In Session I, our brave heroes meet on the mean streets of Korvosa, having been summoned by a Varisian woman who wants her son's murder avenged. Gaedren Lamm, the perpetrator, has a history with all of the characters. The start of this plot revealed that the party was hired by a dead woman (dum dum DUMMMMM). Zellara was able to build her life and a living wage on her use of her Harrow deck, but in death she IS the Harrow deck. She uses the Harrow deck as a link between the living world and can sense the despair and anguish of all those in Korvosa whom Gaedren's evil has touched and hurt.
Once the party brought Gaedren Lamm to justice, they found a list of treasures that would fetch them some coin. Three items however, were of significant value:
- Zellara's Harrow Deck – It remains haunted by Zellara's spirit even after Gaedren is defeated. This may be a helpful item later in the adventure. It also grants the party access to Harrow Points (I'll explain at session II).
- Key-Shaped Dagger – It bears the inscription "For an inspiration of a father". A successful local knowledge check revealed that may have once belonged to a man named Rolth. Rolth is one of Korvosa's most notorious killers, a man who slaughtered over 15 dozen victims between 4690 and 4697 (about two decades ago) before his killing spree mysteriously ended.
- Brooch – Even to an untrained eye, this brooch was obviously the most valuable item found in Lamm's collection. The circular gold brooch depicts a house drake and an imp coiled around each other in an almost yin-yang pattern. The house drake's eye is an amethyst, while the imp's eye is an emerald.
As the party returns to the streets from the fishery, it quickly becomes apparent that something terrible has happened. Korvosa is in flames. Smoke rises on the horizon. The frantic clang of alarm bells sing out in harmony with a multifarious cacophony of screams, the clash of steel on steel, moans, and even the occasional detonation of arcane power. A wing of Sable Company griffon riders swoops overhead, angling toward Castle Korvosa at a breakneck pace. One of the badly wounded mounts rains blood down on the street around the party before it succumbs and crashes headlong into a statue, taking its rider and itself to a bone-crunching demise. The others in the flight don't hesitate to check on their fallen ally. Amid the chaos, the voice of a Korvosan herald cuts through the din: "The king is dead! Long live the queen!" only to be shouted down by ragged cries of "Hang the queen" and "The usurper whore must die!"
The King Is Dead
So passes Eodred II, second of his honorable name, and with his last gasp the Crimson Throne becomes the seat of Queen Ileosa, his lady wife. Yet many would see it otherwise. Korvosa is a fickle mount, and bucks even the canniest and most ruthless from it's seat of power.
Eodred II's sudden death took the aristocracy by surprise – his health had been declining (Bruce speculates poisoning), but the sudden run catches most of the castle off guard. Rumors quickly spread on the street – that he suffered from some disease beyond even the priesthoods of Sarenrae and Abadar's skill to cure, and that even Asmodeus's disciples were summoned from their pentacle temple in the deep of night to try their dark hand at restoring the king. With the king's death, Queen Ileosa ascends the Crimson Throne, much to the displeasure of most Korvosans, who view her as a petulant gold-digger at best. Worse, the castle seneschal has vanished, supposedly slain in one of the initial riots that broke out at the base of Castle Korvosa when the grim news of Eodred's death was proclaimed.
Desperate citizens, salty dock workers, soot-covered smiths, and all manner of tradesmen, already stifled by Eodred's spendthrift reign, roar at the thought of Ileosa taking the throne. Dock workers abandon the seafront wards and caravan men leave Northgate. Frustrated merchant ships and wagon convoys turn around when they find no one to offload their goods, much less buy them. Food and other staples trickle into the city, while thousands vie for the last sack of flour or bundle of cook-fire timber in the market. Riots erupt throughout the streets. Entire wards plunge into chaos. Those who do not rove the streets with cudgel and torch in hand lock their doors against the gathering mob. The Bank of Abadar closes it's gilded gates and a contingent of the Coin's Faithful stands at the ready with halberd and crossbow to repel would-be looters. The Academe closes it's doors as well, shutting its students and professors within it's walls and closing them to the rest of the city until order can be restored. In the space of a dozen hours, all of Korvosa's oppression and anger explodes into chaos. The city lies perched on the edge of anarchy.
Ill-equiped for this level of civil calamity, the military arm of Korvosa falters, and even the griffon-mounted marines of the Sable Company are pushed far past their limits. The Korvosan guard does the best it can do to quell the riots, yet it's members are cut off from each other and forced to operate on their own. Several junior officers, thrust into the harrowing responsibility of command, break under the pressure and abandon their posts, or worse, become part of the problem by attempting to institute martial law.
In a desperate attempt to regain control, Queen Ileosa invites the Order of the Nail into the city, paying the Hell Knights in royal gold for their mercenary services. Yet the Hell Knights are a greatsword brandished in a tavern brawl, and their brutal crackdowns restore order only by drowning chaos in blood, to say nothing of the fact that they bow to their own code and ignore the queen's commands whenever they interpret the law to be at odds.
Korvosa is in desperate need of heroes to bring order – if someone doesn't step in soon, the city might very well tear itself apart.