CS' Curse of the Crimson Throne 5E
The elites of Korvosa—nobles, royals, and wealthy merchants alike—live in decadent comfort. They control vast amounts of wealth, wield disproportionately large amounts of power, or both. Even the wealthiest merchants cannot hope to possess as much political clout as the poorest noble families. On the other hand, the Korvosan peerage constantly shrinks, as families who displease Cheliax’s monarch lose their titles and privileges—if not their holdings or their lives.
Since the death of Aroden and the reduction of trade with Cheliax, Korvosa has existed in a constant state of precariously balanced power. Thanks to their internal flux, the noble houses cannot remain united long enough to displace the royal family (if they even wanted to) and the royal family cannot summon enough resources to destroy the power of the nobles. Each side ebbs and flows in power, always courting the wealthy merchants and other city elites, but never gaining enough strength to bring down the other.
Korvosa still considers itself an imperial colony of Cheliax, and so does not itself grant or rescind noble titles. The nobles within Korvosa are usually only a single branch of a much larger family, albeit a branch most families scarcely remember exist. Some families, though, such as House Arkona and House Endrin, exist as a noble family solely within Korvosa. Much to the chagrin of the Arabastis, who have ruled Korvosa for nearly a century, the Chelaxian monarchy continues to ignore the family’s request for a noble title. During the most heated debates between the two groups, nobles frequently refer to Korvosa’s monarch as the “commoner king” or “commoner queen.”
The following descriptions detail many of the city’s movers and shakers. Note that nobles bear the epithet of House before their names, making it easy to distinguish them from untitled families. The following list is presented alphabetically, ignoring the title of House
Arabasti: Arbust Arabasti won the cutthroat competition against his hated competitor Chadris Porphyria to claim the leadership of Korvosa. Arbust had come to Cheliax during the Apostate Rebellion, where he hoped to increase the coffers (and thus the chances of victory) of House Thrune. Himself related to Abrogail I via marriage, Arbust counted on his loyalty and cunning to finally win a noble title for his family. Unfortunately for Arbust, Cheliax’s chaos created several dilemmas in Korvosa, and the large profit he hoped to make there collapsed around him. Desperate to recoup some of his losses, Arbust remained in Korvosa and quickly insinuated himself into its politics.
Arbusts’s beloved son, Eodred I, so impressed the people and nobility that, when an anonymous plant in a city gathering first called him king, the crowd quickly followed suit. After much discussion, the noble houses finally agreed that granting a royal title to the leader of Korvosa would make the monarch (and thus the city) seem more impressive in the eyes of Cheliax and House Thrune. The city’s charter very carefully spells out that its own monarch is subservient to the ruler of Cheliax, and that Korvosa merely tends to the lands of Zingara on behalf of Cheliax. To date, the Thrice Damned House of Thrune has never once acknowledged the monarch of Korvosa as anyone other than the mayor of a small colony in the wilderness.
King Eodred’s spoiled and hated adolescent nephew, Cardraith, adopted the throne from his uncle (the first monarch and thus first sufferer of the Crimson Throne’s curse) in 4657. His short reign, marked by bizarre proclamations that punished everyone from accomplished soldiers to beautiful women, ended in 4661, when young Cardraith died of a mysterious fit. With his death, it seemed, the Arabasti dynasty in Korvosa came to an end.
Korvosa’s first and only Porphyrian monarch’s rule was cut short, however, by the unexpected arrival of an heir to the Arabasti line: Domina Arabasti. A distant relative of the family’s Chelaxian line who had learned of her “royal” lineage and a worshipper of the devil Malacoda, Domina sailed into Conqueror’s Bay at the head of a small fleet of black-sailed Chelaxian frigates.
