Curse of the Crimson Throne

The Tale of Kazavon

When the Sun Shaman was ready to speak with the group, several Burn Riders approached the group to inform them that the shaman requested their presence in his tent. The Sun Shaman waited there alone to speak with the group. When they arrived, he congratulated them again on shedding their outlander status to become Sklar-Quah before inviting them to be seated around his personal fire. The Sun Shaman was one of the few Shoanti who retained knowledge of the secrets held before Cheliax invaded their homelands along the coast of Conqueror’s Bay. His predecessor passed the knowledge of these times down to him, just as he plans to do for the shaman who will follow him, and as he planned to now do for the group.

The Sun Shaman’s tale was relatively short. He told of how, hundreds of years ago, one of his own ancestors was called to join a righteous cause. A man named Mandraivus, a hero from a distant nation, was gathering a small group of warriors to aid in a fight against a despotic dragon named Kazavon, and the Sun Shaman’s ancestor joined this crusade. He was gone for months, and when he finally returned he was not the same man—his hands shook, his eyes carried a haunted stare, and he cried out in fear at night. He spoke little of what he saw while serving Mandraivus, but did say that they were successful in defeating Kazavon, and that the fortress of Scarwall was now under Mandraivus’s control. He was convinced it would remain impotent as long as the hero managed to maintain a hold on it. While Kazavon had been defeated, his will to live was so immense that even the remains of his body twitched. The cabal had attempted to destroy the remains, but many fragments of the dragon’s skeleton resisted even their most destructive spells. Mandraivus tasked seven of his surviving followers (which the Sun Shaman’s ancestor counted himself among) each with claiming one of the bony relics of Kazavon’s body and ordered them taken from Scarwall. None of the seven would communicate where they were going to the others or to Mandraivus, and they were to ensure that their chosen relics would remain hidden and guarded for all time in order to prevent the dragon from returning to life. The Sun Shaman’s ancestor told this story to his fellow shamans, and revealed that his chosen relic was the dragon’s fangs. The Shoanti took to calling them the Midnight Fangs, and they chose the ancient pyramid on the shores of Conquerer’s Bay as their reliquary. After hiding the fangs in a secret room deep inside the pyramid, they took to the task of ensuring that the fangs remained safe. For generations, they maintained their task—until Cheliax invaded and slaughtered the Shoanti. Those few who survived and knew the secret of the fangs were forced to flee with their kin into the Cinderlands.

For the next three centuries the knowledge was passed from Sun Shaman to Sun Shaman, and they watched with fearful eyes as the city of Korvosa grew around their ancient reliquary. That Queen Ileosa had discovered the Midnight Fangs and somehow tapped into their latent power troubled the Sun Shaman greatly, for he knew something of the Fangs’ power. During the time they were guarded, Shoanti shamans studied the fangs and communed with the spirit world about them. They discovered that a fragment of Kazavon’s soul remained lodged within the fangs. While this fragment alone wasn’t enough to work ill upon the world, it could certainly invade the dreams of those who touched them. The Sun Shamans were stubborn and willful, more than a match for the fangs’ temptations and promises, but a weaker mind—say, that of a petty young queen—would have no such defense.

The Sun Shaman went on to explain that the fragments of Kazavon’s soul were like a plant—once they found suitable soil in which to grow, they could bloom into a mighty tree. This appeared to be the case with Ileosa—her own cruelty and strength had been enhanced greatly by the fangs. Worse, she now possessed two souls—her own, and one grown from the fragment of Kazavon’s. Two souls in one body, the Sun Shaman mused, would grant her incredible power over her own mortality. When the group described to him the events of the failed assassination by the leader of the Sable Company he merely nodded grimly.

At that point, the Sun Shaman suggested the group take part in a ritual called the Blessing of the Ancestors. This was a rare ritual the Shoanti used only in times of great change—it called upon a soul from the spirit world to seek guidance and advice on how to proceed. Typically, the Blessing of the Ancestors is used before making the decision to go to war on another tribe, or to abandon a long-held campsite in hopes of finding a better home, but this situation warranted the ritual as well. The group faced a time of great potential here, but returning to Korvosa to confront an immortal enemy would only result in their deaths. Clearly, advice was needed.

The Sun Shaman asks the group if there was a particular spirit or ancestor with whom they had a particularly strong link—the stronger the link, the more exacting the advice granted by the Blessing of the Ancestors becomes. It was not surprising when the recently deceased Shara appeared in the smoke of the fires. The Sun Shaman explained that the information that is gathered comes not from the spirit, but from the spirt world; the sprit simply serves as a conduit.

Shara imparts this rhyme:
Fate of steel—Serithtial
Her cage for years sustained
Four enthralled in lost Scarwall;
Undead to keep her chained.
A spirit first, red war his thirst
Still stands at post of old;
A second foe, infernal soul
Waits high in tower cold.
In kennel’s grime third bides his time
Then vents his killing breath.
And on a stone ’mid ash and bone,
The final dreams of death.
The spirits worn and battletorn
And locked in their damnation,
The chained one’s hold at last grows old
And ushers in salvation.
Yet hope remains amid the chains
When blade’s stone cage has crumbled,
Friends to dread and the death of the dead,
Keys to Kazavon humbled.

