Curse of the Crimson Throne

Acropolis of the Thrallkeepers
A History of Ashes Part 4

Startled by the appearance of an elderly man standing over them, the Champions quickly composed themselves to speak with the shaman before them. Introducing himself as Akram, the old man thanked them for liberating the House of the Moon from the Red Reaver that had taken residence within their hallow walls. The heroes accepted the gratitude and exchanged pleasantries, however, Akram insightfully deduced that they didn’t accomplish this task purely from the goodness of their hearts and asked why they were there.

Remembering what Thousand Bones said about this man’s nature as a Truthspeaker, the party inform him honestly of why they are there. They pleaded for his assistance in vouching for them to the Sklar-Quah, so they may gain the information they require to defeat Ileosa and Kazavon. Akram was grateful for their honesty and said that while he is appreciative for saving their holy site, he could not just act as a character witness to them without witnessing them in action. He suggested that they complete the final trial that was on their list, The Thrallkeeper’s Mark, with Akram in tow to witness their victory.

The next day, the party prepared to leave with their entourage of Shoanti boneslayers and Akram. Over the course of the next 3 days, the Champions proceeded to an ancient Thassilonian Ruin, almost completely buried by the unforgiving Cinderlands. All the while, Akram asked them about their plans for Korvosa after Ileosa is deposed from the Crimson Throne. While most of the party is unsure, they mostly believed that the power would be given to the people to decide. Akram inquired about how the Shoanti would be represented in this new order, and Blackjack assured him that they would find a way for their people to coexist.

They arrived at the Acropolis; once a grand structure dedicated to the advancement of summoning magic, now a decrepit ruin without a whisper of its former glory. Akram and the boneslayers stated that they will await their return at the entrance. The party is cautious, however, due to the five aurochs standing outside the entrance, recognizing them as Shoanti mounts.

As the Champions began to enter the Acropolis of the Thrallkeepers, they were accosted by Krojun and his men. Wishing to see the tshamek warriors in an all-out fight, the Shoanti barbarian challenged them to a friendly fight to prove their worth. Initially, the party denied him so that they could continue on with the trial, but after Krojun called them cowards, Ari pulled the first arrow and the battle begun.

While initially beating the Champions with their tactics and strength, the tables were soon turned by two arrivals. First, the creature within the ruins was awoken by their fight, and begun attacking with multiple tentacles. While normally this wouldn’t be a problem for Krojun, the arrival of a group of Red Mantis Assassins did pose a threat. The trained killers quickly dispatched two of Krojun’s men while one of the tentacles grappled another. The Shoanti rager focused his attacks against the assassins seeing them as a bigger threat.
While he was expecting the tshameks to continue attacking him to take him out, he was genuinely surprised at their behavior. They attacked the creature and the assassins instead, even saving the one that the monster had grappled. They quickly killed the remaining hostiles and even quelled the beast within the ruins. Feeling ashamed of his earlier actions, he allowed the Champions to continue exploring the Acropolis in peace and proceeded to go to the entrance to wait for them to return.

They began to look their ruins of the Acropolis in earnest, using Ari’s knowledge of the Thassilonians to explore the area. They quickly found a golden shrine to Lissala, and a hole in the floor surrounded by a blue arcane light. Without thoroughly investigating the circle, Ari jumped down the hole, followed by Anja, then Blackjack. Luckily, the magic surrounding the ring allowed gravity to be adjusted so they may land on the ground safely.
Down below, they found a long hallway with two egresses. One to the side and completely collapsed, and one unblocked hallway before them. The Champions investigated the collapsed hallway first and found that it was purposefully set as such. Blackjack deduced that someone with sufficient strength could move them and they could get a look into the room on the other side. Deciding that they will investigate it after the other hallway, the party continued on to the other hallway and found what they were looking for.
Lights floated around the room in a spectacular fashion, invoking the feeling of starlight and the celestial bodies in the Dark Tapestry. All moved with precision and grace to re-enact the movements of the planets and stars that surround Golarion, which a massive globe of stood in the center of the room. Curious to what it is, Ari walked forward and touched it, only to be met with a burning sensation engulfing her body. The pain racked her entire being as the brand covered her entire back, culminating with the magic opening the globe, and revealing its content.

Before the energy of the event simmered down though, the Champions received a vision of a familiar man from a different time. They relived the memories of Rand Gilver’s life, revealing his position of being the firstborn son of First King Xin and the tragic events leading up to the end of the Thassilonian Empire. The memories revealed that Rand was once known as Xin Kai, a promising future ruler of his homeland. He was trained under the eyes of Krune, High Priest of Lissala and the Runelord of Sloth, to be a powerful Inquisitor of the faith. However, Krune and the other Runelords sought more power and seeked to depose of First King Xin, and saw that the perfect individual to do the job was Rand. With his master convincing him that his father was no longer fit to rule their empire and needed to be removed from his position so Thassilon could thrive, Rand was convinced of their cause and quickly dispatched his father with much remorse. However, Rand swiftly found out that the Runelords had simply used him to get rid of Xin so they may take over as rulers of the seven kingdoms of the Empire.

This led Rand on his quest of vengeance, culminating with him delivering the final piece of the ritual the Aboleths needed to cause the Earthfall. Either though he understood that the eldritch creatures only wished to end the Azlanti Empire, Rand knew that the damage caused by their spell would mean the destruction of the Thassilonian Runelords as well. With the ritual completed and the reshaping of the world done, Rand went off to confirm that his quarries would killed. Much to his horror, he found that not one or two, but all of the Runelords had survived using their powerful magic. Infuriated by this, Rand changed his strategy to add more of a personal touch to his plan.

Spending the next ten thousand years hunting down the Runelords, starting with Krune, Rand is now down to two more, the Runelords of Lust and Pride. The Champions quickly realized that his next target is Sorshen, the Lady of Lust, due to Korvosa being built upon the site of her ancient capital. The flashbacks ended with Rand being called to Lissala herself. Lissala intended to use Rand to enact her vengeance by bestowing upon him more power. Rand, however, refused and when Lissala forced the issue, the vengeful Inquisitor lashed out and severely wounded the goddess. The memories faded as their visions returned to the present.

From the light and smoke released from within the replica of their home planet, an Azlanti woman of unearthly grace with six wings stepped forward. Ari’s tutelage under Brodert Quink in Sandpointe paid off, as she was able to recognize the being before her as Lissala, the Thassilonian Goddess of Rune, Magic, and Law. Appreciative of her release, she attempted to leave, only to find that she is linked to Ari.

Though thoroughly irritated by her current predicament, she proceeded to exchange pleasantries with the heroes who released her. Once names were exchanged, she proceeded to the collapsed hallway. She made removing the boulders short work as she motioned the Champions to follow her within. Though the initial view of the room only revealed some skeletons and magical items, an illusory wall was dispelled where in the heroes went into.

Within the hidden room laid a massive painting and two occupants, a young girl and an old man rise to meet their visitors.

