Spicywiener's Curse of the Crimson Throne
Upon entering the fortune teller's home, you see the interior of this small, humble home consists of a single cozy chamber filled with a fragrant haze of flowers and strong spice. The aroma comes from several sticks of incense smoldering in wall-mounted burners that look like butterfly-winged elves. The smoke gives the room a dreamy feel. The walls are draped with brocaded tapestries, one showing a black-skulled beast juggling human hearts, and another showing a paif of angels dancing atop a snow-blasted mountain. A third tapestry on the far wall depicts a tall, hooded figure shrouded in mist, holding a flaming sword in a skeletal hand. Several brightly colored rugs cover the floor, but the room's only furnishings are a wooden table covered by a bright red throw cloth and several elegant, tall-backed chairs. A basket covered by blue cloth sits under the table.
On the table sits a simple note: "Thank you for coming. I had to step out for a bit, but shall return shortly. Please, have a seat while you wait. The basket under the table contains bread and drink for you."
Once everyone was seated and had shown each other their strange invitations, the door opened once more and an attractive, middle-aged Varisian woman with long, dark hair entered the room.
"Thank you for coming, my friends, and for putting up with my unconventional method of contacting you. I have reason to remain hidden, you see—a vicious man would see great harm done to me if he knew I was reaching out for help. This man has done something terrrible to each of you as well. I speak, of course, of Gaedren Lamm, a man whose cruelty and capacity to destroy lives of those he touches are matched only by his gift for avoiding reprisal. You see, a year ago, his thieves stole this, my harrow deck, from me. It is important to me, an heirloom passed down through a dozen generations, and also my sole means of support. When Lamm's pickpockets stole it, my son Eran tracked them down and returned my deck to me. But Gaedren had him followed, and soon after he left my home, Gaedren's thugs murdered him."
"I sought help from the Korvosan Guard, but they turned me away. And so I asked around. I paid bribes. I consulted my harrow deck for advice. And recently, I was rewarded—I found out where Gaedren dwells. He can be found in an old fishery north of here, at Westpier 17, where he trains abducted children to be pickpockets and counts his stolen treasures."
"But I need your help. I cannot hope to face this man on my own, and the Guard moves so slowly that if they were willing to help, Gaedren would certainly know of their coming well in advance. And even if they arrested him, what guarantee would I have he would be punished? This criminal has evaded the law for decades. But you know of these frustrations as well, for word on the street has it that Gaedren has wronged each of you, too. So there we are. It is time for him to pay."
She urges everyone to move quickly, lest Gaedren learns of their intentions and uproots his hideout to another location. When asked how she found them and their connection to Gaedren, she said it was simply her 'listening to the music of the city and that her harrow cards tell her more than they tell most.'
Before sending the group on their way, she offered to perform one harrow reading for them for good luck. She began shuffling it until nine cards seemed to dance out of the deck. She instructed each person to select one of these cards at random in what in harrow terms is called 'The Choosing.'
The small halfling drew The Dance, the half-orc drew The Rabbit Prince, the human archer drew the Locksmith, the scholarly human drew The Cricket, and the bald gnome drew The Juggler. Two of these draws were significant as the half-orc drew the card that acted as the halflings invitation and the gnome drew the card that was used as the archer's invitation. Perhaps these two pairs' destinies were entwined closer than they knew.
Shuffling the cards back into the deck, she instructed each person to shuffle the deck, infusing it with a small spark of their spirit. Focusing on the deck, she laid out nine cards on the table, three by three in the traditional Varisian spread. She explained that the column on the left represented the past, immutable, unchanging as the ink on each person's history has already dried. The middle column represented the present, somewhat hazy, but still within each person's control if they chose to grab it. Finally, the column on the right represented the future; chaotic and uncertain.
The top row, she explained, represented positive influences across their past, present, and future, while the middle row represented uncertainty. The bottom row represented negative influences.
First, she revealed the cards in the left column, their past. In the positive past was The Big Sky, which was partially aligned along the 'good' axis. The imagery of the card showed an epic moment as the slaves of a nation were freed. The slaves' freedom specifies momentous and powerful change, as old shackles are cast off in the light of the day. The halfling and the scholar both shifted in their chairs as the card was read.
In the uncertain past was The Crows, which was also partially aligned along the 'neutral' axis. The Crows are a dangerous bunch who indicate violent taking of that which is loved. When The Crows appear, murder, theft, or other shocking loss occurs. The half-orc, the archer, and the gnome all stole glances to each other as they shifted a bit in their chairs.
In the negative past was The Idiot, which again, was partially aligned, this time along the 'evil' axis. The Idiot is a card of grave foolishness and greed. It can mean bribery, blackmail, or naivety so grand that it can see no evil. The imagery of the goblins having captured a foolhardy man represents that the loss of dignity can precede loss of life. The halfling looked down as this card was described in the spread.
Next, Zellara revealed the middle column, representing everyone's present. In the positive present was The Desert, which was positively aligned along the 'good' axis. The Desert is an environment so bleak that none can survive it without aid (Zellara looked at each person in turn as she read this card). For those who find that aid, the journey across the wastes can lead to great things.
In the uncertain present was The Survivor, which was partially aligned along the 'neutral' axis. The Survivor represents a person who has been through an ordeal of some kind. Surrounded by his fallen comrades, the man represents someone or something thought lost forever, but found once more. The halfling and the scholar exchanged looks, while the archer and gnome gave each other sidelong glances. The half-orc looked thoughtful for a moment.
In the negative present was The Juggler, which was partially misaligned, being a 'good' card in the 'evil' axis. This also was of great importance because this card was used as the invitation of the archer and was also picked during the Choosing by the gnome. This card represents fate, the gods, or those who play with the lives and destinies of others. If this titanic Juggler can keep up his rhythm, he will achieve his goals, but being misaligned as it was, he falters, and tragedy and failure are assured for those whose lives he meddled in. Zellara indicates that The Juggler can only be Gaedren Lamm, as his touch has turned so many lives to ash, as is evident from those gathered in this room.
Lastly, Zellara revealed the three cards in the right column, representing the future. In the positive future was The Inquisitor, which was partially misaligned, being a 'lawful' card in the 'chaotic' axis. This was also the card used as the invitation to the scholar, so it bore more importance. The Inquisitor accepts nothing save the truth. He represents immutable reality, that which cannot be fooled or swayed in any way. To attempt to go against this unchangeable object, person, or idea is to court disaster.
The uncertain future was The Courtesan, which became the most important card in the spread, as it was a true match. The Courtesan is the card of political intrigue. Her mask embodies the social niceties that must be followed. If it slips, negotiations can take an unexpected turn. The card can also indicate a woman of power who shapes events. How she is treated decides the outcome of the situation. Zellara seemed somewhat confused at this card showing up in the spread, as she had not known Gaedren to have any powerful women in his employ. Perhaps another victim escaped Zellara's sight when consulting the harrow in search of her champions?
Finally, the negative future. The card was The Mountain Man, which was a partial match along the 'chaotic' axis. The Mountain Man signifies an encounter with a physical power outside of one's control. The giant on the card could personify an authority, an earthquake, or even a desperately needed rainstorm in a parched land. Acceding to the force might be wise, but surviving it is paramount. Surely killing one criminal who touched the lives of so many would not create such catastrophic waves? Perhaps everyone should look inside themselves to see what part of them would need to fight for survival once Gaedren was slain?