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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