Pathfinder and Starfinder Web-fiction

Hello, and welcome to d20diairies!

Over the past few months Paizo has released a ton of short web-fiction on their blog.  These thoroughly entertaining short stories and vignettes focus on the Pact Worlds and Golarion, with the Iconic Encounters series showcasing each of the iconic characters in the Starfinder Core Rulebook and the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, and the Tales of Lost Omens series showcasing the many meta-regions of the Inner Sea Region. Each instalment has been an absolute delight and, if you haven’t stopped by Paizo’s site and given them a read yet, I highly recommend you do. They’re definitely worth it!

For sake of ease, we’ve compiled the links below.

Enjoy!

Jessica


Iconic Encounters: Pathfinder Second Edition

Tales of Lost Omens: Pathfinder Second Edition


Iconic Encounters: Starfinder

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy

I’ve always loved interactive books that let the reader make decisions, so last year when Dungeons & Dragons released a series of four ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style children’s books, successfully relaunching the ‘Endless Quest’ series, I picked them up for my children right away. Written by Matt Forbeck, each of these four books cast you in the role of different classes, explored different iconic locations, and tied in with other Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. They were fun, exciting, filled with colourful characters, and featured a bigger sized font perfect for my children. My kids and I were impressed with the quality and content of these books.

Currently consisting of four books — Big TroubleEscape the UnderdarkInto the Jungle, and To Catch a Thief — the Endless Quest series is expanding on September 3rd, 2019 to include two more releases, Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy! We are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

But first, what is Endless Quest?

Endless Quest 2

Endless Quest is a series of six ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers (eight to twelve year olds). My kids are seven and eight years old, placing them at the young end of the intended audience. To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a halfling rogue, Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a dwarf cleric, Escape the Underdark lets you play as a human fighter, Big Trouble lets you play as an elf wizard, Escape from Castle Ravenloft lets you play as a cleric, and The Mad Mage’s Academy lets you play as a rogue. While reading the book your character’s gender — and often their race — has no bearing on perspective or story. It’s invisible, honestly. Only the image on the front reveals your gender. Which is awesome! Both of my kids immediately assumed the character was just like them, irrelevant of the cover image, slipping into the role without hesitation.

Each book is exactly 122 pages long. Most of the pages are filled completely with text and images (no wasted pages here!), and both of my kids found the font size comfortable. All of the books contain a lot of awesome artwork. Some images are in full colour — typically locations or a main character/villain — while the rest are in sepia tones. You’ll find images of allies, enemies, items, equipment, scenery, and locations. Some of the images in the earlier books are even tactical maps, which everyone in the house enjoyed examining, although the two newest books do not contain any maps. Some of the images are on the gory or creepy side, and both of the new books are quite suspenseful.

Each of the Endless Quest books follows a different kind of story, features different main characters with unique motivations and personality traits, involves different situations and enemies, and takes place in vastly different locations. You’ll get to visit actual places from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, both on a large and small scale, which fans of D&D will love. Each book also has cameos from known D&D personalities (including Elminster, Volo, and Xanathar, to name a few, with the new books featuring Count Strahd von Zarovich and Halaster, the Mad Mage). The decisions you get to make are important. Common choices include deciding which way to go, how you choose to deal with other characters, and how you react to situations. Each of the books has ways to ‘win,’ to happily survive but fail, to survive but fail horribly, and to die. The number of these outcomes varies between each book, with the most deadly having more than half of its endings fatal. None of the deaths are graphic, and many are suggested more than described. Some of the endings are quite abrupt, and if you make poor decisions right from the start your story could be over in only a few pages. But, that’s to be expected in books of this kind. The first four books in the series feature some very hard to pronounce names, although the two newest didn’t, which my kids found an improvement. In the earlier books battle was nearly always fatal, although the two newest books allow you to fight and win at least half the time, which made your adventurer seem much more capable. My kids loved this! Particularly because one of the two newest books are the spookiest of the series, and being able to overpower some of the opponents made my kids feel more in control, and less scared.

endless-quest.jpg

Escape from Castle Ravenloft is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Adam Paquette, Autumn Rain Turkel, Ben Oliver, Brynn Metheney, Chris Seaman, Claudio Pozas, Conceptopolis, Baarken, Eric Belisle, Jedd Chevrier, Jesper Ejsing, Kiernan Yanner, Lake Hurwitz, Lars Grant-West, Mark Behm, Milivoj Ceran, Richard Whitters, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Vincent Dutrait, Vincent Proce, Wayne England, Zack Strella, and Zoltan Boros. Cover illustrations are by Eric Belisle, Mark Behm, and Ben Oliver.

Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts you in the role of a cleric of Tyr, god of justice. Originally from Waterdeep, you character finds themselves in the mist-shrouded, gothic realm of Ravenloft where you catch the eye of the infamous vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich. The story begins with you awakening in a bedroom in his castle, bereft of all your gear except for your holy symbol. Count Strahd welcomes you to his castle, informing you that you’ll be staying indefinitely as his guest. Not wanting to become his vampire spawn or dominated thrall, your character will need to find a way to escape Castle Ravenloft alive. This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Curse of Strahd.

My kids both agreed that this was the spookiest of the books. They were on the edge of their seats the entire time, slinking through eerily silent halls, peeking into dark chambers, and desperately hoping they don’t run into any vampires or werewolves. They squealed in surprise quite a bit — in a good way — and decided they did not want to read this book near bedtime. Haha. It’s a light horror story that my kids really enjoyed. However, it is definitely the scariest Endless Quest book to date, so it will not be for everyone.

This was a bit of a deadly book, but also had quite a few ‘successful’ endings. The majority of the endings involving dying trapped within the castle, a good number involving dying during or after your escape, a few endings leave you trapped within the castle but alive, and a good number result in your escape and survival. Despite its lethality, both of my kids adored it.

There’s a few different characters for you to interact with during the course of the book, two of which my kids really enjoyed — the clockwork jester Pidlwick and a naive young woman called Gertruda. Most of the time my kids were invested in trying to save themselves and figure out which characters were trustworthy and which would betray them. But, after the introduction of Gertruda, their priorities changed, and they became determined to save both her and themselves. Some of the endings involving Gertruda give you difficult decisions to make, such as putting yourself in danger and potentially missing your chance to escape in order to save an innocent — or not! My kids agonized over that a bit, but never chose to abandon the girl — unless they were sifting through the book to try to find the endings they missed.

Although there’s a lot of cool places to explore in this book, it all takes place in and around Castle Ravenloft, meaning there is very little drastic changes of scenery. My son’s favourite part of the book involved combating minor undead with his holy symbol and strength of faith, which always made him feel very proud. He also really liked an ending where you escape the castle but get transformed into a werewolf. My daughter, who has a terrible fear of werewolves, did NOT like that ending at all. Instead, her favourite parts of the book involved interacting with the traitorous Pidlwick!

The Mad Mage’s Academy is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Allen Douglas, Andrew Mar, Bryan Syme, Chris Seaman, Christopher Moeller, Clint Cearley, Conceptopolis, Cynthia Sheppard, Cyril Van Der Haegen, David Palumbo, David Vargo, Emily Fiegenschuh, Eric Belisle, Ilya Shipkin, Jason Juta, Jim Pavelec, John Stanko, Kiernan Yanner, Kurt Higgins, Michael Berube, Olga Drebas, Scott Murphy, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Wayne England, and Zelda Devon. Cover illustrations are by Cynthia Sheppard, Jesper Ejsing, and Titus Lunter.

The Mad Mage’s Academy casts you in the role of a thief tasked with stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak. You’ll need to pose as a student at Halaster’s magic academy, locate and steal the spell book, and escape — all without getting caught! This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

This book involves a lot of subterfuge, interacting with other characters, lies, and betrayal — both from you and the people you meet along the way! My kids really enjoyed this, and were often surprised at the results of their choices. There were lots of interesting characters to interact with, including the mind flayer Cephalossk, tiefling sisters Violence and Turbulence, and the night hag Wormriddle. Both of my kids favourite character was Spite, a child wizard protected by a half-ogre named Dumara (or so they first appear…).

Of all the Endless Quest books to date, The Mad Mage’s Academy felt like the least deadly. Although over half of the endings left you dead and without one of the multiple spell books hidden throughout the academy, the rest all involved your survival, with about half of those also letting you escape with one of the spell books. Much like Escape from Castle Ravenloft, this book all takes place within a single complex, so there’s not much variation in the locations you can visit.