Shara then goes on to tell the tale of Kazavon:
More than 800 years ago, as the nation of Ustalav was
recovering from the rule of the Whispering Tyrant, the
threat of an invasion of orcs from the neighboring Hold
of Belkzen was very real. For generations, the county of
Tamrivena—known as Canterwall in modern Ustalav—
held strong against the orcs, its standing army of rangers
and the tactical genius of its leaders more than a match
for the orc hordes. When command of Tamrivena fell
to Count Andachi, it quickly became apparent that he
had not inherited his father’s and grandfather’s gifts of
tactics and eloquence. Mile by mile, the orcs pressed into
Ustalav through Tamrivena, and Count Andachi grew
desperate. Nothing he tried stemmed the orc aggression.
His desperate requests to the government of Ustalav for
reinforcements seemed mired in bureaucracy. Even his
prayers to Desna seemed to fall upon deaf ears. And so it
was with a desperation born of fear that he fell back upon
his ancestors’ one-time patron—Zon-Kuthon, god of
pain and darkness. And in short order, his prayers were
answered in the form a powerful and gifted mercenary
named Kazavon.
The charismatic general took control of Tamrivena’s
army and whipped it into shape with his brutal discipline
and knowledge of tactics and warfare, honing it into
a military killing machine. When they marched into
Belkzen, the undisciplined savages fell in waves. Tales of
Kazavon himself riding in the vanguard and hewing his
way through the orc lines while the arrows and blades of his
foes bounced harmlessly off of him filled Count Andachi
with relief. By the spring of 4043 ar, the orcs had been
driven from their lands into the inhospitable foothills of
the Kodar mountains, bloodied and defeated.
His task complete, Kazavon did not return to Ustalav.
Instead, he set his forces to the construction of Castle
Scarwall, from which he could remain vigilant over the
surrounding lowlands. Yet in short time, Kazavon’s true
goals became horrifically clear. Diplomats from southern
Lastwall traveled to Scarwall, bearing gifts of triumph and
promises of eternal friendship. Their overtures of peace
were met with violence as General Kazavon captured the
diplomats, flayed them alive and had their skins stretched
over frames; he painted these skins with his new coatof-
arms, the fanged skull. The skinless dead were then
animated and sent back south into Lastwall beneath these
grisly banners with a counter offer—fall under Kazavon’s
heel or be butchered.
Some among Kazavon’s own troops found his actions
repellent, but Kazavon’s army had grown over the years
as his number of victories mounted. His ranks swelled
with mercenaries—half of his force bore no allegiance
to anything but their general’s gold. Those soldiers who
rose in rebellion were immediately quelled and executed,
and those who attempted more diplomatic protest were
tortured and fed to wild beasts.
Aghast at this turn of events, Count Andachi at last
found his courage. He raised a new army, ragged and
inexperienced, from the last remnants of his people and
marched west to face his former general. In a bold offensive
he laid siege to Castle Scarwall. Yet, with the next dawn,
he was defeated by Kazavon’s forces. Hapless Andachi was
captured, publicly tortured and degraded, and ultimately
executed. These grisly deeds completed, Kazavon turned
his attention east toward Ustalav.
For well over a decade, Kazavon ruled a nation of slaves,
victims, and horror. Tales of fields of men impaled for
the general’s amusement, of mass executions, of Shoanti
tribesmen hunted like wild animals and then forced to
slay their own women and children in carnivals of torture
and terror spread throughout the neighboring regions.
Whispers of cannibal feasts and vampiric orgies trickled
out of Castle Scarwall. More than once, the forces of goodly
nations marched on Scarwall, yet such was Kazavon’s
strength that no army could face him for long. To a man,
every warrior sent against Scarwall suffered the same fate
as Count Andachi.
Yet where armies failed, a small and secret cabal of
heroes did not. Led by a heroic soldier named Mandraivus,
this group of Lastwall mercenaries, Shoanti mystics, and
Ustalavi arcanists discovered that one among Kazavon’s
minions was willing to betray the warlord. This was
Kazavon’s chamberlain, a man named Kleestad. The
chamberlain gave Mandraivus the information he needed
to strike at Scarwall when its defenses were lowest ( just
before one of Kazavon’s monthly debauches in his great
hall), and directed the cabal to a secret entrance to the
castle that Kazavon’s guards didn’t know about. As the
cabal tore through Scarwall, laying waste to the warlord’s
minions and pursuing him to the castle heights, Kleestad
returned swiftly to his room to gather his most valuable
possessions and make ready his escape, but Mandraivus’s
band moved faster than he anticipated. By the time he had
his gear, the castle alarm had sounded and he was called to
Kazavon’s side as the warlord prepared to defend his home.
Kleestad feared that Kazavon knew of his betrayal and had
called him to his side to execute him, yet before Kazavon
could do much more than break both of Kleestad’s ankles,
Mandraivus arrived. The battle was furious, and in the end
Kazavon fled to the Star Tower, giving Kleestad a chance to
crawl into hiding.
When Mandraivus and his remaining companions
cornered Kazavon in the Star Tower, they discovered his
great secret—Kazavon was no mere man, but rather a
powerful blue dragon that had taken human shape with the
blessing of his dark god. Assuming his true form, Kazavon
attacked the cabal, and a long and bloody battle ensued.
His scales deflected most of their attacks, just as the weapons
of the orcs had bounced off of his armor during the initial
campaign in Belkzen, and his claws and lightning breath
made short work of many of their best and bravest. It was
Mandraivus, wielding the sacred sword Serithtial, who was
able to slip through the dragon’s guard and deliver the
fatal blow. With Kazavon’s death, his forces abandoned the
castle and the dragon’s dark empire crumbled.
Even in death, Kazavon’s corpse seethed with dark
energy, beginning to knit back together toward life once
again. Mandraivus left his sword impaled in the dragon’s
skull while his companions disassembled the body and
burned the remains. After the smoke cleared, seven
fragments of the dragon’s skeleton proved impossible
to destroy. They continued to rattle and shake of their
own malignant will. Mandraivus ordered seven of his
remaining followers to each take one of the relics and
scatter to the corners of the world to keep the fragments
forever separate. Mandraivus remained behind at
Scarwall with only a few loyal retainers in order to watch
over the castle itself and prevent it from being reclaimed
by the minions of Zon-Kuthon.
Unfortunately, the victory was short-lived. The orcs
confined to the nearby mountains by Kazavon’s armies
took note of the death of their enemy and rampaged
forth across Belkzen once again. A portion of the horde
attacked Castle Scarwall, which was defended only by
Mandraivus’s small and inadequate force. The defenders
were quickly overwhelmed, but as Mandraivus was slain,
the curse of Scarwall took hold. The wholesale slaughter
of first Kazavon’s armies and then Mandraivus and his
soldiers had suffused the fortress. In an instant, the orc
invaders found themselves facing a host of vengeful spirits
and slavering undead. It is said that only one of the orcs
survived to make it across the causeway from the castle,
the flesh of his face blanched completely white from the
horror he had barely escaped. He brought word to his
people of the haunting of Castle Scarwall, and the tribal
warlords declared the site forever taboo, leaving it to the
bloodthirsty spirits who now claimed it as their own.
Yet one of Kazavon’s thralls had survived—Kleestad,
both ankles broken, managed to stay in hiding during
Mandraivus’s short reign. Barely subsisting on rainwater
and bugs, Kleestad felt the curse of Scarwall engulf the
place, and knew by the silence that followed that Zon-
Kuthon had finally smote the intruders. He emerged from
hiding to find Scarwall empty and silent, and as he crawled
from chamber to chamber, was met only with further
evidence of slaughter. He eventually found his way into the
first floor of the keep, where he discovered Mandraivus’s
body slumped against a wall. In his hand, Mandraivus still
held the blade he’d used to slay Kazavon. Kleestad, half mad
and deluded, took up the blade in his hand, and heedless
of the pain as the holy weapon burned his evil flesh, called
out to Zon-Kuthon to witness his triumph—Kleestad had
claimed the blade as his own.
Yet Zon-Kuthon was not pleased. Instead of rewarding
Kleestad, he cursed him. He had betrayed Kazavon, and
as he had spent the last several hours crawling through
the slaughter like a worm, Zon-Kuthon transformed the
chamberlain into a monstrous wormlike beast and hurled
him into a lightless vault deep below Scarwall. Also to this
prison went the sacred blade Serithtial, still clutched in
Kleestad’s hands. Today, the last thrall of Kazavon lives on
in this underground prison, and in a final ironic twist of
fate, has become the guardian of the very blade that laid
his master low.