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House of the Moon
A History of Ashes Part 3

The ground trembled as Cindermaw chased the Champions across the sands. Mounting their camels, the heroes rushed as fast as they could north to escape the jaws of the oversized worm. Thinking fast, they used the nearby Mindspin Mountains to throw off the God-Beast of the Shoanti.

Given the circumstances of their escape, the party decided to ride north along the base of the mountain range to head towards the House of the Moon. An ancient structure that was contemporary during the Thassilonian Empire, this house of worship to the goddess, Desna, is where the Champions planned to meet the Lyrune-Quah, and by extension, Akram. They had hoped to implore Akram to speak on their behalf to the Sklar-Quah so they may gain the knowledge of Kazavon’s initial downfall.

However, the trip to the ancient site was interrupted by a massive sandstorm. To avoid being buried alive by the onslaught of sand, the Champions opted to locate a cave within the mountains and wait the storm out. However, they quickly saw that the cave was already inhabited as there was a fire within. With Clara staying back to guard their escorts, the rest of the heroes snuck deeper into the cave to see if their fellow cave-dwellers were friendly.
Due to the natural darkness of the cave, it was difficult for them to make out any discernable features of the people further in, with the exception of them being extremely massive in size.

Ari, then, took the initiative and stealthily maneuvered up to the edge of the light produced from the fire and used her gaze to discern their true nature. She quickly realized that these were evil giants and needed to be eliminated due to their aggressive nature. She begun laying a trap down to hurt one of them, and then prepared herself for a fight.

Before the fight began, however, Anja and Blackjack discovered two more giants waiting in the wings. Though they hadn’t noticed Ari, they knew that they would flank her quickly and would attack if a fight started. With this in mind, Anja and Blackjack made plans to harry these other giants while Ari either got out or killed the other giants.

The battle began when Ari made a misstep and one of the cave giants saw her. It charged her but then went straight into her trap, causing it immense pain. Arrows began to fly from Ari, doing her best to bring them down. Meanwhile, Anja rushed to cut off their supposed leader, a giant with a more lithe body, and Blackjack went to fight the last one.

The Champions made short work of the cave giants but Anja and Ari realized that the leader wasn’t inherently evil. Though Anja still wished to finish off the desert giant before them, Ari was able to talk her down, and proceeded to talk to the last giant. Blackjack, meanwhile, scoured the rest of the cave for anything of use.

The desert giant introduced himself as Faruuk, hailing from the city of Urglin, north of their current position. Claiming to be a treasure hunter, Faruuk informed the party that he had hired the cave giants they slaughtered for an expedition to the House of the Moon. He tells them that the rumor is no one has been to the ancient structure in years and thus has been marked as abandoned. Faruuk had hoped to loot whatever was leftover but that was dashed by the Champions’ attack. While he knew he was in a bad spot, he did still ask for reparations.

While Anja wanted nothing to do with it, Ari and Blackjack were able to come to an agreement with the giant. If none of the Lyrune-Quah were there and there was no evidence of any recent dwelling, Faruuk may loot what he finds. However, if there was people living there, Faruuk would not receive anything from the House of the Moon. Faruuk agreed and made plans to travel with them as soon as the storm died down.

A full day passed before the storm finally ended, and the menagerie of creatures left the cave to head north once again. Within 6 days, the party managed to see the House within the distance, but they slowly noticed that little to no wildlife existed in this area. Keeping an eye out, the Champions proceeded to the House.

Soon, the heroes saw movement over a ridge nearby them and they rushed to investigate. What they found was a cadre of Lyrune-Quah hunters badly injured. Despite the hunters’ initial hesitation, they allowed the Champions to heal them and told them of what happened. They informed them that a large red beast resides within the House of the Moon, killing anything that would enter. The hunters were attempting to retake the house of worship before the rest of their tribe arrived, but they were unsuccessful, losing many hunters in the process.

The Champions told the hunters not to worry for they would kill the beast. They suggested that Clara, the boneslayers, and Faruuk should stay with the wounded Shoanti while they took care of the creature within. Seeing the wisdom of their advice, they acquiesced to their idea. The rest of the Champions then rushed to the House of the Moon.

Successfully sneaking up to the structure, the heroes were in awe of the majestic building. Within they saw an impressive enchantment that made the ceiling appear as a clear night sky, dotted with the infinite number of stars that span the cosmos. Their view was mired, however, due to the number of torn bodies littered across the floor.

They entered and surmised that the beast was on the second floor as the first floor was devoid of life. Anja and Blackjack led the charge up the stairs, aiming to flank the creature, with Ari and Trinia following close behind. They reached the second floor to find a massive Red Reaver tromping around the second floor. While distracted by the muscular creature, it had noticed them and begun to defend its territory.

Anja and Blackjack rushed the creature, hoping to keep its attention while Ari rained arrows upon it, hoping to kill it quickly. Doing their best to keep it off of Ari, the two in melee with the creature found it difficult to hurt as it counterattacked with amazing force. Blackjack was sent flying backwards from the pure force coming from the blow the creature gave, even breaking some of Blackjack’s limbs in the process. Anja kept fighting it but was worried that its attention may go to her, but the fear didn’t last long as Ari slammed the creature with a barrage of arrows, killing it in the process.

The Champions breathed a sigh of relief as the creature laid dead at their feet. They sent Trinia to fetch the people waiting outside while the rest of them stayed within to check out the place. Soon after, Trinia arrived with everyone in tow, including Faruuk. While he knew he wouldn’t be able to loot any of the treasures from the House, he requested to take the Red Reaver back with him so he may sell it to science. The Champions agreed and bade him farewell as he carried the red behemoth on his shoulders.

The hunters praised the heroes and requested that they stay the night and wait for their tribe. The Champions agreed to stay and slept in the divine home of Desna. While most of the heroes had a quiet night of sleep, Ari was visited by her goddess, Desna herself. Curious about her fate in all of this, she questioned Desna about what is going on and if her goal of saving Rand is possible. While the goddess didn’t say it was impossible, she did tell the inquisitor that Rand knows that he will most likely die before this is all over. Promising to watch over her, Desna leaves with a final embrace to hopefully comfort Ari.

The Champions’ sleep was broken by the appearance of an elderly Shoanti man, smiling down upon them.

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Lair of the Cindermaw
A History of Ashes Part 2

The sun continued the beat down upon the Cinderlands as the Champions discussed their next course of action. Anja and Blackjack believed that completing the Trial of the Cindermaw would put their best foot forward in convincing the Shoanti to pass along their knowledge of Kazavon’s weakness. With the rest of the party in agreement, the Champions began making plans to travel to the creature’s lair.

Anja and Blackjack also had the idea to see what they could do to prepare for their conflict with the beast. Knowing from the legends that the creature is of fire, the two of them asked the nearby Shoanti if they had anything that could protect them from its flames. Thousand Bones offers them specialized war paint and a powerful ring in exchange for some money. Taking the war paint, the group leaves the Kallow Mounds.