My son’s favourite part about this book was interacting with Cephalossk, and seeing all of the cool traps and magical defences you can come up against your quest for the spell books. My daughter’s favourite parts of this book was interacting with Spite, a wide variety of the ‘escape with the spell book’ endings, and an ending that allows you to take over the academy, which she thought was amazing.

Both my kids and I really enjoyed the Endless Quests books. I highly recommend them for any kids who have an interest in fantasy novels, adventure novels, choose your own adventures, or tabletop RPGs. They’re engaging, variable, and a ton of fun, with each book very different from the others. Fans of D&D will particularly enjoy all the famous places you can visit and people you can meet. Best of all? My kids have read and re-read these books over and over again. They’re going to see a lot of use.

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy are scheduled for release on September 3rd, 2019.

My family and I would like to give a special thank you to Penguin Randomhouse Canada, for providing us with advance copies for review.

Jessica

 

Mantisbane Pact: Release

One of the play-by-post campaigns I am lucky enough to take part in is run by the wonderful GM Zek on Paizo’s messageboards. The campaign is called the Mantisbane Pact, and it takes place in Golarion, the world of Pathfinder. Mantisbane Pact involves an alliance of powerful monarchs and rightful rulers who come together to destroy the Red Mantis Assassins and their god, Achaekek. Our players would act as their agents, travel to Ilizmagorti (a city firmly in the grasp of the Red Mantis Assassins), and work to bring the entire organization crumbling down.

A few weeks ago I shared a short story I wrote as part of the application process to get to play in the Mantisbane Pact. In it we met my character, a smart-ass, jaded slayer named Kilarra Calvennis. Throughout the course of this campaign the GM and players have had the opportunity to write a variety other vignettes and flashbacks, often from the perspective of our shaman, who can view moments from the past by using the Akashic Record.

Today I’m sharing with you a flashback from Kilarra’s life I wrote when our shaman (Talia) attempted to discover why Kilarra was out of prison, despite being sentenced to life in jail for patricide. After today it will be available on the d20 Stories section on our website. Enjoy!

Jessica


Release

Its dark.

Cold.

Talia feels like she’s laying on something hard and rough. A stone floor?

There’s sounds. Women crying, wailing voices, a distant scream of pain. Breathing close by — Kilarra perhaps — it’s hard to tell in the dark.

Time passes. There’s the sound of something falling to the ground and tumbling around. It sounds like a dice, but it’s likely a stone. There’s a bit of a slapping sound, then a scraping, as if whoever dropped it was picking it back up.

It falls again. Slap. Scrape. Silence.

It falls again. Slap. Scrape. Silence.

In the distance the crying continues. Different voices, the same sounds. A sigh, a scream, denials, and tears.

“Please! I’m innocent!” someone can be heard to call above the din. A young woman by the sounds of it. “I didn’t kill him!”

Nearby someone scoffs. Talia recognizes it as Kilarra. “No one cares,” she mutters under her breath.

“Yeah, I’m innocent, too!” a different voice calls out. It’s deeper, and clearly mocking the crying woman. “I didn’t kill nobody!” The voice breaks out into a cackling laugh.

The young woman devolves into sobs.

The stone falls. Slap. Scrape. Silence.

Eventually something changes. There’s a lightening of the room. It’s subtle at first, but soon becomes light enough to see vague shapes.

Kilarra’s pale and thin. Her lip is cut and swollen, and a poorly healing wound on her face is clearly going to become the familiar scar she bears to this day. Kilarra lays on her back in a bare, stone cell, staring up at the ceiling. She fiddles with a tiny dice in her fingers, dropping it on the floor, covering it, and picking it back up again. Her other fingers tug on the hem of her ‘dress.’ She wears a filthy sack with a few holes cut in it for her arms and head that looks like it once held potatoes. The fabric’s rough and little bugs scurry around amongst it’s loose fibres.

Behind her is a wall of bars. Outside there are other cells, filled with women of varying ages. Some cry, some speak to themselves, but most sit in resigned silence. The other woman across the hall wears pants and a shirt, has a pallet of hay, a blanket, and a chamber pot — luxuries Kilarra’s cell does not possess.

The world continues to brighten. The walls turn red and the flickering of an open flame can be heard. The light suddenly spills into Kilarra’s cell, and stops.

From her place on the floor Kilarra raises an eyebrow. She rolls onto her stomach, pushes herself up to standing and stalks over to the bars. She grabs hold of them, her knuckles bloody and bruised, and leans her face up against the bars.

