping rocks on the surface of the pool and luckily I was able to pull one back from the edge as a huge tentacle erupted from below. I knew it!! I hate pools of water. Apparently it was best to run away, as this being was from another plane and there was really no chance of defeating it. We got out of there in a hurry and bid farewell to the Count and his…friend. They used some really cool cube to leave, need to get one of those. Makes for easier travel I bet.

We head out toward the House of the Moon and I have some pretty wicked bad nightmares that night. Being killed in all kinds of terrible ways, not exactly pleasant. Arith pressed me about it and I had to come clean about what I was seeing. At first, we thought it was connected to River being entranced in that room of words, but then River stares at me and freaks out. He said I stole something from the dead goddess and now she’s marked me as hers. Crap, the flail. I totally forgot to put it back because that monster erupted out of the water. River said her name is marked on my body, I can’t see it but can see it’s really freaking him out. He looks at me like I’m doomed and it really shakes me up.

Arith and Lachellis pull me aside and we have a talk about what to do about this problem and decide to have a Harrow reading, among other things. The reading isn’t good, basically makes me out to be this piece of filth that steals and lacks honor, which I take offense to. When I first joined this group, I didn’t know these people and my one goal was to find my brother. I took any job I could to get the gold, which I’d use to get more information and that much closer to finding him. When we facedGaidran Lam and he told me my brother had been long dead, a part of me died with the telling of that news. My purpose was at an end. This party gave me a new purpose, but I’m still grieving and have to keep up that wall of arrogance and coldness to get us through the battles we face and try not to lose another part of my soul if one of them falls.

So now I’m marked as the property of a dead goddess. Not exactly what I thought would happen to someone like me who doesn’t take much stock in religion and magic mumbo-jumbo, but the world has a way of setting you on the right path even when you want to run in the opposite direction.

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Well Earned Reward

Where did I leave off, oh right – splashing into the water.Mattea almost landed right on top of me, so lost no time in getting out of the water and joining the party in making short work of the Water and Fire elementals.

Tarina and her underlings put up a good fight, I was pretty badly hurt at one point. Larisha had her healing mojo up and though I was loathe to crowd around her and provide an easy target for the sorceress, River convinced me to repair some major damage I’d sustained in wiping out the elementals. Magic people are so wise…wrong! Sure enough, as soon as I get within a step of Larisha, Tarina pops us all into the other plane/oubliette….all of us except River. I would have loved to see the look on his face when he realized he was facing her alone. Classic.

Oh, I’m forgetting about Lachellis. While we were dealing with getting out of the oubliette, he apparently bounds up to where the swords are and tries to kick over one of the candles to stop the ritual. See, I thought we had already stopped it when she had her chanting interrupted, but what do I know? I just shoot things.

We get back to the fight and I’m dumped in the farthest back corner of the cavern. I’m fast, but I’m not that fast. Lachellis had picked up the sword of Wrath and went after Tarina, who realized she was in a world of trouble. She set the main sword – Lust – as her way to keep us from following. Not sure how she made it past the lava, when we were in that room – it was unbearably hot. Magic people. Oh, and Tempest, the air elemental, ran away too. The Sword of Lust had some kind of spell that allowed it to hold people that got close to it. I avoided that nonsense and started looking for treasure.

They would have never found it without me, as my incredibly sharp skills of perception found a hidden chamber. All kinds of stuff was in there, including ancient documents, spell components, a ton of magic items (I pocketed one)and other loot that we could easily sell in town. Well worth the hassle of being turned to stone and popped into other planes.

We bundle up the swords (no one touched them but Lachellis), using some implements, then we head into town. We get confronted immediately by a gaggle of trolls who want to take the swords from us. I heard some armor clanking in the distance and bluffed that our army would kick their hides. Luckily it was our army…so to speak. The Church of Abadar was there and the trolls backed down. We were paid the 10k in gold for recovering their sword, and gave the rest to their keeping as the bankers can keep them safe (tell that to Tarina!).

We were able to take some of our reward and go back to the Magical Oddities shop and got a discount from the toad, I mean shopkeeper, that we had helped with the gang stuff. Feels good to get new gear, but man am I ready to get out of this insane town. People were acting all kinds of weird around Lachellis, but that’s normal. He smells most of the time.

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Monumental Pain

So we had moved beyond those crazy sea serpents or whatever they were and had moved to a new corridor of doom…specifically fighting basilisks and some small trolls of a sort who chew on creatures. Looks like some of their victims were from the street gang we fought with in town. Feel somewhat sorry for them….nope, I’m remembering how they ganged up on Arith and am over the sympathy feeling now.