Traveling to the southwest, the group steeled themselves for a trip that the boneslayers estimate to be a six day journey. Battling the elements of the desert, the Champions do quite well for themselves until a flight of wyverns swoop down to attack the seemingly defenseless party. However, the adventurers drew their weapons and proceeded to slaughter the creatures with Clara and Ari defending the boneslayers. Noticing that the creatures had poison within their stingers, Anja and Blackjack drained what poison they could before continuing.

Six days had passed before the boneslayers informed them that they had entered the territory of Cindermaw. They also stated that they were unsure on how to find the beast and that the best course of action would be to draw it out. Blackjack then came up with the plan to use their hardiest member, Anja, as bait and as the one to go into the creature and fight her way out. Anja, though uneasy at the prospect of being eaten alive, agrees to be the one to go in.

Anja positioned herself away from the party in order to ensure their safety, and began to try and attract the behemoth. The rest of the party stood to the sidelines awaiting the so called “God of the Fire Sands”. Blackjack tried to tell them all to keep moving during the fight but Ari stated that she didn’t want the creature to burrow underground while Anja was inside. Ari then took to the skies and readied to keep the creatures attention with her arrows.

The ground began to shift beneath the heroes. Sand dunes almost collapsing on themselves as the earth violently shakes. Small fires are visible around the area but with no kindling; a testament to the creature’s elemental nature. The ground before Anja breaks apart as the towering behemoth stretches towards the sky. Standing upright at about 100 feet, the party stared at this marvelous fusion of nature and the primal element of fire. Covered in flames and a hardy carapace, Cindermaw began its assault on the morsels before it.

Not wishing to damage it too much, Anja simply attempted to make herself seem more of a tasty meal than her friends. Initially, it did not work as it spew primordial fire upon the others as they were all grouped up. However, after Anja attacked it with a great roar, the beast took noticed of the paladin and rushed down to the ground to eat her. Anja prepared herself to go into the pit of fire that is Cindermaw’s stomach and leapt in with bravery. Landing in a pool of acid and fire, Anja quickly ran over to its stomach wall and proceed to cut her way out.

During this time, the Champions ran from the creature that devoured their friend, as if playing a game of cat and mouse. All the while, Ari pelted the creature with her arrows in an attempt to keep the behemoth’s attention on staying above ground. They fared quite well against the beast despite its fire rained down upon them. Eventually, they saw that Anja was about to burst out of the creature and began retreating. Clara waited until Anja was out to swoop in and teleport her away from the creature.

The Champions ran for their lives as the creature began to chase them down.

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Into the Cinderlands
A History of Ashes Part 1

The Champions, rested from their week in Sandpoint, prepared for their journey into the Cinderlands. The group and their friends gathered within the Cathedral, passing along any information they had gathered. Orion at this point informed the group that his skills would be best used in the city rather than the desert. He informed them of where the friendliest Shoanti would be within the Cinderlands and how to find them. Saying their goodbyes to their allies, Strog teleported the heroes to Kaer Maga, the City of Strangers.

Arriving in the Tarheel Promenade, the Champions were in awe of the large and exotic city. While some had been here before, the stark difference between Korvosa and Kaer Maga was staggering. Deciding that food and water would be necessary, along with new gear. Ari began to lead them through the bazaar to find dealers to sell their loot and treasure. However, before they got too far, a large Half-Orc approached them, asking them to follow him to their boss. Not knowing who could possibly be this boss, the Champions cautiously accepted and followed the man to a humble shopfront in the Promenade.

Apprehensively, Ari opened the door with the others following. What they found surprised them as Badger sat behind the counter with his usual smugness. The black market dealer greeted them as old friends would before he was reprimanded by the group for his involvement with the criminal underworld of Korvosa. He informed them that he has gone legitimate, though the fact that Kaer Maga’s only law is don’t bother other people’s business does make this claim seem less striking.

He offers to be their middle man within the city, selling their goods and acquiring gear and supplies for their trek into the desert. While they didn’t trust the man completely, they knew he was the only man they could trust in a city of ne’er-do-wells and criminals. Accepting his offer, the Champions proceeded to upgrade many of their weapons and armor. During this time, Badger took the liberty of informing them of what they may face out there, including a local legend by the name of the Cinderlander.

This local myth is of a man whose hatred of the Shoanti has survived for decades. An expert hunter of their people, the Cinderlander has reigned terror upon them for over 40 years. Many Shoanti and even some Kaer Magans use him as a bedtime story to scare their children. He has been known to kill just about anything that seems remotely a part of the Shoanti people and their culture.

While procuring their new gear, food, water, and camels for the journey ahead, Ari felt a presence watching her. She rushed outside to see if anyone was spying on them. Using her wits, she began to detect any magical sources in the area and was surprised to find the remnant of a scrying spell that was casted upon her. Before she could do much more, she received a message through the spell of the same name from Laori Vaus. Laori stated she was just checking in on them and seeing how they were doing. She apologized for the scare and that was the last she heard from the cleric.

After outfitting their expedition, Badger, in his own condescending way, wished them luck and hoped they didn’t die out there. The party left through the northern part of the city and began their way northeast, towards the lands of the Skoan-Quah. Their destination is the only known settlement of the Skoan-Quah; a place called Kallow Mounds, where all of the Shoanti people bury their kin.

While most of the trip there was uneventful, even in unfamiliar territory, they were surprised when a crossbow bolt sank into Ari’s shoulder. The Champions searched the area as more bolts rained upon them. They contemplated running but noticed that the man who they believe to be the Cinderlander has set many traps along the path to where they are going. The heroes then decided to chase him down after he shot more bolts in their direction. While they caught a glimpse of him, they were unable to catch him.

The heroes eventually reached the Kallow Mounds but not before they were accosted by six Shoanti rangers. After explaining why they are there, the Shoanti allow them to meet with Thousand Bones, the shaman that hired them back in their early days to recover the body of his grandson. The Champions are led into a yurt where the shaman and the chief of the Skoan-Quah, One-Life.

After pleasantries were exchanged, the party explained to Thousand Bones why they were out there away from Korvosa. They informed him of the unholy fusion of Ileosa and Kazavon, and how they are searching for a way to defeat her. The Shaman stated that he would want nothing more than to give them the information that they need but his people are not the ones who hold that knowledge. The Shoanti hero that fought against Kazavon alongside Mandraivus was a member of the Sklar-Quah, and they have no love for outsiders.

Thousand Bones does give them some hope as he takes the time to inform them of some tasks that they could perform to prove their worthiness. He told them about a branding they could receive from an ancient Thassilonian ruin. He also informed them of a Truthspeaker by the name of Akram that would be of immense help if they can secure it. The Champions were also told that they could recreate an event of a legendary Shoanti. He was swallowed whole by a large mutated worm and then fought his way out of it without killing the creature. Doing some of these will improve their relations with the Sklar-Quah and possibly get the information they need.

As they began to leave, armed with the knowledge of what they needed to do, they were halted by the sound of a stampede. A herd of Aurochs rushed into Kallow Mounds, but were all mounted by Shoanti warriors, led by a goliath of a man. Carrying the body of a fallen warrior with them, they dismounted and headed straight towards Thousand Bones. However, their leader stopped at the sight of the outsiders in the camp. Infuriated that tshameks are within Shoanti borders, he demanded an explanation as to their presence.

