Curse of the Crimson Throne Book 1: Edge of Anarchy Campaign
The city of Korvosa was founded in 4407 ar when the empire of Cheliax expanded north into Varisia. Here, the Chelaxians found a Shoanti tribe living around an immense pyramid on the shores of a deep bay—a perfect site for a city. Much bloodshed eventually left the Shoanti defeated, driven back to the harsh Cinderlands. Yet as Korvosa flourished, few bothered to ask why the Shoanti had dwelt here. None of Korvosa’s citizens, from beggars to the king, realized that the Shoanti were guardians. Deep below Castle Korvosa hid a great and terrible evil: the fangs of Kazavon, a relic of one of Golarion’s most powerful and deadly dragons. For the past 300 years, Korvosa has grown, unaware that the city’s rests on a foundation of evil and cruelty.
Today, Korvosa’s reigning king, Eodred Arabasti II, is feared by all the right people. To date, however, he has produced no heir to the throne, the latest in a line of rulers affected by this facet of the so-called curse of the Crimson Throne. Whispers of his taste for scandalously young companionship have dogged the king throughout his rule, and when he finally wed late in life, it was no surprise that his bride was barely a third of his age. Queen Ileosa was a woman of breathtaking beauty, and some of Korvosa’s nobles worried of the dangers of placing a “trophy wife” within reach of the Crimson Throne, but Ileosa’s interest in the city seemed secondary to her desire for the life of luxury it afforded—and with the more-thancompetent seneschal Neolandus Kalepopolis currently guarding Castle Korvosa’s interests, these noble families now feel they have little to worry about.
They are about to learn how wrong they are.
On one of her recent visits to Castle Korvosa’s treasury (visits that required surreptitiously “borrowing” the key from the seneschal), the queen discovered a secret door. Believing she had found a hidden vault, she investigated the room beyond, but was disappointed to find only an old stone coffer on a pedestal. She didn’t understand the Shoanti warning runes carved on the walls, nor did she feel the menace and evil in the air. She opened the coffer, and her life was changed forever. For inside rested the fangs of Kazavon, and their evil had been waiting for this day. It was but the smallest fragment of Kazavon’s spirit that burst from his fangs and infused the young queen, but even that small shard of cruelty and blind ambition was enough. Ileosa closed the coffer, resealed the secret door, and returned to her chambers in the castle above, her mind changed for the worse. Gone were any shreds of caution, replaced by ambition. Gone too were any fragments of self-doubt, replaced by a cruel imagination capable of envisioning all manner of depravities. In a way, Queen Ileosa died that fateful day, only to be reborn as something new—something wholly evil.
Queen Ileosa made plans for a personal guard of warrior women, the eradication of Korvosa’s poor and undesirable citizens, dramatic increases to her wealth, and even a method to preserve her beauty and youth forever. But none of these plans could begin before she had full control of Korvosa. First and foremost, Eodred II had to go.
Ileosa desired that he die swiftly, yet that death needed to come from what appeared to be natural causes, or at least the anarchic cruelty of an outside source. The legacy of the curse of the Crimson Throne would help somewhat in explaining a Korvosan king’s sudden demise, yet his death couldn’t look like murder. Ileosa needed a period of mourning where she could capitalize upon Korvosa’s well-wishes and pity to put her true plans into motion, and charges of regicide would endanger that. To aid in laying her plans, she surreptitiously allied with two dangerous groups—the cult of Urgathoa and the Red Mantis assassins—yet neither group could or would aid directly in the king’s death. If Eodred II was to die, it had to be at her own hands.
So she turned to Venster Arabasti, the king’s deformed tiefling stepbrother. Venster had long nurtured a deep streak of hidden jealousy for the successes of his younger brother Eodred II. For his part, Eodred II allowed his stepbrother to remain in Castle Korvosa for fear that Venster could not survive on his own. Now and then, when Eodred II was seized with pity or boredom, he visited Venster to play cards, even though the visits generally ended in arguments and insults.
Ileosa found an opportunity in Venster. She played upon his hidden envy and convinced him to take part in Eodred II’s murder. To this end, she gave Venster a vial of fool’s leprosy (see page 432), an ingenious venom invented by the Red Mantis. The poison mimics the effects of a rapid form of leprosy, but as a poison, it resists treatments that cure diseases. With Ileosa’s aid, Venster coated the upper half of his playing cards with the poison, so when Eodred II (among other things, a compulsive nail-biter) played, he unknowingly coated his fingers and nails in the stuff, ensuring a slow but steady exposure to the poison. It took little prodding from the young queen to convince Eodred II to visit his brother, which exposed the king to her horrid toxin.
His usefulness nearing an end, Ileosa refused Venster’s further requests for companionship, compelling the stepbrother to threaten to reveal to the seneschal the true nature of the king’s “illness.” Because Venster was relatively feeble, it was an easy matter for Ileosa to murder him and hide the crime by walling up his corpse in the castle dungeon, yet his disappearance was noticed by Neolandus Kalepopolis, the castle seneschal. He had long suspected Ileosa was up to something, and when Venster vanished, his suspicions were confirmed. But the seneschal had made fatal mistakes: he confronted the queen privately, gave her the benefit of the doubt, and underestimated what she had become. She responded by sending the Red Mantis after him. Neolandus survived the assassination attempt, but only barely. He went into hiding among contacts in Old Korvosa, afraid and powerless to move against the queen as long as her Red Mantis allies remained strong in the region.
As this Adventure Path begins, King Eodred II still lives, but the fool’s leprosy has wreaked havoc on his health. He has spent the last several weeks in seclusion in Castle Korvosa, and, despite the efforts of his staff, rumors of his ill health have spread. Queen Ileosa has taken advantage of this time to become more of a ruler in the public eye, but recently flaws in her plans have begun to manifest. Queen Ileosa worries about Neolandus. Her Red Mantis allies have promised her that Neolandus will die soon, yet he is not her only worry. For her plans to progress more quickly, she has been secretly lacing the tea Eodred II drinks with poison, speeding his death sentence. The king is about to die, and Korvosa is about to plunge over the edge into anarchy.