After receiving a blessing from the spirit world, the group understood that in order to destroy the Crown of Fangs, they needed to recover Serithtial, still in Kazavon’s fortress of Scarwall.

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The Sklar-Quah

As the group delved deeply into Sklar-Quah territory, it was just a matter of time before they were intercepted by a patrolling war party of six burn riders, Sklar-Quah horsemen who have trained their mounts to no longer fear fire. The burn riders were headstrong and quick to anger, but because the group was in Akram’s company, they stayed their hands and did not attack on sight. Akram greeted the burn riders and explained quickly how the group sought to divest themselves of their tshamek status, a comment that elicited a round of laughter from the burn riders. Yet as soon as Akram mentioned the group had recreated the Legend of Skurak and Cindermaw, they grew serious. The patrol swiftly agreed to escort Akram and the group to Flameford at the very heart of Sklar-Quah lands. The Sklar-Quah did not attempt to disarm the group, though the they were effectively surrounded by hundreds of Shoanti who were ready at an instant to defend their home from the outlanders.

As the group was led through the slash rock into the heart of Flameford, the entire camp, Chieftan and Sun Shaman included, came to see. The group’s burn rider escort led them to the War Council Fire and bid them be seated. The group was a little dismayed to see that Krojun Eats What He Kills was in attendance as well. Akram then entreated the Sun Shaman on the group’s behalf. He formally requested that the Sklar-Quah accept the group as Shoanti with full entitlement to walk the Cinderlands. He first recited the Ritual of Cycles—a long, convoluted story of the never-ending relationship between the sun and the moon. Once tradition had been appeased, Akram boldly announced that he was a Truthspeaker and demanded that any who challenge his standing speak. A lengthy period of uncomfortable silence hung in the air. The silence was eventually followed by a patient nod of approval from the Sun Shaman. Akram then broke into a tale of the group’s recent deeds, tying them to the legend of Skurak. When Akram included a description of a Gurn cutting his way out of the Quah-Kael, Krojun and a few others made guffawing noises in disbelief, but they were silenced by a glare from the Sun Shaman. After Akram’s tale was complete, the Sun Shaman retreated to his tent with Chief Ready-Klar to further discuss the implications of what the group sought. An uncomfortable silence loomed while the crowd waited. Krojun crossed his arms and stared at Gurn. Akram quietly explained to the PCs that if the Sun Shaman rejected his petition and decided the group was still tshamek, they (Akram included) would be disemboweled for trespassing on Sklar-Quah land. An hour later, the shaman and chieftain returned to the fire. He asked each of the PCs to stand before him and spoke their names. The Sun Shaman repeated the names in sequence, and then tersely announced that henceforth the group was to be considered tshamek no more. They were free to come and go among the lands of the Sklar-Quah, as long as they maintained peace and honor and respect Sklar-Quah tradition. Many of the Shoanti, Krojun included, struggled to contain their fury but none openly rejected the Sun Shaman’s proclamation.

Once the group passed the Trial of the Totems, they accomplished their goals—they befriended the Sklar-Quah, and now needed only to wait for the Sun Shaman to finish his communion with his ancestors to learn about the truth of what afflicted Queen Ileosa. Yet one more hurdle lay between the group and this triumph—the Red Mantis. Frustrated that the group found sanctuary among the Sun Clan and sensing that her window of opportunity to eliminate the group was quickly vanishing, Cinnabar, leader of a Red Mantis assassin team, organized her allies in preparation for an all-out assault. With her remaining assassins, her well-paid Ashwing gargoyle allies, a young elf apprentice assassin named Tessara, and the Cinderlander, Cinnabar’s spies and scrying revealed that the Sun Shaman, Chief Ready-Klar, and several burn riders were going to be gone for a day, making this her best opportunity. That evening, as dusk approached, she and her allies stalked toward Flameford with ill intent.