Thousand Bones was able to calm him down by reminding him of where they were and what the Skoan-Quah were charged with. The man, now known to the group as Krojun, confidently acknowledged the Champions and then challenged them to a game of Sredna. Pulling out the leather band for the game, he motioned to Blackjack to accept.

Blackjack accepted and the game commenced. Though he was strong, his fortitude and his ability to withstand pain was not as he eventually succumbed to the pain. Though proud and happy that he beat the outsider, he did acknowledge that the vigilante was strong and nodded in respect. He was about to leave before Clara challenged him to the game. Intrigued, Krojun accepted the fiery woman’s call.

Their game went much the same as it did with Blackjack, only this time, Krojun’s opponent could withstand more pain than any of them. Their match was even until the band dug into a sore spot on Krojun and he ceded the match. Though initially angry and upset at the turn of events, Krojun did congratulate the red headed magus and stated that he will be keeping an eye on their journey through their lands.

The Champions were then left to decide where they were going first.

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To Those Lost and To Those Who Remain
Battle of the Crimson Rain Part 5

The day after the battle came. Though the storm in the sky had dissipated, the storms in the minds of the Champions had not. Each of them struggled with what had transpired and how that changed them. Some had their resolve only hardened while others had questioned their own.

Blackjack sought validation amongst those who came before and from peers. Some sought redemption for past actions so they may move forward, such as Ari and Clara. Some sought to distract themselves from the horrific chain of events that led them here, like Anja and Orion.

Regardless of what they did to cope with what happened, the Champions decided to take Hawke’s body back to his hometown; a growing port town called Sandpoint located on the Lost Coast. After saying their goodbyes to those who couldn’t come with them, the Champions and their companions gathered around Strog and were at the northern gate of Sandpoint.

Not long after their sudden appearance, the Mayor Belor Hemlock approached and greeted them to their humble town. Seeing the body of the man he looked after in his younger years, he quickly understood what had happened and offered them a place to stay, along with directions to key points in Sandpoint. While most took this time to go with the flow, Anja immediately asked for her nephew. Knowing of who she spoke of, he told her to visit the “Drunken Mother” who resides in the Cathedral.

Ari told her friends that she would secure lodging at the Rusty Dragon Inn, while the rest of the Champions took Hawke’s body to a mausoleum that the town made for him. However, Orion pulled Grunt to the side to ask the ranger for advice about how to honor Hawke the Shoanti way. While Grunt had no solid ideas due to his lack of proper upbringing, he suggested talking to the mayor about it since he was born within an actual tribe.

The heroes, along with their friends and allies, led the body to his final resting place, next to his beloved friends, Anri, Stein, and Friede, that Rand took from him ten years ago. The High Priest of the cathedral, a Desnan cleric named Abstalar Zantus, informed them of a larger ceremony they were going to hold for him later on in the day, and that all of the citizens were probably going to come. He advised them to relax beforehand and to find the time to unwind while they are here.

Though they thanked him for his advice, the Champions told him that they had business to attend to before then. Anja, Clara, and Blackjack prayed in the church for a moment before continuing with what they had in mind. Anja asked for the “Drunken Mother” and after some cloak and dagger conversations, she, along with Blackjack, Clara, and Ari (after she secured lodging), were led to a priest cell far in the back of the cathedral. They slowly opened the door to see who this mysterious person was.

Upon opening the door, they were immediately greeted by Joseph as he hugged his aunt and said hello to the rest. This much needed display of family and affection was followed by an elderly dwarf woman in priestly garments. After some discussion, she revealed herself to be Friede, the dwarf cleric of Cayden Cailean who followed Hawke in his adventure. Believed to be dead, she explained that the Drunken God saved her the day that Rand Gilver betrayed all of them.

In awe of the woman who raised Hawke when he was a child, the heroes present bombarded her with questions. Though there were many, Friede answered as many as she could. Anja asked about Cayden Cailean, while Ari asked about Rand Gilver. Clara asked about Hawke while Blackjack was simply in shock of the whole situation.

When Ari asked for more information on the Thassilonian Empire, Friede pointed her in the direction of the local sage, Brodert Quink, which led to her immediate departure. She quickly found her way to the scholar’s home, and after introductions were out of the way, found herself asking many questions about the ancient empire. Building a quick rapport with Quink, Ari has decided to study with him during her time in Sandpoint so she may discover more about Rand and his connection to it.

Clara had asked about Hawke and the trial that he went through to gain the name Stormhawke. Friede answered that apparently a large Thunderbird appeared before him one day and challenged him. According to Hawke’s own words, the gigantic bird will only appear when it believes you to be worthy. With these words, Clara found herself a small area to focus on the blade and hoped to communicate with it. While she was able to talk to the spirit of the blade, it told her she was not ready yet for its full power. Not wanting to waste the time, she tried to recall any memories from her time within the Gray Maidens. Almost triggering a breakdown, she happened to remember a Vudrani woman who looked like she could be related to Ishani. This woman did torture Clara while she was there, but that’s all Clara remembered. She spent the rest of the day relaxing before the ceremony.

Orion met the mayor at his office at Town Hall, and inquired about Shoanti burial rites. While Mayor Hemlock informed him that he renounced his heritage a long time ago, he did tell the young rogue about a rite that involved two identical necklaces bearing the deceased’s spirit animal. The living would keep one in remembrance and the other would be buried with the dead. Orion and Hemlock came to the conclusion that Hawke’s animal would be, unsurprisingly, a hawk, and Orion set out to the market to find a jeweler and a blacksmith. He spent the rest of the day procuring the necklaces and some new weapons, during which he met up with Blackjack within the bazaar area.

Blackjack took the time to sell some items and looked for some items to buy but with no luck as everything was too expensive at the moment. The merchants in town didn’t have enough money to pay for all of the gear they had. Blackjack, however, took the rest of the time to contemplate what he wanted to say at the ceremony.

Anja spent her day with Joseph and Friede, asking questions and drinking some alcohol with the cleric. After a while, Friede decided that Anja was worthy enough to wield the bracers gifted to her by their god. Anja was in awe of the simple bracers that provided a great surge of power from the Accidental God. Their discussion went on for some time, before Anja and Grunt decided to relax by the seaside before the ceremony.

Around late afternoon, the citizens of Sandpoint proceeded to the cathedral to pay respects to their favored son. As Father Zantus began the ceremony with kind words about the Hero of the Storm, he encouraged those who wished to speak on Hawke’s behalf to step up and say their final words to him.

All of the Champions rose to speak. Clara spoke of living up to her hero’s name and reputation and of vengeance against the man who took him from this world. Anja spoke about how he inspired her to do more for the people around her, despite his belief that he was a failure. Ari spoke kind words about the man she once had a passionate dislike for, saying that she was remorseful about his death. Orion spoke of how Hawke gave him a chance to be more than what even Orion believed himself to be and his determination to be the man Hawke saw him to be. Blackjack spoke about how Hawke inspired him to go beyond his limitations and to fight with more than he had. Others rose up to speak about Hawke when he was younger, telling grand tales about how he had saved them, or how he never stopped trying to make the world a better place.