Outside her cell is a man in shining armour. He holds a torch in one hand, and a bag in the other. Kilarra’s eyes drift to his belt where she sees a keyring and an empty scabbard — the sword is nowhere to be seen. She smirks, apparently finding that funny.

As Kilarra grabs hold of the bars the guard — a young man, really — steps back quickly. He’s jumpy and nervous.

“You forgot your sword, kid,” Kilarra remarks with a curled lip. “Better go get it before the warden finds out. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I’ve got nowhere else to be.”

The man shifts uncomfortably, then straightens himself. “It’s not lost. I — “

Kilarra chuckles then nods at the package. “You bring me a gift?”

The young guard clears his throat. “Step back,” he orders.

Kilarra smirks and takes a few steps back. She leans against a nearby wall and crosses her arms. The man steps closer, pauses, and looks at her, then quickly shoves the bag between the bars and steps back.

“You finally returning my chamber pot?” she asks.

“What? No, its…”

As the guard stutters Kilarra opens the bag and pulls out a blouse. She scoffs in disgust and shoves it back in the bag. “What’s the matter? Warden tire of his other whores?” She tosses the bag on the floor. “Tell him I bite. Hard.”

The fresh-faced guard looks confused for a moment, either unsure what Kilarra’s talking about or unsure why she’s angry. “No, it’s… You’re free.”

Kilarra scoffs aloud. “Free. Seriously?” She scoffs again and shakes her head.

The man nods. “By order of the Warden, you’re to be set free.”

“Why?” she asks skeptically.

“Good behaviour.”

Kilarra bursts out laughing.

The guard shifts uncomfortably. “Could you… put on your clothes? You can’t go outside like that. It’s unseemly.”

Kilarra’s laughter fades to silence. She watches the guard for a moment, wary and on edge. Eventually she takes off the rough sack and tosses it to the ground, then empties the bag out and starts getting dressed. There’s a blouse, pants, boots — familiar looking clothes Talia’s seen Kilarra wear every day.

The guard blushes and turns around, giving her privacy — an act which causes her to let out another cackling laugh.

“This place is going to eat you alive, kid.” She laughs some more, then approaches the bars. “Ready.”

The guard unlocks the cell. “Follow me.”

Taldor
The flag of Taldor. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Kilarra slips out behind him, following the guard down the hall. His torch illuminates the cells they pass — some of which are as spartan as Kilarra’s, but most of which have hay, pallets, chairs, simple beds, blankets, one even has a flickering candle and a pile of books. The prisoners are all female of varying ages, some cry, some beg, but most simply watch with tired, hopeless eyes. A few of the prisoners give Kilarra a nod as she goes. A few others step back in fear.

At the end of the hall is a pair of barred doors flanked by armoured guards. Above them is a massive painting of Grand Prince Stavian the third. Words underneath it read: A crime against the empire is a crime against yourself. Repent, Obey, Serve.

Unlike the guard walking with Kilarra, these men are hardened and unafraid. They each draw their swords at her approach. One sports a broken nose and a missing front tooth. He snarls at the sight of her.

She smirks. “Love the new look.”

“Listen up, you bit—“

Kilarra’s laughter drowns out the man’s words as the young guard quickly unlocks the door and ushers Kilarra through it.

They travel through more corridors and gates, up stairs and through a few checkpoints. Wherever Kilarra was being held, it was a long ways underground. The sort of place where the prisoners are never expected to leave alive.

As they travel the halls get lighter, and the torch is left behind. Kilarra squints into the dim light as if she were looking into the sun. In time they reach a large room. One final gate blocks the way to the prison’s main hall. One final gate to freedom.

A rotund man wearing nobleman’s finery and a deep sneer scowls at her. “I don’t know what strings you’ve pulled, but it won’t last.”

Kilarra smirks. “Hello, Warden. Fancy seeing you here.”

“You’re a degenerate!” the man spits. “You may be free now, but you’ll be back. Scum like you always comes back.”

“Aww,” she replies with a sarcastic pout. “I’ll miss you too.”

The warden stands seething in front of the gate. He takes a deep breath, nods at the guards, and clenches his fists. As the guards unlock the doors he speaks in a grand voice. “Kilarra Calvennis. In the name of Grand Prince Stavian the third, long may he rule, you are hereby released for… good behaviour…” he spits at Kilarra’s feet then straightens himself. He waves his arms through the air, clearly deciding she’s not worth reciting the rest of the words. “I hereby release you. Now go, before I arrest you for loitering.”