The Red Mantis struck during the night, when most everyone was either asleep or deep in their cups. The group was able to fend off the gargoyles, but were in for a shock when a familiar looking elf who appeared to be with the Red Mantis, suddenly turned on them and began attacking her Red Mantis commander, Cinnabar. After the group defeated the Mantis, it was revealed that this elf was Tessara, sister to the fallen Shara, who had been forced into joining the Red Mantis. Once she heard that her sister had been killed however, Tessara knew she had to break free of the Red Mantis and discover what it was that her sister had thought so important that she would lay down her life. She joined with the group, eager to use her skills.

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Belly of the Beast and Death

Cindermaw was one of the deadliest predators of the
Cinderlands, an ancient purple worm changed and
transformed into a unique creature infused with
elemental fire after it devoured a malfunctioning portal
to the Elemental Plane of Fire that stood inside a partially
collapsed ruin the creature blundered into.
The infusion of fire not only granted Cindermaw a host
of unique fire-based abilities, but awakened its intellect
as well, granting it the ability to understand its place in
the world. Cindermaw knows that the Shoanti regard it as
a sort of god, and it has taken this notion to an extreme.

As the group approached the worm’s killing ground,
they became increasingly aware of the beast’s
presence. Encounters with other creatures grew less and
less frequent, and what at first seemed like hills were
in fact mounded burrows left behind by Cindermaw’s
tunneling.

In the end, the group did’t have to find Cindermaw- the
immense worm found them. The creature surfaced in the distance, arced, and then dove below,
as if it were an immense whale swimming through the
ground. The worm erupted in front of the group, then behind them, and
then to the side – Cindermaw seemed to enjoy showing
off and intimidating prey before it attempted to feed.

With some confusion in the plan, all the members of the group approached Cindermaw, even though Akram told them that only one of them had to be swallowed by the beast. Dedicating themselves to eradicating the monster, even though Akram told them it would be no use, they approached and quickly attacked, unconcerned with their fates.

Within seconds, the dwarf was snatched up in the creature’s jaws and swallowed. Inside the gullet of the massive worm, Gurn fought valiantly to free himself from certain doom. Meanwhile, his compatriots fought to kill the worm, hopefully before the dwarf was digested. Surrounding the creature on all sides, they mercilessly attacked its segmented body. Akram was impressed with their handlinng of the battle and for a moment thought that the group would slay Cindermaw without casualties.

Alas, it was not to be so, as Cindermaw let out a roar of rage and bit the elf maiden, Shara, in half, swallowing her torso while her legs fell over onto the gritty sand. Her comrades looked at her maimed half-body in horror, then grimly battled on. For the first time, this adventuring group had lost one of their own.

Seconds after Shara met her doom, Gurn was finally able to cut his way out of Cindermaw’s throat, catching a glimpse of Shara’s upper half sliding down its gullet towards him. Supressing a vomit reflex, Gurn pulled open the hole in Cindermaw’s throat and fell to the group, free at last, although nearly finished.

Seeing their compatriot free, the other members of the group doubled their efforts to fell the beast, and soon, with a plaintive cry, Cindermaw fell to the ground with a might thump…right on top of Gurn.

In the aftermath of the battle, the group sadly buried what they could find of Shara, knowing that she would want them to keep her equipment.

Now determined more than ever, they set their sights on the camp of the Sun Clan, Akram leading the way.

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House of the Moon

Once the group gained the Spherewalker’s
Mark, the next stage of their journey was to seek
out the Lyrune-Quah to try to secure the aid of a
Truthspeaker. As Thousand Bones has told the group,
the nomadic Lyrune-Quah spend that part of the year
camped near an ancient Desnan temple called the
House of the Moon —a place known to some simply as
the Moon Ruin.

At the time, very few Lyrune-Quah had gathered at
the House of the Moon. It iwas still early in their season,
and the bulk of the tribe had yet to arrive in the area.
Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case, they arrived
to find that a local predator took up the ruins as its
territory—in this case, a dangerous creature known as
a red reaver. In this situation, the first tribe to arrive
in the region is responsible for driving out the monsters
and making the House of the Moon safe for the tribes
yet to arrive. Unfortunately, the red reaver was proving to
be a bit more trouble than a pack of gargoyles or a few
hungry ankhegs, and already several Lyrune-Quah moon
maidens had perished at the monster’s talons.
The Lyrune-Quah sent many of their warriors
into the House of the Moon to try to slay or at least drive
out the red reaver. Unfortunately for them, the reason
for the reaver’s interest in the House of the Moon was that
the monster had bonded with the site and viewed the
structure as its territory.

When the group approached, they were swiftly intercepted by
a patrol of four moon maidens, the traditional honor guard
and protector caste of the Lyrune-Quah. Each moon maiden
bonds with a wolf upon being accepted into the guard, at
which point the two are rarely seen apart from each other.
The patrol’s leader was a woman named Tekra’Kai, and she had grown increasingly
worried and distracted at the red reaver’s presence in the
House of the Moon. Having already thrown nearly a dozen
of her warriors at the problem, she had consigned herself to
the inevitable humiliation of admitting to the main body of
the Lyrune-Quah, scheduled to arrive in the area at the rise
of the next moon, that she was unable to secure the House
of the Moon.

Tekra’Kai’s initial reaction to the group was one of distrust—
her upbringing had taught her to view all tshamek as the
enemy, yet she also knew that many tshamek worship
Desna. The group had the Spherewalker’s Mark and showed
it to Tekra’Kai, though, and her initial distrust transformed
into relief—she immediately came to see the group as
saviors sent by Desna to help take care of the problem
in the House of the Moon, and quickly explained to them
what the problem was, presuming the group was just as eager
as she was to deal with the red reaver.