Somehow, I end up getting turned to stone. I always imagined they would erect a monument in my honor someday for saving the world/city/whatever, I bet I looked incredible in my archer’s stance, but being the statue? Not so cool. Ironically it took bird feathers and gods knows what other nasty concoction to get me back to normal. Felt a twinge of guilt for holding up the party, but then remembered how they would be lost without me helping kill stuff, so I let that go pretty fast too.

So now we’ve come to the big fight and there’s Lachellis running right into the arms of 4 elementals – Air, Water, Fire and Earth. I’m fighting Air most of the time until suddenly I’m sucked into some portal or oubliette that I can’t escape from. My party is out there, getting gods knows what being done to them, and I’m stuck!!!

Concentrate…you can do this. (Yes, I talk to myself sometimes). splash

What in the world….how did I end up in the water? And is that Arith floating near me? What is up with our strikers ending up in the water and unconscious?

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Seven Deadly Swords

We have a mission, to find Tarina and stop this ritual which using the seven swords of sin, will reawaken these ancient lords that have no business running around in our time and stirring up power that should not be in this sorceress’ hands.

You have to give her credit, she had a goal and has seen it through. Too bad it’s evil and wrong. So we will stop her, eventually. In the meantime we are making our way through this labyrinth of rooms and monsters to get to where she has started this world-as-we-know-it ending ritual.

We’re getting closer, I can tell. The ridiculous monsters are my first clue. I was sent to scout this room with this weird metal scraping noise, which turned out to be this vampire with a never-ending fountain of swords swirling around him. He catches me (which, I admit, was easy considering I was using my new floating lantern) and then poof we are all in the room with him, except Lachellis for some reason. Ooops! Sorry guys. Vamp had it bad for Arith for some reason, what is it with Arith and dead people wanting him in all kinds of sick and evil ways? I’d understand if it was River, that kid has some issues with the dark side.

So we decide to live to fight another day, escape the room of death and swords, take a boat and almost make it across when some water elementals almost attack us. Seems they can be bribed, so we lost some gold and jewels (which was painful to watch) and make our way to our next situation. What they are going to do with all that sweet loot in the water is beyond me, not like they have markets down there. Damn waste.

We come to a new room that boasts a nasty river. Lachellis decides to be a show-off and jumps over it, while two big bads emerge. I was pretty sure we were going to lose Lachellis when I saw him being dragged under water, but Larisha really stepped up and kept him going while we took care of the beasties.

So we’re off to explore the next room on the way to thwart this ritual, gods only know what is behind the next door, down the next hallway, but one things for sure. This wench is going down.

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One Scarab Tomb Many

So there we were, abseiling down the sheer face of a 3,000 foot escarpment to infiltrate a fortified compound, stop a ritual from being performed and undoubtedly save the world from an ancient a certain death. Boy this takes me back.

This mission – to stop Tarina before she completed the ritual? It’s what I lived for in the Guard, trained for all the time. See I was with a special unit back then, before the trial, working tasked for special assignments. That’s why I know how this whole “special agent of the Marshall” thing works. Within the Korvosa Town Guard you have all types of Guards. Dopey dipshit types that barely made it in and walk around on patrol trying to look tough or whistling a tune till the next payday. These guys probably strain their wrist holding a hand out behind them for the payoff. Then you got the veterans – folks who have been around the block once or twice, seen some real combat, been called upon to settle out some gang activity. Heck you even have Guards like Maya – sneaking around and being all stealthy to spy and shit. And then you have Guards like me. Guards who did our regular duties but were always available for the special mission – got a band of street toughs who have barricaded themselves in an old building and aren’t paying the sin tax – in through the front door on a hard target charge. Got monsters running loose that have to be taken out fast and hard – send in my team. I spent much of my formative youth learning how to go up, and get down, the walls and roofs of Korvosa building. Every idiot can throw a table in front of the door and call it defensive, few think to block that window two stories up. My job – always first in front, the lead of the team. Not because I’m the best fighter, but I can break through just about anything with nary a thought on what’s the other side and charge into the teeth of whatever it turns out to be. I’m good that way. I wasn’t a veteran back then – but I ran with the best, learning from them – and everyday I tried my damnedest to scale that wall faster, break down the barrier sooner, and charge more aggressively to draw the attention and give my team behind me time to make entry. No one likes to get bottled up, hanging from a rope outside a fifth story balcony window that your entry man can’t clear. That’s why I learned the polearm I did – which would seem odd for the work – but boy it helps you say “hello” when busting up a room full of bad guys and needing to grab all their concern at once.