Kilarra strides out of the gate, hurries through the waiting room and bursts out of the doors onto the busy streets of Oparra. She squints into the sun and takes a deep breath. Slowly, a smile spread across her scarred face.

“Kilarra Calvennis?” a voice calls out.

Blinded by the sun, Kilarra’s smile slips. A fleeting look of panic crosses her face. A moment later it’s replaced by a look of determination.

“Who wants to know?” she calls back.

But before the voice can reply the vision blurs and fades, leaving Talia back in her own body.


Want to read more about Kilarra? Be on the look out for more vignettes and flashbacks in the coming weeks!

Want to learn more about Golarion, Taldor, Grand Prince Stavian III, Kyonin, Ilizmagorti, Mediogalti, and the Red Mantis Assassins? Check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea and explore Golarion for yourself! For more information on Taldor you can also check out Pathfinder Companion: Taldor, Echoes Of GloryPathfinder Campaign Setting: Taldor, The First Empire, or play the War for the Crown Adventure Path which begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 127: Crownfall (War for the Crown 1 of 6).

Endless Quest Continues

After the successful relaunch of the Endless Quest choose-your-own-adventure style kids novels set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, author Matt Forbeck is bringing us two more! My family and I are thrilled to hear this, as we own all four of the previous books, and really enjoyed them. Fun, detailed, and filled with colourful characters, each novel explores different iconic locations, casts you in the role of different classes, and ties in with other Dungeons and Dragons campaigns! For detailed information on the previous Endless Quest books, check out this blog post.

Currently consisting of four books — Big TroubleEscape the UnderdarkInto the Jungle, and To Catch a Thief — the Endless Quest series will expand to include two more releases in September.

Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts you in the role of a cleric in the mist-shrouded, gothic realm of Ravenloft. There you catch the eye of the infamous vampire Count Strahd and are turned into his vampire spawn. You’ll need to find a way to escape the his castle (and his control!) or be doomed to serve him for the rest of your immortal life. This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Curse of Strahd.

The Mad Mage’s Academy casts you in the role of a thief tasked with stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak. You’ll need to pose as a student at a magic academy, locate and steal the spell book, and escape — all without getting caught! This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

We can’t wait to get our hands on more of these delightful little books!

Jessica

The Mantisbane Pact

One of the play-by-post campaigns I am lucky enough to take part in is run by the wonderful GM Zek on Paizo’s messageboards. The campaign is called the Mantisbane Pact, and it takes place in Golarion, the world of Pathfinder. Mantisbane Pact involves an alliance of powerful monarchs and rightful rulers who come together to destroy the Red Mantis Assassins and their god, Achaekek. Our players would act as their agents, travel to Ilizmagorti (a city firmly in the grasp of the Red Mantis Assassins), and work to bring the entire organization crumbling down.

No pressure, right? Haha.

This awesome custom campaign was recruiting by application, meaning interested players would need to create a character and submit it for review. After a while the GM would select which players they wanted to play in the campaign. This is pretty common practise for online play-by-post campaigns, due to the high interest of players, and the length of the campaign. It’s important you find a team of characters and players who work well together. Unlike other campaigns I had applied for, The Mantisbane Pact asked interested players to create a short story for their characters as part of the selection process. My character, a smart-ass, jaded slayer name Kilarra Calvennis, was accepted alongside a team of other awesome PCs to undertake this mission. At various times throughout the adventure we also had the opportunity to write other vignettes and flashbacks, often from the perspective of our shaman, who can view moments from the past by using the Akashic Record.

Today I’m sharing with you the initial short story I wrote for my character, Kilarra. After today it will be available under the d20 Stories feature on our website. Enjoy!

Jessica


Beginnings

Kilarra Calvennis stood in her boyfriend’s bedroom preparing for the worst betrayal of her life. She strapped on her armour slowly, fussing with the buckles with sweaty, shaking hands. She was nervous and excited, all at once.

She was about to undertake a test—one of many she would have to pass in order to become a Red Mantis Assassin. The target was her father. He wouldn’t die—this wasn’t an official assassination. It was just a break in. A simple test of skill, stealth and loyalty. Get into her father’s office without being seen, knock him unconscious, remove all the documents in his office, and slip away without being caught.