The group secured her cooperation and asked for the use
of a Truthspeaker, and Tekra’Kai admited that her tribe did
indeed have one—his name was Akram, and he was scheduled to arrive with the rest of her tribe at the rise of the next moon. Yet as long as the red reaver remained in the House
of the Moon, she warned the group that her fellow tribesmen
would have little time to talk about anything else. At the
same time, she indicated that if the group helped in getting
rid of the unwelcome monster, the tribe would be much
more disposed toward helping them in return.

Once the group agreed to help, Tekra’Kai beamed in relief and
told them that she and three of her remaining moon
maidens
were prepared to assault the House of the Moon
immediately—she led them to the
structure’s entrance at once.

It was a hard fought battle…two of the brave maidens met their fate. It the confusion of the battle, it was hard to tell who was alive and who was dead. Eventually, the group won out over the creature.

Once the red reaver was slain,
the Lyrune-Quah became even friendlier, and invited the
group to stay with the tribe for a few nights.

The rest of the Lyrune-Quah tribe arrived, as scheduled,
one night after the PCs arrive. Tekra’Kai introduced the group,
and once they explained that they were seeking a Truthspeeker to
witness their journey to the Feeding Grounds of the Quah-
Kael, the Shoanti became rather impressed. The tribe’s
only current living Truthspeaker was an aged man named
Akram, and he readily agreed to travel with the group—if
only so he could witness the fury of Cindermaw himself.

The Lyrune-Quah were not at war with the Sklar-Quah, but
neither did the two tribes particularly enjoy each other’s
company—Akram saw it as an opportunity to speak
with a Sun Shaman to attempt to strengthen allegiances
between the two tribes.

In any case, once Akram agreed to accompany the group on
their journey, he was ready to go.

The dward encountered some difficulty as they were traveling, however, finding it difficult to sleep undderneath the clear night sky. It took rope and a few whacks to keep him from running back to the House of the Moon in terror. Akram studied the dwarf and revealled that Gurn had some kind of sickness of the mind, possibly due to a recent terrorizing shock. Gurn resolved to fight his condidtion, but at the time, was still unsuccessful.

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Acropolis of the Thrall Keepers

As the journey progressed, the group came upon
a grisly totem—the rotting head of a Shoanti
man mounted on a sharp wooden pole, the other end jammed into a cleft between two rocks so
that the head hung out almost like a flag on the side of a
building. Bright red crossbow bolts were driven into
each of the head’s eyes.
The boneslayers accompanying the group muttered and
whispered at this discovery. One of the
Skoan-Quah said the head belonged to a Sklar-Quah, but
was placed here by a “tshamek devil” the Shoanti call the
Cinderlander. The brave went on to explain that, for the
past several years, this mysterious figure has stalked the
Cinderlands. He never attacks large groups—targeting
only lone braves with a strange “sideways screaming
bow.” There are plenty of legends and tales about the
Cinderlander, who he is, where he’s from, and why he
hunts the Shoanti. The Skoan-Quah believe he is the
unquiet ghost of a Korvosan general who stalks these
lands and will continue to slay Shoanti until his victims
equal those the Shoanti took from him. Two crossbow
bolts in the eyes have become the Cinderlander’s calling
card, but the aged condition of the head implied that the
mysterious killer was long gone from the region. In any
event, one of the bonecallers scrambled up to retrieve the
decapitated head. Without knowing the Shoanti’s identity,
his ashes could not be interred in the Kallow Mounds, so
instead, that evening, the boneslayers held a short service
of their own, burning the head, scattering the ashes, and
burying the skull under a cairn of rocks.

As the group approached the acropolis, the sky on the horizon
began to darken alarmingly. A quick warning from one of their boneslayer
guides confirmed the worst—an emberstorm was brewing.
Powerful duststorms filled with blasts of burning ash
and cinders, these devastating storms are feared by
the Shoanti for their swift speed and terrible fury—
known as Black Blizzards to most tribes, the advent of
an emberstorm could be taken as a bad omen, as the
boneslayer companions were quick to point out.

After escaping the tentacles of a monster in a pit, the group was set upon by a group of Red Mantis assassins, which they quickly defeated. Krojun Eats-What-He-Kills and his men showed up, but just took shelter from the ember storm. Soon after, they discovered they were being watched. Shadowcount Sial and his companion Asyra greeted the group, explaining
that he had been watching them for some time. He
introduced himself and Asyra as accomplices of Laori
Vaus, explaining that she had reported the groups efforts
in Old Korvosa to the organization that he and she both
belong to. Sial attempted to remain as mysterious as he
could, asking only leave of the group to accompany them and
observe their methods. He understood full well that
he had given the group little reason to trust him, and offered
his spells as support for their exploration as needed. However, his offer was rejected.

Eventually the group discovered the globe that gives the mark of Desna, which most of the group received. The noble dwarf nearly fell into the madness of the emptiness of space, but the favored soul of Desna was able to revive him.

Upon leaving the Acropolis, they again encountered Shadowcount Sial and Asyra who asked again to follow the group. Again, they were rebuffed.

The next stage of the journey will take them to the Moon Clan to seek out a Truth-Speaker.

View
The Bone Council Fire

As night falls, Thousand Bones
invited the group to join him at
the center of the camp. The
majority of the other Skoan-
Quah retired early to their tents
out of respect for the Bone
Council Fire—the only people present are the group and their allies, Thousand
Bones, Chief One-Life, and Ash Dancer. During the
council, both One-Life and Ash Dancer remained quiet,
letting Thousand Bones do all the talking. As Thousand
Bones spoke, Ash Dancer sprinkled the fire with a
greenish-brown herbal dust from a weathered pouch. A
few moments later, the fumes encapsulated anyone who
remains by the fire; the effects caused a slight blurring of
the vision and a feeling of ease. Thousand Bones’s speech to the group was short and
direct, as is his way.