Anyways – back to our descent – Erith went first, he’s good on this stuff too – though I think I’m better. Still he can teleport, whereas I can’t. Then again I can fall 3,000 feet and not get hurt. I’m pretty sure he can’t do that. Then came the baggage: River, Maia and Larischa trussed up like livestock being offloaded at the river docks. Maya came down last – good poise and speed, handling of the rope, she’s done this before.

So for me – jumping down over that cliff face with a rope in my hand, certain blood and steel awaiting me below and no way to return back up – it was like a pleasant homecoming. Then we came to the totally dicked up impossibly blocked magical doohickey of death. We didn’t have too much of that back in the day. But that’s why we brought along the kid, River did his thing and we were able to sneak in. I didn’t think it would be this easy – but I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was.

The first room we come to is a water pool, divided by a bridge and occupied by one mean-assed sonofabitch hydra with multiple heads. He tagged me first – which is all good because I’m first in line and I’m not wearing this armor to improve my looks. But then he goes splashing back and forth into the water, striking up all and down our line which has spread out alongside the pool. I move back down the line and position to anticipate where it next surfaces – it does and I manage to tag it, drawing its attention to me. Now this is where it gets fuzzy, and I swear I hadn’t been drinking much that day, it being just in the morning and all. I could’ve sworn I said “Keep me in front, focus on the Hydra – attack it when it surfaces!” Or something similarly hero like and bullshity.

But I must not of. Because from what he did River apparently heard me shout “Go running blindly down a dark tunnel and see what other hideous monster you can bring back to our already dicked up situation.” Because that’s exactly what the kid did. Recon in force – at least for the monsters. He draws back this energy elemental spirit bullshit that starts lighting us up with lightening

We’ve managed to tactically consolidate our position by getting flanked on both sides by monsters we can’t seem to hurt much. But at least all bunched up like that we made good targets for lighting strikes. Maya managed to squirt out the entrapment, and go running back around the control panel. From there we were able to (finally) focus on the Hydra while the back ranks held off the energy spirit and kill it – while someone figure out how to fiddle with the console panel which in some way managed to kill the energy spirit.

Pretty messed up we move through some more traps, which was actually kinda funny watching Erith get pounded into the ceiling like that, that manage to annoy – but still not kill us. Down some stairs and we’re into the labyrinth proper. Maya and River secure the stairs as the rest of us fan out, room by room. We come across some crazy steam and gears contraption that, at least according to Larischa, you can feed bodies into and make some magical concoction and potion. The next room after that we find what looks like the bartender of the machine – a messed up goggle wearing necromancer who, personally, reminded me a lot of Rolf. This guys deal was acid – he breathed it, he could envelope our group with it, and if you stayed close to him it would just however around you like a cloud eating away at your flesh. Pinning him down was frustrating, I should’ve done better than I did, but he was teleporting all over the damn place. At least I now know what the monsters feel like trying to fight Erith. We’re having a real hard time taking him down until Maya joins us form the stairs – and with her help he’s down in short order.

For the first time we manage NOT to kill someone who might have useful information, or let him get away scott free. Instead we capture the bespeckled acid wizard and interrogate him on what he knows, which unfortunately isn’t much. All about me-me-me and my-experiments and how he teleports in and out of this place so has no idea what’s going on. We make him show us the remaining rooms nearby, where he’s imprisoned some monstrous animals, then – like fucking idiots – we put him in a cage. From which he promptly teleports….well….somewhere else and is at least out of our hair.

Now bleeding from a hundred cuts, rather than just fifty, we bring in River and Maya from the stairs and soldier on into some sort of garden looking thing. We’re moving through there when some kind of sentient vegetation comes alive – Erith manages to negotiate with the salad dishes and they stand aside to let us into whatever they were guarding.

What were they guarding?

Why an enclosed tomb surrounded by scarab bas-relief bronze engraving. What could possibly go wrong here? We manage to open a not so secret door and uncover a sarcophagus that is several centuries old – probably not old enough to be a Runelord or holding one of the Seven Deadly Fuckme Weapons, but old enough. I don’t like this setup, not a bit. Nothing good ever came from messing with the dead. But Larischa and Erith, they seem real eager to open the sarcophagus, says it has something to do with stopping Tarina. I don’t really buy it, but hey, it’s Erith after all.