Queen Domina’s rule saw improved relations with Cheliax, as the brutally efficient queen had lived much of her life in the devilworshiping empire. Trade increased several hundred fold as her family’s connections led numerous Egorian-based companies to establish colonial branches in Korvosa. She used this influx of wealth to fund a massive building spree throughout the city, giving rise to the Great Tower, the refurbished temple of Asmodeus, Citadel Vraid, Domina’s Wall, and the foundation of the Pantheon of Many. Korvosa looks back on her reign as a golden age and considers her its most successful monarch.
Like his mother before him, King Eodred II enjoys spending the city’s wealth, but he tends to use its treasury to fund his personal decadent lifestyle rather than build anything lasting. Eodred II adopted a city with drained coffers but spectacular architectural projects. In his first three years as king, Eodred slowed the completion of several projects and halted others, allowing the city’s finances to recover and provide for his bizarre and frequently unwholesome indulgences.
King Eodred surrounds himself with girls and women of every race, but never expressed a desire to marry and— despite frequent trysts within his sizeable harem—never fathered a child. As he grew old, he became suddenly desperate for an heir and visited his enslaved beauties with ever greater frequency. Still, his harem bore him no heir. Into this climate of despair and fear came cruel but seductive Ileosa, who convinced the king to put aside his harem (temporarily) and take her as his wife.
In the last year, as he has watched his beautiful young wife drain the city’s treasury at an alarming rate, King Eodred II chartered Sir Gyrad Tolgrith to open a landbound trade route into neighboring Nirmathas. The king hopes to eventually extend the route all the way to Cheliax, giving merchants an alternative to paying the excessive docking fees of the harbors and delivering gold directly into Korvosa’s depleting treasury.
House Arkona: Although an old family that predates even the founding of the empire, by 4458 House Arkona had sunk into poverty and faced the very real threat of extinction. In desperation, Lord Garath Arkona of Korvosa took out a loan from House Jeggare and purchased a lightly armed caravel he named Reprieve. Garath hired the smallest crew he could and, in the late spring, the Reprieve set sail for distant and exotic Vudra. After many trials and setbacks, the Reprieve finally docked in the Vudra port city of Sihadriman in late summer, 4460. Lord Arkona, with his sociable brother and advisor Jenkson, explored Sihadriman for several weeks, trying desperately to fill the ship’s hold with spices, silks, and other Vudran luxuries. At long last, Garath found a seller and negotiated enough wares to fill the holds. The Reprieve set sail shortly thereafter and returned to Korvosa in half the time it took to get to Vudra.
Historians suspect Garath and Jenkson encountered some kind of monumental event on their voyage, for they seemed much changed upon their return to Korvosa. The shipment they brought back nearly sank the Reprieve, but it more than returned House Arkona to a place of prominence in the nobility. Overnight, the muchderided house went from among the poorest noble families to second only to House Jeggare in wealth.
Lord Garath and Jenkson Arkona indulged in nearly every vice available, from drugs to cruelty to pleasures of the flesh. Rather than bankrupt the family again, they used their influence to acquire control over the trades in which they showed the most enjoyment. Over the course of the next 20 years, they took control of almost every tavern and brothel on Endrin Isle and allegedly founded at least two drug dens.
In 4483, both Garath and Jenkson disappeared without warning, only to be replaced by a previously unknown son and daughter, respectively. The new Lord Arkona and his female cousin picked up where their fathers left off, and, under their reign, the family gained increased influence in Korvosa’s small and much-suppressed underworld. As Korvosa grew and spread, so too did the number of vices and the number of people engaging in them. At the conclusion of the Cousins’ War, of all the noble families, House Arkona alone remained on Endrin Isle.
For the past two centuries, House Arkona has only increased its wealth and influence in the city. Apparently based on the tradition long ago established by Lord Garath and his brother, the house always answers to two leaders: The Lord Arkona (never a Lady Arkona) continues in some capacity to maintain the reputation for cruelty and coldness earned by Garath so long ago, while a close relative of the current lord acts as his right-hand man (or woman) and is the face of the family at gatherings of nobles.