She could do this. She knew she could. So why were her hands shaking? And why was her heart fluttering like a panicked bird trapped in her chest?

Kilarra sighed. Her father deserved everything that was coming to him. He was one of the many corrupt nobles that dealt in lies and bribes. Just one among hundreds, but his methods sickened her. She had rebelled against him and against her country. She tried to bring about change, first with words, and then more drastic measures. None of it worked. In the end it wasn’t her father that had changed, or Taldor… It was her. And it wasn’t for the better. She did more harm than her father ever had.

“It’s his fault,” she reminded herself aloud. Her voice shook, but she continued. “He deserves this. He brought it on himself.”

She slipped her hands into her black and red leather gloves, grabbed her helmet off her boyfriend’s bureau and left the room.

Bastien grinned at her. “You look beautiful, love,” he said.

Kilarra smiled. If her father was everything wrong in the world, Bastien was everything right. He was her beloved. Her mentor. Her life. He pulled her up from the life of gangs and crime that her father had driven her to and stood her back up. He gave her purpose. He gave her love. He was intoxicating. So when Bastien confided in her that he was an assassin, she accepted that. And when he asked her to worship his strange mantis-god, she prayed with him. And when he said that she was gifted and that he wanted to train her to be like him, she was proud.

Taldor
Taldor’s coat of arms. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

She would do anything for him.

 

“I’m ready,” she replied.

Bastien nodded. “You are.”

She kissed him goodbye, slipped her red, mantis shaped helmet over her head and crept out the window onto the roof. If she had to rob her father to prove herself to Bastien, she would do so gladly.

The trip to her father’s office was short and uneventful. She kept to the shadows and stayed quiet. She slipped in through an open window on the third floor and crept down the dark halls with ease. There was a light around the edges of her father’s office door. He was in there, just as Bastien said he would be. She reached for the doorknob and hesitated.

This would change everything. Whatever happened between her and her father… Whatever he discovered and whatever she did… There was no going back. After tonight Bastien would take her to train among his fellow Red Mantis Assassins. He would train her to kill.

She never wanted to kill anyone. She still didn’t. But the thought of letting Bastien down made her sick to her stomach. She didn’t want to disappoint him. Not after everything he had done for her. She wanted to make him proud. She would make him proud. No matter what.

Kilarra took a deep breath and turned the doorknob. She cracked the door open and glanced inside. Her father was at his desk, back to her, clutching something at his chest. She moved in silently and shut the door.

He didn’t notice her. He didn’t hear her coming. But something about the way he was twitching in his chair put her on edge…. And the smell… Smelt like…

Red Mantis
Symbol of the Red Mantis Assassins. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Blood.

 

Kilarra inched across the room, hands shaking, afraid of what she would see.

Her father jerked erratically and fell from his chair, landing in a heap on the floor. A letter opener protruded from his chest.

“Dad!” she exclaimed.

He flinched when he saw her and tried to scream, but the blood in his mouth made it come out a wet gurgle. She tore her helmet off, and tossed it aside. It’s black insectile eyes watched her accusingly from across the room.

Her father’s eyes widened. He gurgled again, trying to speak, but she couldn’t make out what he was saying.

Pain exploded across the back of her head. She fell to the ground in a heap. Her ears rang and her vision blurred. She reached a shaky hand to her head. It was wet. And something was in her hair… She looked at her fingertips and saw they were covered in blood.

The killer was still here. How could she have been so stupid?

Kilarra crawled forward, but the blow she’d taken to the head had been fierce. Her arms were shaking and she couldn’t focus.

Behind her she heard laughter. It was familiar, but… wrong. Cold and cruel where it had once been warm.

“Ba- Bas- tien..?” she whimpered.

“I thought you’d be harder to take down than that! Didn’t you learn anything from me?”

It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. He loved her.

There was motion beside her, and then pain. The man who sounded like Bastien kicked her so hard in the chest her whole body was lifted off the ground. She fell on her back, her head cracked against the floor with a wet crunch.

And there above her, smiling, was Bastien.

“Why?” she whimpered.

“Sorry, love,” he replied. “But I’ve always loved playing games.”

He struck her again, knocking her unconscious as a tear streamed down her bloody, swollen face.