So Erith opens it up and what pops out – but about ten thousand ever-loving flesh eating scarabs!! Followed by a mummy, of course, who immediately begin issuing a “I’ve been stuck in this coffin for a thousand years” beat down on all of us for no other reason than apparently it blames us for disturbing his rest – or facilitating his escape. I’m not fucking sure. But old crusty was no match for a thoroughly beaten-down, but now fully constituted with River and Maya on board, Harrows Justice. We put the wraps on this guy and decide to call it a camp for a night. We’ve got a natural fortification in that there’s only one way in and out of this room and that’s guarded by garden monsters. I’m hoping Tarina also doesn’t speak salad.

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Exploding Trolls? Really?

Just when I think I’ve seen it all, we stumble into a backwards city on some impossible mission and I end up with troll all over me.

Sometimes I wonder if our group really has any purpose but to risk our lives to clean up other people’s messes and save the world over and over. We never even get a moment to ourselves to feel a sense of satisfaction before some other retarded mess gets thrown into our path.

We come across a woman who has been imprisoned by some nasties, in some cave on another plane or dimension. What? Some of this magic stuff really throws me for a loop sometimes. Her companions weren’t as lucky and got dusted, so like usual it was really up to us to help her out. Turns out the woman is some important banker who tells us a story about this sorceress who is collection the 7 Swords of Sin. I am instantly intrigued and must know more. These swords are old, really old. They have immense power and if they are reawakened – could bring about the end of the world. And we thought having a zombie queen was bad. This is definitely bigger than local politics.

She offers us 10k gold for recovering the sword. Sweet – sounds simple right? Well, not so much. The town where we’re supposed to uncover this sorceress in is void of any sort of values. Coin is the language of the day and while I myself like to consider myself pretty well-versed in that language, dealing with these locals is baffling to me. At least I earn my money with fair labor and work, risking my life. These people ask for three times what something is worth and you aren’t even sure they will do it. Thieves really. Mercenaries have more honor since they at least do the job. I have no patience for such practices, this city is foul.

After we hit many dead ends, we finally are directed to another worthless shopkeeper who may know the address to the sorceress. The price? We have to rough up the local gang who is collecting money from him. I am really not a fan of this exchange, how does it make us any better than they are? We have been reduced to hired thugs. Makes me ill, but that’s how this city works. We have to wait for them to come by on collection day, so we pass the time selling some of our hard-won loot.

Larisha and Lachellis come back from their wanderings (throwing gold around like it’s water) and blabber about this troll that can divine things by pulling out his guts and reading them. Weird, but intriguing. I figure I’ll watch the side show. He asks for 500 gold and I almost choked when they paid him. We ask where we can find the sorceress and the troll explodes all over us! Oh I got the message all right – this sorceress is not to be messed with!

Hate to say it, but 10k is a paltry amount to be paid for what I can see is going to be a suicide mission. I know we have to save the world, but sometimes I just think it’s pure luck we haven’t lost anyone yet to all the depraved and evil foes we have faced in the past. I hope our luck isn’t running out.

We set up to put a world of hurt on the gang, of course there are more than we think. They rush Arith, though swarm would be a better term. It was pretty tough to watch, so I just concentrated on ending as many of them as possible with my arrows. He went down and then they swarm Lachellis and he goes down. Thank the gods for Larisha and River for healing and blasting.

We win the day, or the afternoon, and will collect the address and head into another more dangerous situation. I am not sure why, but I feel in my soul that it’s my duty to see these swords safely back into hibernation and hidden from the world and those who would use them for evil purposes. It’s probably the first thing I have felt passionately about since Lamm confirmed my brother’s death and the end of my quest.

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Musings of a Holy Warrior

Much has changed since the seer called our band to her residence that fateful eve. Death and chaos in a province such as Korsova tends to bring out such change. I thought for certain that Keylee’s death would herald the end of my tenure as a paladin of Iomadae, breaking the very vows I held dear for decades in order to claim vengeance. Odds are good that once I claimed vengeance, I would have thrown myself into the maw of death and partaken of the Mendevian Crusades against the horror of the Worldwound. But fate played a strange hand and placed me squarely in Harrow’s Justice. In this “adventuring company’s” presence, oddly, I was able to keep a level head and mete out justice without giving into the vengeful temptations of Dranngvit. So now that I have carved out some time to myself as we lodge upon the cliffs of Kaer Maga, I have finally made the decision to journal my thoughts in a record so that should I fall in battle, perhaps these musings will be of some value to my family, my church or my fellow members of Harrow’s Justice.