The town and their visitors mourned the hero many of them grew up with, but they knew his work wasn’t finished. The heroes knew they need to prepare for their trip into the Cinderlands and thus decided to wait a week to gather their resources and wits. The Champions’ resolve hardened with the passing of their hero, knowing that the most dangerous leg of their journey was just around the corner.

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When Lightning Strikes Twice
Battle of the Crimson Rain Part 4

Staring down each other in the midst of the battlefield, the Champions glared at their tormentor, Gaedren Lamm. Now truly a monster, Gaedren Lamm flaunted his new vampiric powers as he showed the heroes his power over the minds of their friends. During this time, Ari attempted to sneak behind the mind controlled allies, attempting to bind Strog before he could unleash his powerful magic on the group but was spotted by Clara and Gaedren. The battle ignited as the two forces clashed.

Strog opened the battle with a powerful spell to shape the land into difficult terrain, then followed up with spells of magma and blizzards. Grau attempted to apprehend Ari by first disarming her then attacking her but to no avail. Clara, knowing Blackjack’s and Orion’s preference for skulking around the battlefield awaited to use spells to nullify that advantage before entering the battle head on. Unbeknownst to the heroes, Benjamin was also caught by Gaedren and was sent to kill Brealyn due to his knowledge of her powers. Meanwhile Gaedren jumped into the fray to try and kill Anja and Blackjack.

With the environment itself being ravaged during the battle, the Champions used all their might to fight their nemesis. Orion used his tricks and attacks to try and incapacitate Clara. While this worked for a bit, Clara was able to escape from him to join the rest of the battle. Blackjack attempted to stop Strog himself since he realized the man might cause a lot of problems unhindered. Ari was able to escape Grau to fly back up and began a barrage of arrows towards Gaedren, hoping to put him down for good this time. Anja and Brealyn focused on Gaedren though with Brealyn’s injuries, their efforts were not as effective.

Though they were scattered the Champions began finding a way to defeat their enemies without hurting their allies, leaving Gaedren alone in the battle. Taking massive damage from Anja, Ari, and Brealyn, Gaedren attempted to flee via his gaseous form, but Anja and Brealyn weren’t going to let this man escape. Using her divine might, Anja captured Gaedren’s form and forced it into Jade’s mouth crushing his body and utterly destroying it in the process.

Tensions rose between the heroes, despite their victory, due to Blackjack’s and Orion’s decision to attack their friends. Their arguing almost escalated until Hawke was thrown through them into the ground. Almost collapsing from the damage he took from Rand Gilver, he shouted for all of them to run away while he tried to finish it.

Though one of their greatest enemies fell, another arrived to take his place in the form of Rand Gilver. Having enough of their continued interference, Rand unleashed his overwhelming presence upon them, forcing them to kneel before his power. Most fell under his influence, with the exception of Clara and Strog, though Strog was too afraid to try anything else. Demanding that they all stay out of his way, Rand set his sights on the weakened Hero of the Storm.

As he approached, he demeaned and belittled the Champions’ attempt at heroism. Stating Blackjack follows an ideal that is not his own. Claiming Anja is aimless in her attempts to be a hero. Telling Clara that she is obsessed with sacrificing herself to no avail. Declaring that despite his actions that Orion knows that his dreams are unobtainable. Going so far as to tell Ari,

“You know I’m your ideal, and you should know that your dream never comes true.”

Clara tried to attack him, even unleashing a powerful shock, having little effect, as Rand impaled her and broke her hand as she tries to stop him. Grunt attempted to stop him but was struck so hard, his armor caved in and he fell unconscious. Anja attempted to heal Hawke before rushing the King. Blackjack attempted to stop him but his attacks were beneath the Rune-Piercer’s notice. Brealyn was too injured to try anything. Orion simply laughed at Rand’s logic. Whether it was truly bravery or an attempt to hide his insecurities is unknown but regardless it got under the rogue’s skin. Leading up to Ari standing between the two, hoping that he still wouldn’t raise a finger against her.

Staring each other down, Ari attempted to reason with Rand one last time. Despite his claims that he won’t be stopped, her words gave Hawke enough time to recovering. As he stood up, he told Rand that he wasn’t afraid for the same reason he wasn’t afraid of any of the evils he fought in the past. Something appeared on that day that the Champions never thought could exist, fear in Rand Gilver’s eyes.

In a flash, he appeared before Rand Gilver, using the last vestige of his arcane might to knock him into the air as he declared in a thunderous voice.

“I WILL DEFEAT YOU RAND, BECAUSE YOU ARE A VILLAIN, AND I’M A GOD DAMN HERO!”

Blinking out of sight and reappearing above the King, Hawke slammed down upon his spear, channeling whatever power he had left. The strain against the King and his weapon was too much as it cracked. Giving in that little allowed Hawke to push through his defense, cutting his spear in half along with Rand’s right arm. Standing victorious over his old friend, Hawke demanded that he stand down.

Rand, still with fear on his face, admitted that Hawke was stronger than the two, but wasn’t going to give up. Something about his statement caused Clara to black out, which may have helped her avoid the looks of horror upon her friends’ faces. As the darkness lifted from her eyes, she saw her rapier impaled into Hawke with burn injuries exactly like what happens when she uses her shocking grasp. Horrified at what she did, she broke down in despair, frantically apologizing to Hawke. Taking the opportunity, Rand rose with the tip of his spear in hand, looked down at the man he once fought side by side with. In the moment, Hawke, now kneeling in pain, looked around to see the new generation of heroes and asked simply.

“Would you say I became a hero?”

The question was ended with Rand stabbing Hawke through the heart, killing him on the spot so it seemed. Cries of anguish and rage erupted from the heroes as they rushed in after Rand Gilver. With a sullen look on his face, he turned to walk away, calling for a retreat; All the while being lambasted by the Champions for the unforgivable deed he had committed. After making no progress on hurting or killing the King, he turned to face his opponents to end their lives if they wished to fight him so desperately. His determined look quickly melted to one of terror as he looked past them, stating it should be impossible.

Looking behind themselves to see what could cause this rapid shift in his mood, the party is left aghast at the sight of Hawke standed. His arm and leg broken, his body barely holding together, he stood there almost defiantly. Sword ready to fight again, Hawke stood firm before Rand. Blackjack went back to his mentor to stop him from hurting himself even more, only to discover that Hawke was standing by willpower alone. Unconscious and about to die, Hawke still found the strength to stand up again and to face Rand once more, truly showing everyone what it meant to be a hero.

In his fear, Rand began to retreat faster along with his army. With the exception of Ari, who angrily shot arrows after her former idol, the Champions gathered around the deceased hero, crying in agony at the loss of their friend. Many of their allies soon found them, realizing the horror of what transpired. After mourning their hero, the Champions and their allies returned to the Black Bird Ranch, to rest. Many spent their night alone, contemplating if they even could finish their mission.

