Curse of the Crimson Throne

19th Calistril 1408 (continued)

Good Cop, Bad Cop, Rich Cop, Bomb Cop, Whiny/Creepy Cop

Bowie here, happily snoring away.

Starday morning. We wake up. The druids seem to have departed. Pavitra and I talk a little bit about what to do today. A “happy morning” as I like to call it is apparently not an option. I ask her to find the others and get some breakfast while I pray for Cayden Cailean’s blessings and guidance.

Meanwhile, in the sewers, Po sees that Rizzo is poking around on his shelves. He’s concerned he might swipe something. Po suggests that Rizzo join him for brunch at the Three Rings Tavern. Rizzo wants to know where he has come into money from. Po says he and Rizzo are friends and maybe they could go see the dungeon play together. Rizzo seems to just want to touch him for a bit of coin but Po blows that off.

Brian treats Po very kindly when he sees him, because he lives in a sewer. Theandra is out of bacon which makes me a bit doubly sad but she gives me extra eggs with hot sauce. Pavitra has some wheatgrass whatever that is. I see that Mod and Po are hurt, so I heal them.

We head to the Korvosan Guard Citadel. We hear chanting up ahead. At a crossroads we see a number of protesters, maybe a score and a few Guard are trying to quiet them down. “What happened to the King? The Curse of the Crimson Throne!”

No ruler has ever seen one of their children ascend to the throne, I explain to the others what the curse is. When we reach the Citadel the Watch Sergeant takes us to the side entrance. I’m excited because it’s the employee entrance. We reach Cressida Croft’s office up a staircase.

After a minute, she comes in and seems annoyed that we’re late. She says that Graow is missing. He hasn’t reported in for weeks. I tell her about seeing him last night. She says she would like me to ask him to come in. I explain that he seemed depressed but I tried to tell him how Field Marshall Croft had everything under control. She made an offhand comment about wishing that were true.

She names Verik Vancaskerkin as another missing Sergeant. Maybe they shouldn’t promote anyone any more. She sent some people to find him but they didn’t come back either. Baldrago and Malder were their names and they were sent two days ago. Over by Stirge Street.

She says she wants us to look for him rather than more Guard because there has been some trouble with deserters. I point out that maybe one way to perk up morale would be is if I were to gather everyone around and cast Blessing of the Watch to help the whole force and then she could say something like, “Let’s be careful out there!” and they’d all be inspired. She says it’s a nice thought but best to just go out the way we came in. She stresses she would like us to be discreet. I agree. Once outside, I ask Brian what that means.

We head up towards Northgate, taking Harborview Boulevard. We see someone in a gray robe preaching the end times on the corner. “The eye has turned toward Korvosa! The end is near!” I don’t recognize him. He’s new.

Getting back to Northgate we see the bridge to the mainland. This is one of the main places people enter the city. Stirge Street is a working class part of Northgate and mostly for residents. There are “corner clubs” rather than bars so I don’t know the area as well. But Brian and Mod and I go to one. There are a couple old fellows outside. The bartender says his name is Voldro. He serves us Varisian sherry which I buy with money from Pavitra. It’s very good and I learn it’s best served in small glasses rather than my battlemug. He puts out some nuts and reefclaw eyes. I like these corner clubs! Good date place. I’ll have to remember that.

I ask Voldro if he saw anything about some former Korvosan Guard. He says there is a gang. They call themselves Cowhammer Boys. One of the old men spits on the floor. They are thugs, Voldro says. They give out meat. They are in the butcher place. They beat people up for money. He says they haven’t shaken him down, though. Weird gang.

I buy another round (with Pavitra’s money). We see a young lady go by carrying a large chunk of meat. Brian recognizes it as a rare, soft, and delicious meat and declares that we should get some. Mod says, “Nobody gives nobody nothing for nothing.”

I ask Voldro to qualify…. they give out meat for free and they also will beat people up for money. “So, they’re meat-beaters?” Pavitra asks and one of the old men laughs. Brian’s sherry goes to his head a bit.

We look for the butcher shop and see a free-standing building with a large sign of a Fat Smiling Cow. Lounging by the front door is a tall fellow with a bushy unibrow who looks at us suspiciously. Through the grimy window we see some meat laid out on a marble slab with flies.