First, I wish to chronicle the implications of the regime change in Korsova. When the Queen took over as the sovereign leader of Korvosa, we immediately knew that such a change would be detrimental to the region. While I feel there is more we could have done to help the people of Korvosa during this troubling time, knowing what I know now, I am content with all we accomplished with the riots, the plague and many other issues that arose during this time of uncertainty. While the work in Korvosa is far from done, our efforts are best served addressing the cause of it all—the Queen and her corruption by the ancient, insidious crown on her head. There are other implications of this despot coming to power that are not lost to me. My house, the noble house of Porphyria, has long been banished from Korvosa by House Arabasti. After forty years of banishment from Korvosa, Arabasti rule is no more. The Queen is no scion of House Arabasti. In this regard, there is hope for our noble family to be restored to its former prominence. In order to honor my family, I have made efforts to restore our good name during this trying time when appropriate. Many of the nobles I aided during the riots are aware of my noble affiliation and it is my hope that once a proper ruler is seated on the throne of Korvosa, I will have their support to restore House Porphyria’s presence in Korvosa.

Second, I wish to touch on the effects of the ritual used to convert me to a member of the Daggers of Justice. I was warned by Sword Knight Himlark that the ritual involved in my conversion would be traumatic and that the questionable moral center of some of my ancestors would affect my own outlook on justice and moral judgment. I must say that for the first week, such warnings held true. I seemed to carry a coldness and detachment that was not in my nature. It was an outlook where the will of Iomadae had to be carried out at all costs, without regard for anything or anyone around me. Fortunately, my own personality has proven the strongest of all memories and has driven out any suspect moral dilemmas I once faced in that first week. At this point, I feel I am the same creature I was, only I am not bound by the vows taken by the Iomadae order of paladins. That is not to say that I have changed in my respect of these tenets, on the contrary, I still use the vows I took as a paladin as my moral compass—my guide to see me through the evils of Golarion. Overall, I do not regret my induction into the Daggers of Justice one bit. My prowess with body and blade has taken me to talent I never dreamed I could have achieved. I know now that I am extremely fortunate to have had such skilled warriors hailing from my elven and human ancestry. Their techniques that I am able to recall as my own now are some I never would have received from the masters of today. All this for the glory and honor of The Inheritor, the valorous lady I know and love called Iomadae.

Third, I feel it necessary to speak of my fellow members of Harrow’s Justice. I love them all, akin to one would care for younger sisters and brothers—but the bond is a lot more complicated than that simple comparison. Fate seems to play into interaction between us all, so the bonds between each of them and myself seem to ebb and flow like the tide. Perhaps in time I may come to understand each of them as I have come to understand myself. Until then, I will convey my perception of each of them…

I find it only appropriate to start with Lachellis Caiden. Having known him the longest of Harrow’s Justice, Lachellis is an honorable soul, but he simply doesn’t know it yet. Sometimes men like him take a lifetime to figure out what they were meant to be, but I hope that is not the case for Lachellis…I pray to The Inheritor nightly that he will find that calling sooner. Don’t get me wrong, I do not expect him to walk the path of a paladin or zealot of any sort. I simply foresee him coming to grips with his shortcomings and realizing he can overcome them all..that will be a Lachellis to behold indeed. When I spoke on his behalf many moons ago when he was accused falsely, I did so not only because he was innocent, but because I knew we were kindred souls. I do not fault him for his proclivities for violence nor his penchant of women and ale. If I had been through what he had been through, then perhaps I would be marching on the same self-destructive path. Regardless, he is an ally, a comrade in arms and a friend…

Maia is an enigma to me. Her elven descent is barely noticeable by her mercenary tendencies, but there is something else there. There is a depth to this seemingly shallow creature that she hides well. Since my induction into the Daggers of Justice released countless memories of my elven ancestors, not a single elf in my memories was so focused on coin. However, there were a few that exhibited a guise of such behavior. Perhaps when I get a chance to speak with Maia alone, I will see if there is something else to this elven lass that is buried inside her and see if there is something I can do to help. Iomadae does seem to watch over this archer of such skill, as her prowess in battle is without question—a true tribute to her race. At first glance, the two of us are polar opposites, but I believe we have more in common than both of us could imagine. Time will tell…