One man, though, tried his best to show them that they were stronger than this. Strog brought all who were there and attempted to rally them around Hawke’s sacrifice and the love of their city. Whether it helped or not remains to be seen.

The Champions had a lot of soul searching to do as they had to discover who they were and what they were doing. Deciding to at least take Hawke’s body back to his hometown, Sandpoint, the Champions must make a decision before too long or Korvosa, and all of Varisia, may fall.

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Storms, Be Our Shields
Battle of the Crimson Rain Part 3

A dragon dead before them. The sounds of swords clashing around them. The feeling of relief as many of their friends are safe now. The Champions’ minds turned towards hope as the battle raged on around them. They had saved many people and stopped many enemies. Though they relish in the fact of their accomplishments, they knew it was not done yet as there were more to save. With Ari high above the battlefield, she points out that Trinia, Grunt, and Cressida were in danger. They were surrounded on all sides and it seems as if their squads were decimated.

The group made the decision to save Trinia first since they assumed she was the weakest and needed saving the most. Before Ari could see the rest of the battle before her, the Champions bolted towards the innocent bard running away from a Black dragon.

They reached her before the dragon could destroy her, firing arrows and spells to draw the dragon’s attention. However, the heroes realized it wasn’t alone as several Gray Maidens moved in to apprehend the supposed Kingslayer. Blackjack, Anja, and Orion decided to split from Ari and Brealyn to save Trinia, while the two of them debated how to bring down a dragon.

Firing arrow after arrow, Ari used her divine might to damage the creature as Brealyn caused Jade to grow wings, flying up to the terrible wrym to distract it. All the while, the others fought against a cadre of Gray Maidens surrounding Trinia. One by one, the heroes were able to fend off the unrelenting attacks of the fanatically armored warriors. Though some damage was taken, the fall of the Dragon from the sky signaled their victory in this skirmish. After making sure Trinia was fine and telling her to keep other important creatures distracted, they darted to where Grunt was last seen to save Anja’s lover.

They arrived to see Grunt standing alone against his enemies. Defiant in the face of the largest black dragon on the field and his Red Mantis entourage. With a roar, Grunt engaged his enemies, believing it would be his final fight. His acceptance of death swiftly turned into hope as his friends came to his rescue.

Ari began raining vengeance-imbued arrows upon the massive beast as everyone else rushed to Grunt’s side, showing their defender that he is not alone in this fight. Blackjack and Anja focused on the assassins along with Grunt, as Orion began to climb the back of the dragon. Brealyn had Jade disrupt their movements as best as she could, beginning with keeping the dragon on the ground instead of letting it fly off.

Almost reminiscent of old times, their teamwork prevailed in fighting off the gigantic black terror before them. The assassins fell to their blades but before the final blow against the dragon was struck, the beast took off in flight, finally getting away from the earth elemental keeping him grounded.

Orion held on as best as he could, trying to get some precise attacks in while the beast flew off. Distracted by the pest on his back, the dragon didn’t realize the archer upon a flying carpet giving chase. Ari poised herself in a long ranged stance, took aim, and released a single arrow towards the black shadow in the sky. Finding its mark within the nape of the draconic scourge, the dragon’s final breathe is that of a roar as it plummeted back to the ground. Orion used his feather fall ring to allow safe passage back to the earth.

Adrenaline pumping through their veins and victory in their minds, the Champions rejoiced as their friend was safe once again. Anja held him close as Blackjack made sure no other assassin was coming. Brealyn, relieved that her old friend was safe, joined them in celebration, and Ari watched content that Grunt was safe. Orion booked it back to the group as fast as he could, hoping to regroup before the next threat came their way.

But their joy was for naught, as another body flew by their heads, crashing beyond them with a sickening crack. The lifeless body’s face twisted in horror from the onslaught it just endured. The Champions looked towards where the body was flung to see a new yet familiar face sneering at them. The rejuvenated face of their sworn enemy, the one who united them in the first place, Gaedren Lamm stared them down. He laughed as he believed his vengeance was finally at hand. Snapping his fingers, he revealed that he had picked up some help along the way to kill them, with Grau, Strog, and Clara bearing weapons and spells, ready to unleash upon the Champions.

The heroes’ final bout with the terror of the past was before them. The final page of their terrible beginnings was about to come to a close.

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Lightning, Be Our Blades
Battle of the Crimson Rain Part 2

An invisible yet understood line divided the two armies. An army of mercenaries, guards, and citizens stand together across the way from a sea of grays, reds, and blacks. Heavily armored and well trained Gray Maidens create the body of this extension of Ileosa’s will, with Red Mantis Assassins and Black dragons to reinforce the visage of tyranny and fear.

Parting the vast army with a combination of awe and fear, the King of Korvosa moves to the front of the opposing army. His mere presence causing discomfort and fear amongst the ranks of the Champions’ allies. Despite the heavy rain pouring down on the battlefield, all felt beads of sweat beginning to form as the oppressive sight of the enemy commander became clear to all.

The Gray Maidens stood their ground as their king slowly walked forward. The morale of the revolution began to waver as Rand picked up speed. He reached the halfway point between the two armies as a squad of rebels shouted out and charged him, his presence breaking their discipline. With passion and fervor, they rushed the inquisitor with swords drawn and shields up, only to be met with the overwhelming power that the King possessed. The sight of their comrades being decimated by a single man galvanized the rest of them. So began the Battle of the Crimson Rain.

The two forces clashed in the fields outside Harse. The larger but less experienced rebels against the well trained and well-armed Gray Maidens. The Champions watched as many of their allies and friends ran into the fray to fight against their common enemy.

The Champions began to scan the field for any allies who needed them. Their eyes came across two of their friends who could use reinforcements, Ishani the Cleric and Grau the Guard. Believing Grau could handle himself longer than the more pacifist priest, they rushed to Ishani’s aid.

They arrive to find him surrounded by multiple Gray Maidens. However, the overwhelming skill and power the Champions possessed made this battle exceedingly easy for them to rescue the cleric of Sarenrae. They asked him to be more careful since he is their only hope if someone falls. Seeing the wisdom of their advice, Ishani left the battlefield to go into the healer’s tent to cure the wounds of any soldier coming in.

After confirming Ishani left the battle, the Champions searched for Grau to make sure the swordsman was still alive. They found him but instead of soundly trouncing his opponents, he too was surrounded by Gray Maidens and a couple of young black dragons. With the assistance of the Champions, Grau was able to survive the skirmish and went on to fight in another area of the battle.

The heroes looked around to find other friends to assist. They initially saw Hawke facing off against a large Black dragon. Before they could reach him to help, however, Hawke slayed his enemy before him and moved on to find Rand Gilver. Giving the battle another look around, the group saw three other allies in trouble. They saw Benjamin surrounded by several of his old comrades from the Red Mantis Assassins. They also saw Strog trying to defend the town of Harse from another group of Gray Maidens. Finally they witnessed Vencarlo Orisini facing off against a dragon of his own with a fearless expression.