“Hello, what’s your name? My name is Brian,” says Brian. “May I have some meat please?” The man is armed with a crossbow and a sword. He looks up and down at Brian in his emerald green jump suit.

“Get off,” the guy says. “Meat’s for those who are in need. You’re not in need.”

I eye the fellow and I notice that there’s a Korvosan Guard shield there behind him. I point it out to him and imply that I’m looking for Verik. He says to move along and I point out how that sounds just like something a Guard would say. I make a couple jokes about the Cowhammers and he calls, “Malder, I think it’s time for a lunch break.”

“Oh, you must be Baldrago,” I say to the speaker.

“How do you know my name? I don’t know you,” challenges Baldrago.

“Don’t you?” I reply.

Malder whispers something to him and he says, “Come back after dusk. Come to the side entrance.” I get a bad feeling but am excited about further employee entrances.

Mod and Pavitra look around the fenced-in yard in the back. It smells manurey. Mod climbs up and sees a large cattle pen and a shed and a back door. There is just one sad, skinny cow. Mod tells Pavitra about it. He suspects there is something odd about not seeing more animals.

Mod keeps saying it is “Sus.” I don’t know what that means.

I suggest they stay and keep an eye on things and I’ll go report to Croft. Brian goes off to look for the girl with the meat. Po lurks about to watch the butcher shop. Po notices the faded words painted on the side of the butchery: All the World’s Meat.

Brian asks Voldro where the girl went. He doesn’t know. Brian cries for the missing meat. Voldro offers him some Varisian sausage but he doesn’t want it. Brian asks Pavitra to do a dance for him and she does a backflip instead. One of the old men claps and tells them where the girl lives, in some shacks by the water.

Brian takes her hand and they head off, a happy song in his heart.

Mod comes back from taking a leak and sees everyone is gone. “Where did you go?!” he yells. Po catches his attention.

Brian and Pavitra don’t see the girl. Brian grabs a random middle-aged lady and shouts, “Meat!” The lady says she will call the Guard on him, “Meat Man.”

Brian suggests making a giant fire to get the girl’s attention. Then he shouts, “Fire! Fire!” Pavitra grabs him by the wrists and tries to drag him back to the others.

Mod and Po see a weedy fellow with a pimple on his nose start banging on the door. Po sneaks closer to listen. The door opens a crack and the guy says, “I come about the night cuts!” Then he goes inside and someone checks the alley behind him.

I get back to Citadel Volshevik and talk to Field Marshall Croft. She asks if I learned anything. After I tell her about the proper way to drink Varisian sherry she qualifies to ask if I learned anything about Verik. I tell her. She says she’s glad I reported back to her. She seems to concur that Verik might be in league with them. She says he was very popular and she’s very worried about all this. I ask if he was popular for being a good Guard or a bad Guard. She says he seemed connected from someone high above and had advanced quickly and ambitiously. He gave himself airs. She offers a large reward to bring him and the other two back alive if I can. Less, if they’re dead.

Pavitra takes Brian in search of different meat. Another corner speaker is saying, “We’re all going to do it. The red rubbing of parts. The writhing doom is coming!” He is coughing up blood and wears patchwork clothes. He points at Pavitra and says, “This one will be involved!” and begins heading over towards her. She retreats. “When she draws her first coughing breath, that will be the end!” At that, the crowd seems to eye her funny and she gets out of there, dragging Brian behind her.

I get back to Stirge Street. Along with Po and Mod, I see the weedy fellow come out the door and head up to Old Korvosa. We share information and find Pavitra and Brian at the corner club. I call for Cayden Cailean to give us the Blessing of the Watch even though we aren’t actually the Watch and we’re kind of going against the Watch members. It works!

We realize we could sneak into the back area of the butchery and decide to do so. Mod knows a way in, he says. He climbs over the stockade and opens the door to the shed in the back for us. We close the door after us. There is a straw-covered wagon. I ask Cayden Cailean for Door Sight to see through the back door.

I see a grim chamber strewn with blood-stained straw. There are meat hooks all around and vats and chopping blocks. There is a guy mopping meat and blood up.