He responded to the group’s questions in this manner:

Tell us about the Shoanti who dwelt by the river before
Korvosa was founded.
“This was many generations ago,
yet it is a wound that has never healed. My brothers
among the Skoan-Quah have forgiven, but our numbers
are small. We were once a part of the Sklar-Quah, yet
our readiness to forgive marked us traitors and we were
exiled from that clan. In the generations that passed we
grew more at peace with our role here—there is beauty
in the Cinderlands, if you know where to look. We have
abandoned our memories of lives below the rise in a way
the Sklar-Quah have not. Those memories poison them.
They do not see that this land is theirs. They only see
lands that their ancestors called home. If you seek more
wisdom of those times, you must seek out the keepers of
words among the Sklar-Quah. You must seek the words
of a Sun Shaman.”

What can you tell us of Midnight’s Teeth? Thousand
Bones’ brow furrows at this question and he appears to
be deep in thought for a moment before answering. “The
name is not unfamiliar, yet I know little more than that
I have heard it mentioned but twice by Sun Shamans of
the Sklar-Quah. Always in reference to the past, and to
what you now call Korvosa.”

Can we simply walk into a Sklar-Quah camp and ask them
for aid?
“Sadly, no. You are tshamek. Outlanders. Rightful or
not, the Sklar-Quah will see you as the children of those
who murdered their ancestors and drove them from the
green lands. The Sun Clan does not like outsiders at the
best of times. And less so now that war against Korvosa is
on every brave’s lips.”

Tell us more of this talk of war on Korvosa. “It pains
my heart. Many will die, Shoanti and tshamek alike, if
such a tragedy comes to pass. The Sklar-Quah talk of a
great Burn Run from the Storval Rise all the way to the
heart of tshamek lands, to Korvosa. The Sklar-Quah’s
mood is very dark. This is hard for the Skoan-Quah. We
have made paper with Korvosa, agreeing that we will not
make war. Yet after the Sklar-Quah raid, the tshamek will
come north, led by your new queen. They will kill many
Shoanti brothers and sisters, including Skoan-Quah.
The winter will be harsh and many giants will be coming
south to take advantage of the loss of braves.

Can you talk to the Sklar-Quah for us? You’re not
tshamek.
“Alas, this will not work. They would ask us why
we want to know of such things. We would have to tell
them. They will not give us secrets to tell tshamek.”

Is there any way the Sun Clan will stop treating us as
tshamek?
“You must understand. The Sklar-Quah are very
certain of these things. They may come to respect lone
tshamek after many days of seeing them act honorably, but
what you ask is for the Sun Shaman to lay bare his quah’s
heart. The deepest memories of his clan. These memories
are not for tshamek. Not since Skurak the Reborn have
the members of the Sklar-Quah unbanished a man and
welcomed him into their quah.

*Skurak? How did he manage it? *Thousand Bones
smiled enigmatically for a brief instant before going on.
“The legend of Skurak is of a great warrior and greater
traitor to the Sklar-Quah. He slew his brother, a brave
of even greater courage. To the Sklar-Quah, family is
purity—crimes against the family are the greatest a man
can commit. Although Skurak claimed the death was an
accident as he and his brother were hunting, others spoke
of murder spawned of jealous rage. Skurak was declared
a tshamek by the Sun Shaman and cast out. But before
Skurak left he said he would be born again and return
to his tribe. This he did. He went to the killing grounds
of the great Cindermaw the Clan-Eater. Skurak walked
up to the beast carrying only his dagger. Without fear he
dove inside the beast and cut his way out. He returned to
the clan and declared he had been reborn, and had left his
misdeeds behind in the cleansing fire of Cindermaw’s
belly. The legend says the Sun Shaman accepted this and
Skurak’s time as a tshamek was spoken of no more.”

What is Cindermaw? “A legend, yet one of flesh and
blood. Cindermaw dwells on the northernmost edge of
Shoanti lands, in the place where Shoanti and orc and
giant vie for life and water. His hunting grounds are
known as the Feeding Grounds of the Quah-Kael,
the land of the Clan Eater. The orcs of Urglin avoid
this region; the giants of the north hunt only on its
edges. Within, few have returned to tell tales, but
those who do speak of a mountain that crawls and
of fire that roars.”

So this is a way for us to earn the Sklar-Quah’s
favor? To be eaten by and then escape from
Cindermaw?
“Perhaps. Yet this route is more complex
than you suspect. The Sklar-Quah would never
believe the words of tshamek on such a matter, nor
would they risk travel to the Feeding Grounds just
to see foolish outlanders attempt to recreate legends.
I could come with you, if my bones were not so tired, yet I
am Skoan-Quah. My words would hold little light with the
Sun Shaman, I fear.”
Here Thousand Bones grew silent for a moment, and
Ash Dancer spoke for the first time. “They could bring a
Truthspeaker, Thousand Bones.”

What is a Truthspeaker? “There are those among
our people who, after living lives without lie and never
speaking falsehood, have earned the title of Truthspeaker.
It is a rare honor, one that requires many years of chastity,
of self-control, of introspection. There are Truthspeakers
among the Sklar-Quah, yet that does not help you. Were
that the Skoan-Quah had one. Yet The Skoan-Quah and the
Sklar-Quah are not the only Shoanti in the Cinderlands.
I have heard tell that the Lyrune-Quah, who dwell in the
shadow of the Wyvern Mountains far to the northwest,
have Truthspeakers among them. If you could perform
the ritual of rebirth at the Feeding Grounds of the Quah-
Kael in the presence of a Truthspeaker, his words would
be all the proof you need to secure an audience with the
Sklar-Quah.”

Where do we even find the Moon clan? “The Lyrune-
Quah are nomads. This time of year, they gather at a place
sacred to them, a place called the House of the Moon at
the northeasternmost edge of the Wyvern Mountains. Yet
I fear that they will distrust you as tshamek as well, unless
you bring to them proof of your honesty and need.”