Worried about how Clara would react if Benjamin were to die, the party decided to go save him from his former allies. While normally able to face off against any Red Mantis Assassin in combat, even Benjamin couldn’t fight off five of his former comrades by himself. However, with the Champions’ assistance, he is more than able to fight off the less skilled assassins. Thanking them for their help, Benjamin jumped back into the battle, disappearing within the crowds.

As the party looked towards the other two allies in need, they realized they couldn’t save both as they were going about it. Not having any of that, Ari decided to go save Strog by herself. She told the rest of them to go save Orisini from the dragon bearing down on him. Knowing they couldn’t stop Ari from saving her friend, the rest of the heroes made haste towards the aging swordmaster.

They arrived to find Orisini outmatched against the dragon. Not surprising since he is more used to fighting people, not terrifying creatures of the swamp. Anja rushed in to save her master from the dragon and began to hold it at bay. Blackjack and Brealyn followed to offer her back up, and Orion tried his best to reach a blind spot. Together they were able to rescue Orisini once again. He thanked them and said he needed to make sure Hawke was doing alright. He told them to be careful as he pushed his way through the battle to find Hawke.

Ari made her way back to her allies stating that she was able to save Strog from a slew of Gray Maidens. Together again, the Champions surveyed the battlefield once again to search for allies in peril. Ari, flying upon the magic carpet found in Arkona’s mansion, had the best vantage point and saw Grunt, Trinia, and Cressida deep in their own battles.

With determination, they pushed through their fatigue to go help finish this fight. Unknown to them, a dark figure stalks them in the heat of the battle, waiting for his moment to strike them.

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The King's Doubt
Battle of the Crimson Rain Part 1

A week past with the heroes mending their bodies from the recent campaign into the slums of Korvosa. Cressida called for all of them to come into the makeshift war chamber within Jasan’s house to discuss the information that they all had. They started with what seemed to be the simplest out of all of it, that being the turncoat assassin, Benjamin Zenderholm.

After being thoroughly surprised at the survival of not one but both of Clara’s siblings, they moved onto what Neolandus Kalepopolis had to say. The former Seneschal began his story with a recap of Kazavon, the ancient Blue Dragon chosen by Zon-Kuthon as his herald. The party informed him about how they knew about him from the information Salvator Scream and Laori Vaus gave them. Neolandus went on to inform them that the reason it is important is because Kazavon’s spirit has seemingly merged with Ileosa’s due to her finding the Fangs of Kazavon.

He told all present about his initial suspicions of the Queen after she began stealing the vault key to go into the Grand Mastaba. He played it off as the Queen being a slight bit greedy but as long as she wasn’t taking too much, he wouldn’t cause a fuss. That changed after King Eodred took sick and Ileosa’s personality seemed to shift. While the sickness was unexplainable and untreatable, he knew Ileosa had her hand in his recent illness.

At this time, Benjamin spoke up, revealing what had caused Eodred to die. A small vial of a unique poison called Fool’s Leprosy, meant to give the symptoms of leprosy but acts as a poison so that healers and clerics would waste their energy healing a sickness, rather than a disease. Seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together, Neolandus continued his story.

With his suspicions at its peak, Neolandus delved into the Grand Mastaba to see if she found something that could have caused all of this. What he found was an ancient stone chest with several blue dragon fangs resting within. The former Seneschal couldn’t believe that the stories were true and that these could possibly be the Fangs of Kazavon. According to the legend, each piece of Kazavon that survived his fight with Mandraivus is said to contain a portion of the tyrant’s twisted soul. Believing that the once mean-spirited but naïve Queen stumbled across this and was corrupted by the dragon’s soul, Neolandus needed to stop her from causing any more damage.

The former Seneschal went on to say that when he confronted the Queen, she threatened him with imprisonment followed by death if he kept up such “treasonous” talk. Shortly thereafter, Eodred passed away, and the Queen was looking for a scapegoat. With Neolandus earning her ire before, he seemed like a natural choice, leading to him escaping the castle to Old Korvosa, where he stayed with Salvator Scream for a few weeks.
With the anarchy and tension rising within the city, Neolandus knew that sooner or later, the Queen’s Gray Maidens would find him at Scream’s residents. With the best intentions, Scream sent him to the Arkonas since they were one of his patrons. Neolandus trusted his friend and proceed to their palace, only to be detained and locked away into their prison shortly after, to be used as leverage after Ileosa was deposed.

The rest was known to the heroes, due to their involvement with his rescue. Before they were given much time to process what they learned, Neolandus suggested that they go into the Cinderlands to gain the support of the Shoanti. According to the legend, a Shoanti shaman assisted Mandraivus in his fight against Kazavon and was tasked with the hiding of Kazavon’s Fangs. Since the Shoanti only pass down their history through oral traditions and the spirits, the only people who may know how to defeat Kazavon would be them. The Champions reeled back at this suggestion because many of them felt uncomfortable about leaving their home for an extended period of time.

To compound their dread, Hawke took this moment to inform them about the approaching army of Gray Maidens, Red Mantis Assassins, and black dragons. He asked them what they thought would be the most prudent course of action for themselves. He agreed that they should be the ones who speak with the Shoanti due to their relationship with Thousand Bones, but he also knew that their support in the upcoming battle would be invaluable. He told them that without them, there’s a good chance they would lose utterly with no chance of regrouping.

The Champions agreed that their friends needed their help first and foremost, and decided to stay for the upcoming battle. With the meeting seemingly over, the group split up to discuss the battle with some of their friends and allies. Blackjack spoke with Trinia about her joining them into the Cinderlands. Anja spoke with Orisini and attempted her first lesson with a group of soldiers. Brealyn went to relax a bit before her first large scale battle. Orion spoke with Strog about some enchanting and the possibility of making him small permanently. Ari also spoke with Strog but decided that she had other plans that night.

After everyone went to sleep, Ari left the camp under the cover of darkness and headed towards the enemy camp. Believing she was unseen, she continued onwards, not knowing that Brealyn was following her. After she discovered the Halfling, they had a small argument where Ari attempted to convince Brealyn to go back. The argument was halted when Ari discovered that Hawke was out there as well. He stated that it seemed like they had the same idea about trying to talk some sense into Rand Gilver.

Ari left them in a huff and proceeded to the King’s camp, with the other two following closely. The huntress stealthily made her way through the Gray Maidens’ perimeter and found the general’s tent. Along the way, she kept an eye out for her missing friend, Clara, hoping that she wouldn’t be here to fight.

She entered Rand’s tent. Not shocked that he knew that she was there the entire time, Ari stared at the Betrayer King and simply asked, “Why?”.

Their conversation continued for what seemed to be an hour as she asked, pleaded, begged for him to stop this madness. She asked why he served the Queen, why he was going to fight them, why he was turning Korvosa into another pawn of his grand plan. With a hidden anger, she kept berating him until she came upon the question that made even the King stop in his tracks. “Why do you fear Hawke?”