I go and look through the other door in the cow pen and see a guy throwing something to some ravenous-looking pigs who seem very excited about it. I gently try the door and see it is not locked.

Brian says he can make a distraction so we go into the hallway by the pigs. He makes the sound of footfalls and voices out by the shed door. We hear the sound of metal on stone and then a door opens. We hear, “Corello, come here. Bring your sword.”

We open the door and try to sneak through the slaughterhouse. I slip on some mud and make Mod laugh out loud. The guys come back in and say, “Oy! Who the hell are you? Thieves?” One carries a sledgehammer. The other, Corello, a sword.

Pavitra dances forward and cracks the bigger man in the knee. There is a crunching noise and he is in great pain. I say, “Looks like it’s not your lucky day.” Then I run over and imbue him with the Chaos of Cayden Cailean.

Corello calls for Malder and Baldrago and then takes a swing at me with his sword but misses. Mod rushes up and nearly takes his head off but Corello ducks.

Brian gets his crossbow out and loads it and fires it into a vat.

The large sledgehammer fellow hops a step back and says, “Kick the thing! Kick the thing!” Then he heaves at me with his hammer and, despite Cayden Cailean’s chaotic protection, hits me. Ouch.

Pavitra hears some other people on the move upstairs and then steps forward and misses the guy with her kama. Then I poke him with my rapier. I miss his friend with my battlemug and then step away, clutching my bruised ribs.

Brian sees someone tentatively coming down the stairs. He has a crossbow and fires through the cracked-open door and wounds Brian badly.

Corello begins to kick at a piece of iron at his feet, a rusty pin. “Why are you kicking at that thing?” Mod asks while swinging his sword. Corello gasps in pain.

Brian’s face has twisted into a strange expression, his head tilted to the side. “Don’t do that!” says a strange voice from his mouth as he stares at the crossbowman but the man does not seem to react.

The hammer guy swings at the pin too but misses. It appears to be related to the grate that Mod is standing on. Pavitra steps over and cracks Corello unconscious with her knee.

I take the opportunity to join Brian by the doors to the stairs and I channel some energy and heal Brian and myself. “Thanks!” says the strange voice of Brian, getting healed more than I’d given him. Weird.

Po continues to wait and see if he feels like helping. The two crossbowmen on the stairs reload… I see they are Malder and Baldrago. Mod misses the hammer guy.

Brian looks at Malder, who’d injured him, and the former Guardsman begins to clutch at his head in pain. Brian then does a strange and unnatural dance.

The hammer man, Parnes, we learn later, tries to flee but Pavitra strikes him as he goes but he stays on his feet. “I’m still in the fucking game,” he grits as he stumbles into the shed.

Pavitra heads away into the corridor. I follow her and see a man at the top of the stairs with a composite longbow. A handsome man, in Korvosan Guard livery and armor. I say, “Verik, Field Marshall Croft wants to have a word with you… DOWNTOWN” and charge up the stairs. But I miss him with my touch of chaos.

He takes a step back and fires at me. I take an arrow in the chest painfully.

Po decides he’d like to help after all and steps into the corridor and throws a bomb at Malder and Baldrago. That takes Malder down and injures Baldrago. They both burn in pain but Baldrago fires back at Po and hits him and then pulls out a sword.

Mod gets angry and chases after Parnes in a fury but misses him again.

Brian does a little dance and says, “Your turn! Your turn!” and causes Baldrago to clutch his head in pain.

Parnes still tries to withdraw. Pavitra follows me up the stairs and Baldrago takes a swipe at her and stabs her painfully. “Bowie!” she cries. “Pavi!” I cry back.

I heal her, but Cayden Cailean does not see fit to heal her very much. He must be thinking it will be a better story this way. With the arrow still in my chest, I step forward to menace Verik. “You made a big mistake,” he says. He’s probably right but he misses me with his drawn spear.

Po bombs Baldrago who screams and falls. “All Brian wanted is some meat!” Po taunts.

Mod shouts, “Why can’t I hit you even though you have such big bones?!” to Parnes. Then he swings again and splatters him all over the shed. Mod feels strangely empty. All the World’s Meat.