I have known many young women such as Larisha in my time, but she is certainly unique. It has been many decades since I can recall possessing such a naive outlook on life, but it is warming to see this young girl grow into womanhood. I cannot deny her dedication to her church and it is inspiring to see such devotion from a woman of her age. There a priests twice her age within Iomadae’s ranks who do not possess a quarter of her dedication and skill. Her infatuations with different men we encounter is harmless for now, but such could be detrimental if such attentions fall on the wrong man. I shall have to at least pay attention to such objects of affection. My respect for the church of Pharasma wanes quickly, especially considering our last encounter, but such is not reflective of Larisha. In the end, she is very much like a younger sister to me and I will protect her to that end. Her parents would truly be proud of what their child has become…

Mattea is the newest member of Harrow’s Justice and has proven to be rather adept in her martial magics. I am not certain where her strong admiration of Harrow’s Justice stems from, but at least it is a pleasant feeling of us in that regard. Her divine magics are a bit of a mystery to me in how she calls upon many gods to work her incantations, but such invocations must be heard by them because she does achieve the prayers she desired. I will have to speak more with Mattea to understand more about her, but the church of Iomadae certainly vouches for her. In the end, that is good enough for me—most of the time. Regardless, her enthusiasm for our undertakings is strangely refreshing…

River…where to start. The wizard has slipped into his heritage easy enough, but has gone from one vice to the next. Now that he has freed himself from his drug habits, he has begun to delve into magics that I care little for. He remains as loyal and determined to our cause as he ever has, which is why I have yet to say anything to him about his questionable arcane practices. He too is very much like a brother to me and as such, I certainly will help him at any point he has need of my aid. It is my hope that he finds his way to a benevolent god so that he does not wallow on a path that will lead to oblivion, but often it takes time for young men to reconcile themselves with events that cannot change, like the demise of Aroden. Regardless, I intend to speak with him more on the road so that I can determine how best to help him, whether it involve his Chelexian family or his newfound arcane powers…we shall see.

I pray at least one hour daily. Rest assured that every member of Harrow’s Justice is remembered in my prayers to The Inheritor. Our recent forays in Kaer Maga made me realize just how dangerous a game we play with the forces of evil aligned against us. But this danger is why we are here. If any member of Harrow’s Justice did not care for each other or the potential for Golarion to take a turn into darkness, they would have left our diverse band long ago. No, we are all in it to see this through. May Iomadae give me the strength to cut down any who would see harm to this land I call my own or these members of Harrow’s Justice I call family…

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Into the Bowels of Kaer Maga

So there we were – stinking of stale troll guts and fighting for our lives on the intersection of Chickenshit lane and Horseshit alley in a bad part, of a bad district, of the bad city of Kaer Maga . And things were going badly. Harrows Justice versus the Slaughterhouse gang – outnumbered two to one.

Four seconds earlier Arith and I were holding the front line, the only line, between the gang and the softer members of Harrows who were doing their part to even the odds.

Three seconds ago the Boys swarmed Arith attacking him from all sides and two seconds ago he went down faster than the dress on a two-snip whore on payday with the Guard.

One second ago the Boys queued up on me for an encore performance of the gang-stomp. I was barely hanging on as it was, one working tendon in my knee, an intact collarbone, and the grace of Father Cailean all I had left. As another round of blows started falling I felt the tendon snap and recoil under the grating edge of a blade, my collarbone cracked and crumbeled under an axe strike and Father Cailean left to get a drink.

Right now? My head bouncing off the cobblestone – tasting broken tooth, bloody breath from a punctured lung and the bile of my own mortality – I could see – just as my vision began to darken – the Boys swarm to rain certain-fucking-death on the rest of Harrows Justice and I have just one final, enduring thought.

I love this fucking town.

We came to Kaer Maga for two reasons. Neither of which originally was to get the snot stomped out of us. Our primary reason was as stopover point on our way into the Cinderlands – sell our old shit, buy some new shit, and stock up on some other shit in the last place to understand roofs and a wall for a thousand miles. I’ve heard rumors of the Shoanti] in the Cinderlands, bunch of bloodthirsty savage barbarians. Meeting Thousand-Bones, I don’t know, the old fart had more wisdom than teeth, which wasn’t hard – but his son – what’s his face – would probably skin me alive as soon as look at me twice. Yeah best to stop over in Kaer Maga and gear up before heading into the hell lands.

The other reason kind of fell into our blood-stained laps. The traveler we rescued from the crazy Pharasma -bitch was Piety Winnesten, a high muckity-muck of the Church of Abadar, you know, those banker types who won’t get involved in anything as long as their palms are greased? We must maintain strict neutrality even as people starve on the street and children die from the plague because an ever-loving Whore Queen is calling the shots and declared martial law outlawing everything but saluting the high fucking Cheliaxian flag? Yeah – well to Abadar, the Crown Hag is just another client and they don’t want to get involved in local politics.