What can we bring them to secure their aid? “The
Lyrune-Quah are unusual among the Shoanti. They do
not seek enlightenment through our ancestors, but from
the Song of the Spheres. They are devotees of Desna, and
they trust those who worship her. Yet that trust is, alone,
not enough to earn the aid of a Truthspeaker to be witness
to your heroics against Cindermaw. The faithful of Desna
have a tradition of exploring distant and dangerous
places as a way to honor their deity, who watches over all
who travel. When they reach the goal of their pilgrimage,
a priest leaves a found-mark to honor his journey. One of
the Lyrune-Quah’s greatest ancestors was a priest of Desna
named Tanjah—their legends speak of her pilgrimage
into an ancient ruin and her discovery of a potent relic
sacred to Desna, a stone globe held deep within a place
called the Acropolis of the Thrallkeepers. Those who
follow Tanjah’s footsteps and seek her found-mark upon
this globe are said to be given the Spherewalker’s Mark,
and with this mark, the Lyrune-Quah would welcome
into their camp even their most bitter rivals.”

What is the Acropolis of the Thrallkeepers? Where
is it?
“It is a ruin left over from an ancient time, a time
when great powers ruled over this land. We speak of these
ancient lords only in whispers today, but you may know
their mark by the Sihedron, the seven-pointed star. I
know not what perils await you within the Acropolis, but
its location is not unknown to the Skoan-Quah. When you
are ready to leave, I shall send with you four boneslayers
to lead you there.”

How can we repay you for your help? “By convincing the
Sklar-Quah you are friends, that you represent Korvosa,
and that war is not in anyone’s best interest. This will
save both our peoples needless pain and grief. If you can
earn their trust and respect enough to learn from them
the secret of what their ancestors watched over before
the outlanders drove them away, they will listen to your
words and see the wisdom there. This is all I ask, and it
benefits you as well.”

View
Into the Cinderlands

The easiest way to navigate the towering cliffs that
separate Varisia from the Cinderlands is to pass through
the anarchic city of Kaer Maga. Kaer Maga is
perched on the edge of the Storval Rise, and the majority
of the traffic across the cliffs winds through it.

After securing a guide and allowing Shara a few indulgences, the group set off for the Kallow Mounds, the location of the Skoan (Skull) Clan. As soon as the group got within a half-mile of the Kallow Mounds, they were intercepted by a group of four
Skoan-Quah boneslayers—warriors who patrol Shoanti
burial mounds and are trained from an early age to
be particularly effective against the undead. The four
boneslayers were somewhat surprised to see tshamek (outsiders), but
greeted them nonetheless. The boneslayers agreed to lead them into their
camp.

The Kallow Mounds themselves are a collection of
hundreds of cairns, the burial sites for all three Cinderlands
Shoanti tribes for the past 300 years. The Skoan-Quah
are the caretakers of these cairns, and typically camp at
a small dale on the westernmost edge of the mounds. At
any one time, approximately 75 Skoan-Quah barbarians
dwell in this camp, with a constant influx of new nomads
maintaining this level as smaller tribes move on. Most of
these nomads are 1st-level barbarian humans, but there’s
always at least a dozen boneslayers in camp as well.

View
What Neolandus Kalepopolis Knows...

When Neolandus confronted Queen Ileosa about
King Eodred II’s death, her response was to send Red
Mantis assassins after him—proof enough of guilt
to Neolandus. Through a combination of luck and
knowledge about the castle’s layout, Neolandus barely
managed to escape with his life and went into hiding
with his friend Salvator Scream in Old Korvosa.

After he recovered from the attack but before Salvator
handed him over to the Arkonas, Neolandus spent much
of his time in Old Korvosa researching the situation
by interviewing key people, poring through records in
Endrin Academy, and piecing together information
and rumors he heard to try to determine what
caused Queen Ileosa’s sudden personality
change from a petulant spoiled queen to a
scheming murderous tyrant.

Neolandus’s suspicions grew, but until
Queen Ileosa’s first public appearance
after the plague, he tempered his
suspicions with hope. He knew that
Queen Ileosa had been “borrowing” the
treasury key to look through Korvosa’s
holdings. Neolandus was also familiar
with several old and obscure legends
about the chambers below Castle Korvosa—
chambers, it was whispered, that were old even
when the Shoanti dwelt here, and that used to
hide something of great power or evil. There
was little more information to go on, but he
did uncover mention in some documents
from Korvosa’s earliest days of something
called Midnight’s Teeth, and that these teeth
were believed to be some sort of sacred relic
of great import to the Shoanti. Circumstantial
evidence indicates that the Shoanti kept these
teeth in the chambers inside the pyramid that now
serves as Castle Korvosa’s foundation.

Neolandus’s further research uncovered an old legend
that chilled his soul. Several hundred years ago, a
powerful blue dragon and agent of Zon-Kuthon named
Kazavon brought the orcs of Belkzen to their knees and
began conquering the neighboring nations of Ustalav
and Lastwall, until he was finally defeated and his
remains scattered. Some of these remains, according to
certain Zon-Kuthonic scriptures, contained fragments
of Kazavon’s essence. One of these relics was the Fangs
of Kazavon.

By piecing together his evidence, Neolandus suspects
that Midnight’s Teeth were none other than the Fangs
of Kazavon. The description of the queen’s new crown
sounds to Neolandus as if she now wears the Fangs
of Kazavon on her brow, the implications of which
troubles him greatly.

Neolandus wasn’t able to gather much more information
before the Arkonas took him, but he doesn’t suspect
there was much more to learn. Hard facts about
Midnight’s Teeth were sparse to begin with—Korvosa’s
founders didn’t think it important to preserve much in
the way of Shoanti culture. Yet there is still some hope.
The Shoanti have very strong oral traditions, and if
anyone knows the truth behind Midnight’s Teeth, that
truth is doubtless hidden among their historians up in
the Cinderlands.