Nothing occurs in the back alleys or stinking vaults of Old Korvosa without House Arkona knowing about it. It is a poorly kept secret that the family controls or has influence over every major (and most minor) criminal enterprise in the city, from watered-down mead to murder.
The current lord of the house, Glorio Arkona, attempts at every opportunity to lift up the poor and provide them with enough sustenance to survive. To that end, he has leveled several buildings the family owns, including a tavern and a brothel, to make room for massive low-rent tenement apartments. These actions have made Glorio the most popular nobleman among the city’s many poor and destitute and has caused no end of anxiousness and worry from his family members.
House Bromathan: Lord Valdur Bromathan IV loyally serves the temple of Sarenrae as a minor priest. He breaks the chain of House Bromathan lords serving in the Korvosan Guard, a tradition going back to before his family joined the nobility in 4457. This split with tradition has put him at odds with the rest of the house, many of whom serve in the guard or the Sable Company. Valdur, however, received the blessing of his father when he declared his intent to enter the clergy as a youth.
As it always has, House Bromathan remains a relatively minor noble family. Its fortunes tend to stay relatively stable, neither rising nor falling any great amount. The house remains ever loyal to House Endrin, just as its first lord, Nivek Bromathan, was loyal beyond measure to Waydon Endrin.
House Endrin: It took more than a quarter century for the empire to recognize the great accomplishments and service of Waydon Endrin. The emperor granted the family a noble title in 4456, making his son Lucien the first Lord Endrin. Like his father before him, Lucien sacrificed himself in defense of the city he loved in 4462. Unlike his father, though, Lucien left no heir, and, as his twin sister Brieanna had already married into the Jeggare family, House Endrin appeared destined to die out after only one lord.
Brieanna sent a letter to her cousin Ponchus in Cheliax, convincing him to move his family to Korvosa to take up the lordship. Ponchus had to complete his tour of duty in the Imperial Army before he could move north and claim the title, which he finally did in 4471. As an officer in the Korvosan Guard, Ponchus went to the grave in the same way as his cousin and uncle before him, firmly establishing a tradition of service and sacrifice the family continues to this day. House Endrin has produced more Commandants of the Sable Guard (12 of 30) and Field Marshals of the Korvosan Guard (8 of 18) than any other house. Since the founding of Korvosa, it has also gone through the most lords and ladies, all of whom served in the military and more than half of whom died in combat or from injuries sustained therein.
To this day, thanks to Brieanna Endrin’s marriage to Montlarion Jeggare’s grandnephew, the two families remain close. Despite its small size and relatively recent entitlement, House Endrin controls considerable influence in the city due to its strong alliances with other founding and military houses.
House Jeggare: Descended from a nephew of the famous philanthropist whose name appears in many places around Korvosa, this branch of the Jeggare family attempts to carry on the generous reputation attached to its name. House Jeggare controls the second-largest share of dock space in Korvosa, allowing the family to bring in ridiculous amounts of gold in its brisk trade. The church of Abadar estimates that nearly a quarter of the city’s privately held assets are controlled by the Jeggare family, making it a powerful and influential noble house, as well as the wealthiest.
Although almost every other major noble house has opposed House Jeggare at one point or another in the last two centuries, they also all rely on it for loans and support when aiming their machinations at other targets. House Jeggare survives the sometimes cutthroat politics of Korvosa by keeping a line of credit open for the monarch and other noble families, and by acting as the chief financial backer of both the Korvosan Guard and the Sable Company.
House Leroung: Even before Jessa Leroung founded the University of Korvosa, the ancient and esteemed House Leroung served Cheliax as teachers, instructors, professors, scholars, and sages. To this day, House Leroung maintains extensive libraries in the three largest cities of Cheliax and controls both the University of Egorian in Cheliax and Almas University in Ashan (where the family’s noble standing is no longer recognized but its contributions to academia are).