Brian steps closer and whispers, “I’m inside you!” to Verik who clutches his head in pain. “You are unclean.”

Pavitra tries to flip herself up into the room but can’t manage it and instead takes out a shuriken. I fail at touching Verik with Chaos and step to the side of him. “Mod!” I call, wondering where in Korvosa our big fighter is. Verik barely misses impaling me with his spear.

Po comes up the stairs and draws a dagger. Mod finally comes running. Brian hits Verik with more psychic damage. Pavitra steps up and strikes at him a couple times but misses.

I try again to touch him and miss again. Cayden Cailean, surely this story is cool enough by now!!! Verik misses me again. Po tries to strike him but the Sergeant’s fancy chainmail turns the blade. Mod comes charging up the stairs at long last, in a fierce anger. We have Verik pinned in the corner.

Brian clouds Verik’s mind and keeps him from acting. Pavitra smacks him one. “Remember, try to take him alive,” I say. Then I stab him in the thigh but miss him with the battlemug. Po gets a bomb ready and tells us if we move away he’ll throw a bomb at him.

Mod misses with his sword and steps away. Brian seems to come to his senses and says, in his regular voice, “What happened? Did I die?”

Pavitra hits Verik with a punch to the jaw. “I yield quarter!” he says and drops his spear. I say hold that thought and dash down the stairs and try to save Malder and Boldrago from burning and bleeding to death. After pulling them from the flames and stabilizing their wounds I’m relieved to know they’re both still breathing. I see Corello is all right too. I also see that Parnes is exploded all over the place. “I can’t save the fat one, he’s all over the courtyard!” I call.

Verik drops to his knees. “I knew Croft would come for me, eventually. It was a good plan. We gave away meat.”

Brian asks about the special meat. “Is there any chance of a bacon sandwich?”

“Why are you giving people meat? It’s weird,” asks Mod.

“People appreciate it.”

“But nobody never gives nobody nothing for nothing.”

“I don’t have to answer to you.”

“Yes, you do,” says Mod. “Don’t make me angry again.”

Brian assists the interrogation and I magically enhance Mod’s intimidation. Verik’s shoulders slump. “It wasn’t my idea. It was my lover.” He says her name is Maelynn. “It was a good idea at the time. People need meat. People would appreciate it. They need a leader.”

“What are the night cuts?” I ask. He seems that he doesn’t know. We explain. Verik doesn’t seem to know what we’re talking about. He says that Maelynn just tells him what to do and that she’s really beautiful. She’s human.

Brian tries to taunt him but it makes him clam up. Mod asks where he lives and he says here and points to a closed door. Brian goes to investigate. There is a sheet of paper pinned to the table with a silver dagger. More importantly, a bed. Brian thinks about napping.

I tell Verik, “Do you still have your manacles?” He nods. I say, “Look… we’re going to take you back to the Field Marshall. We’ll cover you up so people don’t see you walking through town in chains. Field Marshall Croft needs good men. She used to think you were one of them.” He seems ashamed but offers no resistance. I tell him the other men are alive except Parnes.

Po says a crowd is gathering outside. I suggest Brian look for evidence in the bedroom. He says there is a dagger and a bed and he’s very sleepy. Then he admits there are some papers. I ask him to grab the papers and dagger. We need to go.

Po puts out the fire with a bucket and some water. I cover up Verik with a blanket. Po looks in a meat locker and notices that the meat doesn’t look like cow or pig. It isn’t natural, Po thinks, warning Brian against eating it.

I find a potion on Verik and confiscate it. He doesn’t protest. I say, “Look on the bright side. You’re still alive. You’re still wanted. You’ve still got your looks. You’ve gotten a second chance.”

“But not with her,” he laments.

Then he and I and Mod and Po haul the cart out, loaded up with the unconscious ones. Some teenagers see us leaving. One girl starts to yell “Oy! What’s going on?”

I go over and say, “Special project for the city. Best you don’t concern yourself with it, young lady. But…” I add conspiratorially, “I won’t say anything if you want to go help yourself to some meat.”

At that, the kids stop yelling and, pausing only a bit to skirt Parnes’ remains, they slip into the meat locker to get some treats and we slip away without the crowd noticing us.

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