Yeah, that, Church of Abadar.

Long story short of it the high-holy fence sitters had been guarding some seriously bad ass artifacts from the Thassalonian age, you know way back when Aroden was a corporal. Something called the Sword of Lust, one of seven artifacts held by these ancient evils called Runelords got burgaled out from Abadar nose by a spell-caster by the name of Tarina. Word had it Tarina was in or heading to Kaer Maga, so Piety Winnesten and her two Grey Guardsmen were traveling to Kaer Maga when they were kidnapped by the Pharasma crazies. Her Guardsmen were turned into dust, and they were working Winnesten over to turn her into…well something else. You want the details? Ask fucking River. The kid understands this fucking stuff, I’m a Soldier, the extent of my knowledge on celestial alignments is how to line up the whitewashed rocks outside the barracks to mark a path from bunk to shithole. All this hummana hummana bullshit realms and magical states of being mojo is way above my paygrade.

Apparently the Runelords created a sword for each vice – though, not to brag, I’ve got all the sword of lust I need right here! The swords are sleeping though, and come to mention it so are the Runelords, and if they’re ever activated in total it will be the end of the world, fire and brimstone, all that. Well somebody’s done a pretty good job of acquiring, and I use that word the same way Thrice would, the artifacts.

Anyways Piety Benchsitter offered us ten-large in gold to get the sword back and I swear Maia got an erection at the offer. Even got some myself. That’s good pay, and the charity work has never been good for her spirits. How hard could it be?

Walking around Kaer Maga is like bedding your girlfriends sister compared to Korvosa. Both cities are full of curves, both can provide you with just about everything you need if you know where to look, but at first glance they’re totally different – and that’s hot – but over time you realize they both fall not too far from the same tree of bat-shit crazy.

Korvosa has a single ruling monarch, who is fucking insane, and Kaer Maga has about a dozen of factions ruling the city – all of which appear equally insane. No I don’t have the goddamn time to tell you all about them, I’ll do it later. Anyways – back to my point, in Korvosa you can get away with a crime if you can pay the sin tax, in Kaer Maga you can get away with a crime if the person you’re criminalizing doesn’t fight back hard enough. In both cities you’ll get knifed if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’s just that in Kaer Maga it will be a street thug and in Korvosa it will be a Grey Maiden. Both cities need a good injection of justice – but that’s another matter. To be honest I’m still torn – would I want one crazy over me with all power, or like twenty crazies ruling all over me splitting all the power up. Have to think about that for awhile. Father Cailean willing, we’ll get an opportunity for that kind of change in Korvosa] before this is all over.

This is a city consumed with its own business – and one thing we struggled with – that doesn’t mean they know a lot of what’s going on in the city. But everyone knows what’s going on with money – how much they have, how they’re going to make more, and who’s going to give it to them. It’s a city full of Maias, and I’m pretty sure it’s driving our Maia nuts. We split into two groups, the kid and Maia working one angle and Arith, Larisha and myself working another. Not sure what River and Maia did but we three went around a handful of stalls in different districts.

We spread some gold in some palms to find someone who could introduce us around and help us find people. We also went to the Augurs, one of the factions ruling the city. I’d heard that the Augurs were all Trolls who foretold the future by reading their own intestines – if only Larisha did that with the Harrows Cards I might pay more attention. Since we already needed some intel, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to catch this show. It was worth every gold we paid too – its something you’ve got to see for yourself trust me. Your teeth go on edge, the air gets, heavy, the troll rips open its guts spraying blood all over a linen cloth set before, then starts rooting through. The troll confirmed that the Sword of Lust was in the city, but to tell us where, it’d need a name of who possessed it. Then it stuffed its guts back inside and leaned back, obviously you don’t get too do too many followup questions so we decided to come back the next day.

Maia and River had struck out because they hadn’t realized the golden rule in Kaer Maga, those who spend the gold make the rules. Larisha and I went out so she could visit her Temple and I could make sure she didn’t visit it as a corpse. Turns out there’s a Temple to Father Cailean just across the street from Pharsma so while she was inside hummana-hummana I wandered over. Man – what a fucking place. Drinkers, and brawlers, and brawling while drinking. Some oak of creature over in the corner was running arm-wrestling scams, a scam because he trounced me like I was somebodies kid and I know I used to win most of the Guard bouts. Still – there was something…I don’t fucking know, off you know, with the place. Like I got to go back home, only to find that although home had stayed the same, I hadn’t. I mean everyone there was fucking drinking up a storm and fighting – and don’t get me wrong I’ve done my share of that too. But not lately, at least the drinking part. Somehow, being in there, I felt like a stranger coming back to a familiar place, rather than back home. Fuck me, I don’t fucking know what I mean, forget I brought it up.