The seemingly ancient Inquisitor answered very simply, much to the surprise of Ari. “Doubt. He makes me doubt myself and my work.” Taken aback at the answer, she continually asked him about his doubt and how does Hawke cause him to feel this way. The King regained his composure and Ari realized there was nothing left to ask as he knew he wouldn’t tell. She got up to leave but was met with another surprise.

Before she could exit the tent, she was stopped by a Korvosan man. Though he looked familiar, he was far too young and healthy looking to be him. However, the moment this man open his mouth, she knew who the man was. Gaedren Lamm. Brought back again to cause the Champions problems, only this time he seemed more permanent and less mysterious. His fanged grin gave away what he became, a vampire. Somehow the old crime boss had risen from simple ghoul to vampire, but the how wasn’t on Ari’s mind. The only thing that was in her thoughts was the mounting dread that she had realizing that Rand Gilver may be beyond her saving him. Her only hope was the magus that she seemingly couldn’t stand.

As she freely left the camp, as Rand commanded his soldiers not to harm her, she came across another person she was looking for. The inquisitor saw her friend, Clara, readying her weapon and gear for the upcoming battle. Ari approached her but was saddened when Clara did not recognize her. Leaving the seal of the Champion behind on Clara’s bedroll in a vain attempt to help her regain her senses, Ari heads back to the outskirts of the camp.
She found Hawke waiting at the edge of the camp, waiting to see what happened but only saw Ari return with a grim look upon her face. After some tense words were shot at him by her, he simply offered to teleport both her and Brealyn back to their camp. Begrudgingly, Ari accepted and flashed back to their base.

The three of them went on their separate ways. The rest of the party came out, wondering what had happened. Ari brushed them off, so they decided to talk to Hawke, hoping he would have something to say. But not long after they left her, Ari had an epiphany. She believed that the reason Hawke caused Rand to doubt was because Hawke was a powerful practitioner of the Arcane Arts and was still a good person. He was never corrupted by the awesome power that he obtained. She thought that if Hawke could cause him to doubt again, Rand could be saved. With this hope, Ari ran off to find Hawke again.

The heroes all found Cerrick Stormhawke ruminating along the nearby river. The rain that had been battering the entire area for the last few weeks intensified as Hawke lamented his inability to help his onetime friend. Ari, however, barged in on his self-reflection and blurted out everything she thought she figured out. Hawke was impressed that someone might have been able to read the King’s feelings, and with this information, Hawke felt something rekindle within him. A fire that faded some time ago but has grown into an inferno. The fires of hope raged within him again as he remembered an important fact about Rand and himself. With determination and vigor, the Hero of the Storm raised his sword to the sky, channeling his power through it with an intensity not seen in years.

The Champions of Korvosa and the Hero of the Storm steeled themselves for the Battle of the Crimson Rain.

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The Escape
Escape from Old Korvosa Part 6

Surrounded on all sides, the Champions of Korvosa steel themselves for the upcoming bloodbath. Even with the unexpected assistance from one of the assassins, the party fears that they will not come out on top in this fight. The two groups slowly begin to move towards the heroes when Anja came up with a desperate idea.

Shouting to the hostile Meliya Arkona, Anja offers to help kill Glorio in exchange for safe passage out of the mansion. The initial statement gives the Arkona Matriarch enough reason to pause, but when the rest of the party chimes in for the same deal, Meliya smiles to herself. The party stood in fear, preparing to fight, holding their bated breaths until Meliya chuckles a bit and then runs in to kill the Red Mantis Assassins.

With a bit of hope rekindled, the party unleashes their powers and skills upon the hopelessly outnumbered crimson assassins. One by one, they fell to the combined might of Meliya and the Champions, along with the new ally they received in the form of a turncoat assassin. However, mid-way through the skirmish, Orion tries to attack Meliya “accidently” hoping to kill her quickly along with the assassins. While it didn’t work, Meliya did notice and took some offense.

With the assassins dead at their feet, Meliya turns to all of them, commanding them to enter the Temple of Chamidu. Within, Meliya reveals her true form and confirming the Champions’ worst fear about the Arkonas. With fox-like features, Meliya unveils her Rakshasa form to the party, instilling a feeling of dread within them, including their 3 new members, Orisini, Neolandus, and the assassin. Satisfied with her presentation, she began to negotiate with them about the deal they offered.

Anja, Blackjack, and Brealyn attempt to offer her their services and assistance in killing the current head of the Arkona family. However, Meliya wasn’t too ecstatic about the terms they were offering and negotiations were starting to go downhill. Ari, picking up on this, decides to hasten the final terms with an arrow directed at Meliya, unleashing her judgement upon the evil outsider.

The battle resumed as Meliya, completely outnumbered, did her best to kill the weakest amongst the group, starting with Vencarlo. However, the group did not allow her to get too close as they surrounded her and attacked with all their might. Rapier wounds, unexpected dagger strikes, and magics, both arcane and divine fell upon Meliya, slowly destroying her form. With sudden strikes, the assassin comes to the forefront to attack the monstrosity with great effect, drawing the rakshasa’s ire. Her anger towards him did not last, as Anja delivered a decisive blow with her rapier and skewered her upon her sword.

With blood trickling from her unnatural mouth, Meliya sets off one final trap within the Arkona Dungeon, causing an explosion and cave-in. The party hastens to the skiff to retreat out of the cave. Tension and fear ran high for all of them, especially those close to the veteran swordsman, Orisini, as he fell unconscious from a rock falling upon him. Anja and Blackjack were able to carry and revive him as they reached the boat. With her expertise, and Orion and Blackjack’s assistance, Anja was able to sail them out of the cave.

Reaching the Jeggare River along the north coast of Old Korvosa, the party quickly made their way across the waters. Taking great care to avoid any Gray Maiden patrols, the Champions reached the shore, and, taking Vencarlo’s advice, started their journey towards Harse to meet up with Jasan and to strategize their next move. Feeling the need to get their as soon as possible, the heroes began running non-stop for days, until their feet couldn’t carry them any further.

Luck seemed to smile down upon them as a farmer’s cart was passing by them along the way to Harse. Taking the risk, some of the group ran up to the cart to ask for a ride, and what they found shocked them. A familiar Vudrani man and smiling Korvosan woman were driving the cart, asking them if they needed a ride. Before the group could answer, the couple laugh, unable to keep the façade up, and revealing themselves as Ishani Dhatri and Trinia Sabor. The two tell the group to get into the cart and they’ll take them to the rebellion camp.

Surprised at this news, Trinia informs them about the rebellion building against Ileosa and Rand Gilver, and how Hawke and Cressida were leading the army. Finally able to catch their breath and rest, the Champions pass out on the ride there. Finally a chance to settle their minds and rest their bodies. Whatever they are grateful for right now, they know they don’t have much time. They know Neolandus has information for them about the Queen and how she rose to power so suddenly. They know they are going to be called upon to fight more. They know their battle against the evil Monarchs of Korvosa was just beginning.

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