Curse of the Crimson Throne
Long Live the Queen
Though the occasional eruption of unrest continues to resonate throughout the city, the guards presence – bolstered by the Sable Company Marines and the Hellknights – seems to have at least restored a modicum of order. Tension still hangs thick in the air like a smog though, blanketing the city in the shadows of fear. In the distance, fires still rage and the clouds are smothered in dark smoke that chokes the air with ash and dust.
Castle Korvosa’s long shadow looms over the city as a terrifying testament to the power of whatever mighty overlord ruled this land thousands of years ago. A magnificent achievement of architecture, the castle walls and spires rise high enough they seem to pierce the sky above. The entire structure looms even higher because of its ancient foundation—a Thassilonian monument in the shape of an immense flat-topped pyramid.
Although one corner of this impressive foundation has fallen into ruin, the additions built onto the sides by eager and talented Korvosan masons have created one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Varisia. Castle Korvosa can be approached from all four directions—ramps and stairways allow access up the sides of the pyramid to the courtyard surrounding the central structure.
"Halt!" A line of guards in crimson garb spans the entrance to the towering castle – crossbow bolts trained to pierce you through the eyes at the slightest provocation.
A grizzled veteran with short black hair and a peppering of grey around his temples steps forward in a swirl of blood wine cloth. He holds his helmet beneath his arm, a grim expression on his face as he stops in front of you.
"What is your business in Castle Korvosa?"
As long as the PCs provide a reasonable answer, the nervous guards don’t immediately chase them off. Mentioning that they wish to return the queen’s missing brooch certainly gets things moving a little faster, as does a successful DC 20 Diplomacy check.
The veteran looks you all up and down, before passing his helmet off to one of the guards.
"Your weapons will be left here without exception. If you refuse, you will be granted no audience, and if you try to fight you will be killed. That includes your spellbooks too – even if it matters not for what magics you know now, it'll hurt something fierce if you get up to no good and we burn it for your troubles. And you-" The veteran points at Serafina and then at her guard. "Leave your dog at the door – you'll have no use for him in there."
The veteran turns to the men around him and points to a few of them. "You six, see to it that they find their way to the queen." The guards hastily nod, and make enough room for you to break through their line before they fall in around you. The ranks of the royal guard fold in upon themselves behind you; resuming the stance of iron clad statues.
The group of obviously nervous guards, still armed with heavy crossbows and swords escort you up to the castle. As you reach the top of the pyramid and the wide stairs curling up to the castle’s third floor, where the Crimson Throne awaits, you are greeted by a stern-looking woman dressed in magnificent full plate armor. Half of her face is torn with scars left by wicked blades that leave her features shattered as though she looked at you through a broken mirror.
DC 15 Knowledge - Nobility: This is the queen’s handmaiden, bodyguard, and closest companion, Sabina Merrin.
The woman nods curtly at you as they approach, her steely eyes appraising you with deadly precision.
“Greetings. They tell me you’ve something that belongs to the queen. Is this correct?”
As you show her the brooch, the woman smiles and steps aside, holding out a hand in welcome to the castle. "Then on behalf of Queen Ileosa, I welcome you to Castle Korvosa." She beckons you all to follow, but holds up a hand at the guards as they make to follow.
“You may return to your posts. These good people pose no threat to the queen.” The guards pause, but then bow and do as they are told, leaving two by two to return to the courtyards. The woman then starts off, fading into the shadows of the castle with your party on her heels.
The journey seems a long one as you pass beneath ornate arches and colorful tapestries – a wicked red glow illuminating the halls through the stained windows whose imperfections swirl like blood upon unsettled water. The glitter of gold sparkles on virtually every surface, and tall statues praise the glory of the crown and all that it stands for – whatever you might consider that to be.
In an arched door into a large room, the woman sharply stops and looks between all of you. "How would you be addressed to the Queen?"
As you answer she nods and turns, and gestures for you to wait outside. "My Queen." You hear the clanking of metal, presumably as the woman kneels before the new ruler. "If it pleases you, I introduce four intrepid citizens who wish to return something stolen from your grace." Still more clanking as she rises.
"I give you Lady Serafina Blackburn, Grezinal Felcrum III, Marcus the Blade and Valtyra of Mwangi."
The guards that hold their elaborate polearms at either side of the door step back and allow you to enter, and a few steps in and you see it… Queen Ileosa sits upon the Crimson Throne.
She is a vision of beauty despite the black mourning dress and veil she wears in honor of her husband’s death. A small silver coffer sits in her lap. The throne room itself—an open area with a vaulted ceiling, stained-glass windows of past kings and queens looking down from the eastern wall, and crimson tapestries hanging along the others—is pristine but strangely empty.
An immense fireplace offers additional light and heat to the hall, and a silk carpet provides a gently arching path to the throne’s base.
"The brooch, if you will." Sabina reaches out with a hand, looking at you intensely and it is obvious it is not a request. She takes the brooch and hands it over to her queen with a flourish, and then takes up a position at the throne’s left side as Ileosa looks at you thoughtfully for a moment, then parts her crimson lips to speak.
“This brooch was stolen from me some time ago—I had not expected to see it again, truth be told. And yet, here on my darkest day, you come before me with kindness. The return of this brooch is much more than an honorable deed. It is inspiration. It is hope."
“Despite what you may believe, I love Korvosa, as my husband did before me. His death has shocked the city as it has me, but I will not see his legacy destroyed in death, and I shall not see my city torn apart. All Korvosa stands at the precipice of a disaster wrought by her citizens—these riots cannot continue."
"You have already done my heart a great service in returning this precious heirloom to me on this dark day, and you shall be rewarded. Yet perhaps you can serve your city more…" With a seamless, graceful motion the queen rises and looks upon you with moist, green eyes. Never had you seen her this close, but her beauty is truly staggering and you now see how a king with such a wandering heart forsoke all others for her. Her skin is flawless porcelain, and her hair flows around her cheeks like silk spun embers.
“The Korvosan Guard is stretched thin, and it could certainly use the aid of heroes such as you. If you so choose, I shall have Sabina see to it that you have an escort of guards when you leave here—they can see to your safe journey to Citadel Volshyenek. I shall send word ahead of you to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft to let her know you are on the way."
"She raises a slender hand to her cheek, and holds her other close to her chest. "Now, I need to retire to my chambers—my grief has drained me. Again, I thank you for the kindness you have shown me, and I hope your days of serving the crown are only just beginning. May all the gods go with you.”
With this, the queen directs Sabina to hand over the reward for returning the brooch. The bodyguard swiftly does so, handing the small silver chest to you and opening the lid for you to see wtihin. Inside the red-velvet-lined interior rest 12 gold ingots imprinted with the royal seal of Korvosa—each glittering and clearly worth every ounce of their weight.
In the short moment you look away to see your treasure, Queen Ileosa is gone with a whirl of the hem of her mourning dress, and vanishes from sight into the deeper halls of the castle.
"I will see you to the gates again." Again, Sabina does not seem to be requesting the honor and directs you towards the door again.
The journey out seems far swifter and less formal than before, as you're ushered out towards the front of the castle. "A guard can be supplied if you so desire, but that decision is yours. I'm certain your own bodyguard is… eager, to reunite with you."
In addition to the monetary award, grant the PCs 800 XP for meeting the queen and returning her recovered brooch.