We get back to the inn to find that we’d already been visited to set up a meet with someone who could tell us where Tarina was. Long story short –we head out to this stall and there’s a merchant who sells low grade magical goodies, you know the kind – little knicknacky shit that makes life easier – everything from a bridle that turns into a horse to that magic lantern he swiped off the dead guy in the alley. I mean, you don’t go looking too hard at these or you might see the blood stains on them. Well this merchant has a problem, and before he’s going to tell us where Tarina can be found we have to solve his problem. And that problem is the Slaugherhouse Boys – what you thought I’d forgot about that? I was just laying the groundwork you know, how we got to there.

So we schedule a throw down with the Slaughterhouse Boys for a few days from now, and by schedule I mean plan to ambush. That leaves us some more time to finish up our shopping, and get back to the Augurs. This time Maia wants in on the show and Arith waves off. Good choice for his pretty boy image. So long story short, we’re back in front of a troll – with a linen cloth out in front of it, and we ask The name of the person holding the Sword of Lust is Tarina, where is she in town?

The Troll starts his process, ripping out his guts, and then – I’m not fucking kidding – the good god-damned troll explodes. I mean there wasn’t a piece bigger than my finger flying around. All three of us got hazed with blood and guts, I think I saw the trolls jawbone roll around on the floor – and the walls, they were just covered. My first thought was I wonder who they’ll bring in to interpret this prophecy, it must be the mother fuck-all. Then my second thought is Holy shit – Tarina probably did that and she’s got a bead on us! I grab Maia, and Larisha who is sit there blabbering like an idiot – seriously that girl needs to learn the difference between prayer time and a troll-just-fucking-exploded-in-your-face time when it comes to opportunities of casual conversation.

We book out there and take all the back ways and back alleys to the inn – so as not to be followed. Of course Arith and River can’t get enough chuckling out of the whole damn thing. River didn’t seem concerned that Tarina would be beading in on us so perhaps we’re clear on that. But Maia – she’s done with this town, ready to walk away from the 10,000, which I never thought I’d hear her say. Some of the soothsayer buddies, they come by in a bit to collect the bits so the troll can reconstitute itself.

So much for that line of questioning. That leaves us with the merchant and the Slaughterhouse Boys. We set up a day or two later when they come strolling around. I know they’re type, street toughs, used to bullying up the population because their strong and the locals are weak and scared. I never joined a gang during those bad times, I’d had enough of gangs with the Guard, but I sure as hell fought them enough. Since then I’ve nabbed quite a few of their type at nights and left them bleeding or dead doing my Rabbit Prince thing. So I, personally, was actually looking forward to this.

For once – the crew let me do things my way. I’ve always offered but they’ve never accepted, probably thinking I’d always pick a fight at the first opportunity by saying something really insulting. I mean…well…in this case that’s exactly what I was planning. But not everytime. I was a fucking higherup in the good god-dammned Guard after all – I know how to work around a few situations without resorting to cracking heads. But this was one of those times where it made sense to pick a fight, and when it comes to skillsets, this is one where I do excel if I do brag a little.

So that’s how we ended up fighting the Slaughterhouse Boys. Did we lose? Fuck no. Would I be goddamnned here talking to you if we did? Like I said before, we roll like a big fucking rock. Those Boys worked us over while we were still building our momentum up, but they had no idea what kind of rock was gearing up to run them over.

Larisha popped me back up and I was able to get some of my own healing tricks in there, I felt good as new – and that’s when the Boys started dropping like flies. That leader, the one who’d pointed Arith and I for special treatment, I was going to stick a polearm so far up his backside that I’d tip his hat for him. But Larisha beat me to it and dropped him with some crazy Pharasma shit. I mean for all of us – it was on. Those poor Boys, they probably thought they had it licked up when Arith and I dropped. And they fucking get hit by fire, spraying waves of color, and like a gazillon arrows coming from Maia’s bow even as the ones they thought they had down, Arith and I, come fucking back with a vengeance. We’re fucking Harrow’s Justice, don’t fucking mess with us!

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