View
To Harse

The group accompanied Vencarlo Orisini and Neolandus
Kalepopolis as they flee from the city of Korvosa, bound
for the town of Harse and Orisini’s allies there. Neolandus mentioned that he suspects some of the Shoanti know more about what has happened to Queen Ileosa and
how to deal with the Crown of Fangs, but as he and the group
head north to safety, he prefers to stay quiet, promising
more information once they’re safe.

Harse is a narrow village located on a strip of land at the
point where Sarwin River empties into Falcon River.
The village itself consists of only a few dozen buildings,
including a church dedicated to Erastil, two groceries, two
taverns (the Spotted Pony and the somewhat dingier Nag
Bag), a large inn, and a bustling ferry service—this has been
a traditional river-crossing site since as far back as Shoanti
times. The northeastern edge of Harse features a large
collection of stables and other buildings around an open
field—the Harse Market, one of the most popular places to
buy and trade livestock in the region, and the site of a yearly
rodeo designed to single out the best animals and riders.
The majority of Harse’s citizens don’t live in the village
proper, but on one of the dozens of ranches and farms that
dot the surrounding countryside. It is one of these, the
Blackbird Ranch, that is owned by Vencarlo’s friends, and it
is here that he led Neolandus and the group.

Times aren’t quite bad in Harse, but neither are they great—the village, as with all of
the Korvosan holdings in the region, rely upon trade from
the city as well as regular support of patrols and the like
from the Korvosan Guard and the Sable Company. With
the city falling on such hard times, few merchants are
coming to and from the city, and patrols have all but ceased.
Highwaymen, bandits, and even goblins have become
increasingly problematic on the roads. Whispers of what’s
going on in Korvosa were on everyone’s lips, especially since
the number of refugees who have fled the city seemed to be
growing. Word was that the majority of these refugees are
traveling to Palin’s Cove or Veldraine, and that recently
(with Queen Ileosa’s closing of the city and institution
of martial law) the flow of refugees, and thus news, from
Korvosa has all but ceased.

A short 15-minute ride north from Harse along the Sarwin
River, a moderately-sized horse ranch sits comfortably in
the cleft of two low hills topped with small copses of fir
trees. This is Blackbird Ranch, a horse ranch
owned by a barrel-chested man named Jasan Adriel. Living
here with his wife, three sons, and two daughters, Jasan
is one of the two surviving members of an adventuring
party that made a small fortune exploring the Storval
Rise and the Mindspin Mountains. That adventuring
party was known as the Blackbirds, and the only other
surviving member is Vencarlo Orisini. The Blackbirds broke up more than 2 decades ago over an
unfortunate conflict involving the rights to treasure looted
from a dwarven tomb—Jasan and Vencarlo wanted to return
the weapons recovered from the haunted tomb to Janderhoff,
but the others in the group wanted to sell the weapons in
Korvosa. The argument came to blows, and in the end Jasan
and Vencarlo opted to retire from the adventuring business
entirely. The remaining Blackbirds vanished without a
trace in the dungeons below Kaer Maga not one season later,
and both Jasan and Vencarlo counted themselves lucky at
the time to have gotten out when they did.

When the group arrived at Blackbird Ranch with Neolandus
and Vencarlo, Jasan greeted them as if they were long-lost
family members. Vencarlo and Neolandus
remained nervous. Trinia Sabor was there as well, eager to
reunite with Vencarlo and the group, and Jasan
invited everyone to join his family for dinner.
After the pleasant and filling dinner, Jasan led the
group, Neolandus, Vencarlo, and Trinia down into
his basement, a place he uses to brew his own beer. His
home-grown hooch is a bit rough, but the true reason he
relocated down here is so he and the others can talk frankly
without worrying his family. When Vencarlo introduced
Neolandus by name, Jasan’s eyes wided and he whistled
in admiration at the audacity of his home becoming the
hideout of Korvosa’s seneschal.

Blackbird Ranch was a large place, but not large enough to
comfortably accommodate an entire party of adventurers
for long. Worse was the unspoken worry on Vencarlo’s and
Neolandus’s minds—that they were known fugitives, and
that Queen Ileosa would spare little expense in tracking
them down. Her Red Mantis agents were close to
discovering Neolandus in Old Korvosa, and it won’t
take them long to sift through the recent events there and
to piece together what happened. Vencarlo requested the amulet of proof
against detection and location, intending to have Neolandus
wear it to help hide him, but even then it might be only a matter
of time before the Red Mantis tracks them all down.
Jasan took the news pretty well, and was the first to suggest
that it was about time for a move. By the next morning, he had
his worried but trusting family packing up all of their
belongings for a move west to Magnimar, while Vencarlo
and Neolandus decided to seek asylum at the dwarven
city of Janderhoff. Before then, though, there was much to
discuss. During the late-night meeting in Jasan’s basement,
Neolandus outlined everything he knows to the group, Vencarlo, and Jasan. If Queen
Ileosa is to be defeated, someone has to travel into the
Cinderlands and contact the Shoanti to find out what they
know of the Fangs of Kazavon, and how best to defeat the
ancient evil.

View
Kazavon

Several hundred years ago, a brutal warlord of Zon-Kuthon named Kazavon
conquered much of the Hold of Belkzen. His violent expansion and assaults
against the neighboring countries of Ustalav and Lastwall quickly became far
more deadly and horrific than petty skirmishes against orcs. From his castle,
Scarwall, Kazavon threatened to engulf all who dared rise against him. His
tactical brilliance, combined with his savage armies of orcs and barbarians,
continuously broke every army Lastwall and Ustalav could throw against him.
With none able to withstand his power, it seemed as if his reign of murder and
blood would last forever.

View

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