When she woke up Bastien was gone, but she wasn’t alone. The guards had found her, bloody and beaten, clutching a bloody letter opener in one hand and her fathers coin purse in the other. Her gear was missing. Her father was dead. Bastien was gone.

She would have done anything for him. Anything.

He took everything from her but her life.


Six Years Later…

Kilarra stepped out of prison and into the busy, sunlit streets of Oppara for the first time in six years. She looked around, and took a deep breath. Slowly, a smile spread across her scarred face. Gods, freedom smelt good.

“Kilarra Calvennis?”

As she opened her eyes her smile slipped. A woman in a military uniform stood in front of her. She was middle-aged, blonde, clean-cut.

“Who wants to know?”

“Officer Landau. Agent of the Crown.”

“I didn’t do it,” Kilarra replied.

“Do what?”the woman asked.

“Whatever it is you think I did.”

Officer Landau smiled. “I think you’re the woman who spent six years of her life serving jail time for killing her father. The same woman who spouted tales of mantis headed assassins for years.”

Kilarra sighed. “And what? You want to hear it again? You want to laugh? I’m out now. A free woman. ”

The officer smirked. “Yes, convenient, isn’t it? Serving only six years of a life-time sentence.”

Kilarra’s frown deepened. Landau was right. Officially she was being let out for good behaviour, but that was clearly a lie. Kilarra hadn’t been good in prison. First she had cried, and then she had yelled, and then she fell in with a bad crowd all over again—or rather, she made her own bad crowd. “Leave me alone,” she growled.

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Why? So you can track down who hired the Red Mantis Assassins and beat them bloody? So you can hunt down your mom, or your grandmother or you brother or any number of other potential suspects and wind up back in the prison you just left by days end?”

Kilarra repressed a frown. That was exactly what she had been planning to do. She plastered a smile across her face and fluttered her eyelashes sweetly. “I’m reformed.”

“Whoever hired you did so for power, or money, or some other petty reason. You weren’t the target, you were the scape goat. It wasn’t personal for them. But this person—this guy you were with. Bastien. He made it personal, didn’t he? Isn’t that who you should be getting revenge against? The man who betrayed you?”

Bastien. The sound of his name sent a wave of anger surging through her. If she ever saw him again she would cram his stupid mantis helmet down his throat. Focus…”Did one too many blows to the head make you deaf, Officer Landau? I said I’m reformed. I’m not going to kill anyone. I’m not searching for vengeance. And I’m not talking to you.”

“That’s too bad. See, I’m recruiting for a special assignment. Grand Prince Stavian the Third has entered into an agreement with—“

“Spare me the politics. It’s boring.”

Officer Landau continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted by a dirty ex-con, but Kilarra could tell her smile had turned cold. “It’s called the Mantisbane Pact, and its purpose is to send agents to kill the Red Mantis Assassins, destroy their organization and assassinate their god.”

Kilarra froze. “Achaekek…” she breathed.

The soldier smiled. “Got your attention, have I?”

“You’re looking for people to assassinate a god?” She burst out laughing. This woman was clearly mad. “How’s that working out for you?”

“Finding brave enough—”

“Crazy enough, you mean.”

Driven enough volunteers who might actually be able to get the job done is… difficult. Which is why I’m here.”

Kyonin
Kyonin, home of the elves. Image courtesy of Paizo Inc.

“Obviously.”

 

Officer Landau grit her teeth. “I’m giving you the opportunity to apply for the team. There’s no guarantee you’ll get in. There’s other volunteers just as driven—”

“Crazy.”

“As you. Now are you in or can I wash my hands of you?”

Kilarra smiled. “Well with a sales pitch like that, how can I refuse? Where do I sign up?”

“Iadara.”

“Where?”

“Pack a bag. The applicants sail for Kyonin tomorrow.”


Want to read more about Kilarra? Be on the look out for more vignettes and flashbacks in the coming weeks!

Want to learn more about Golarion, Taldor, Grand Prince Stavian III, Kyonin, Ilizmagorti, Mediogalti, and the Red Mantis Assassins? Check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea and explore Golarion for yourself! For more information on Taldor you can also check out Pathfinder Companion: Taldor, Echoes Of GloryPathfinder Campaign Setting: Taldor, The First Empire, or play the War for the Crown Adventure Path which begins with Pathfinder Adventure Path 127: Crownfall (War for the Crown 1 of 6).