The family’s fortunes and powers have fluctuated little since its founding, and, although many of the younger nobles of the family gladly wade into the dirty politics of court life, the lord or lady of House Leroung rarely bothers with such things. Indeed, lovely Lady Eliasia Leroung, current headmistress of the University of Korvosa, is considered an ally by most other noble houses, including those at odds with one another.
House Ornelos: Not just one of the most politically powerful noble houses in Korvosa, House Ornelos also controls the Acadamae. More lord magistrates came from this family than from all other houses combined, and to this day the family keeps at least two advisors at the ear of the monarch. The influence this family exerts does not end at the throne, however, as Ornelos scions are scattered among all the city’s most powerful institutions.
In Korvosa, it took little time for Lord Volshyenek Ornelos to establish himself as a major power player. He bought a magnificent manor house on the mainland (long since demolished) and was instrumental in the defense of the mainland holdings during the Third Battle of Mainshore. Lord Ornelos led a contingent of Korvosan Guard spellcasters during the final assault that broke through the Shoanti defenses to conclude the Siege of the Grand Mastaba. Shortly thereafter, he founded the Acadamae on Citadel Hill.
After the founding of the Acadamae, House Ornelos gained even greater control over the affairs of the city, placing the first (of many) scions in the office of lord magistrate. The brutal slaughter of Remsev Ornelos, orchestrated by House Viamio in 4491, considerably weakened the family’s influence, although it did gain the house a great deal of sympathy among other nobles. When the Cousins’ War broke out, Lord Volshyenek personally led attacks against House Viamio, slaughtering with merciless abandon those who served that family. With the conclusion of the war and the expulsion of traitorous separatists, the power of House Ornelos swiftly surpassed even the level it enjoyed prior to Remsev’s murder.
House Ornelos has resisted converting to devil worship, the Acadamae’s infernal shift notwithstanding, but it remains loyal to both Korvosa and Cheliax. Today, the house’s influence comes not just from its control over the Acadamae, but also from the many advisors it has placed at the ears of the monarch, other noble families, and important institutions throughout the city.
Porphyria: Chadris Porphyria lost his bid to become Korvosa’s provisional lord when he died suddenly at a rally in his support. Like Arbust Arabasti, Chadris had familial connections with Cheliax’s new dynasty and, like Arbust, Chadris saw Korvosa as the key to gaining a noble title. Unlike Arbust, though, Chadris’s scheme almost paid off when his cousins in House Thrune promised his family a noble title if he could defeat Arabasti. When Chadris died, his family’s best chance at aristocracy died with him.
More than 50 years later, the Porphyria family finally got its revenge when the unpopular Arabasti king, Cardraith, died unexpectedly. Chadris III, grandson of Arbust’s competitor, took Korvosa’s throne. His unpopular reign only lasted six years, and when Domina Arabasti re-established her family’s dynasty she also put an end to the Porphyria family in Korvosa.
Although the family no longer exists within Korvosa and its name is shunned, Porphyria continues to serve the Chelaxian monarchy as a loyal and wealthy merchant family. In Cheliax, the Porphyria and Arabasti families jointly established a mercantile company that even has a branch in Korvosa (although the company knows better than to send any Porphyria employees there, even on a temporary basis).
House Zenderholm: Lord Lacertus Zenderholm brought his family to Korvosa at the tail-end of the great influx of Chelish immigrants. He took advantage of the generous offers put forth by House Viamio, despite his long-standing hatred of Lord Amycus Viamio. When the Cousins’ War broke out, Lord Zenderholm was among the first to declare his loyalty to Cheliax. He personally headed his own private army in support of the Korvosan Guard, which led to his death in the last weeks of the conflict.
His daughter, Lady Mulsanne Zenderholm, then took control of the house and leveraged her father’s loyalty and bravery into political power within the town. Only 30 years after its arrival within Korvosa, House Zenderholm displaced House Fordyce as a Great House, making it the first of that title to not also be a Dock Family. Today, House Zenderholm members serve the city as arbiters, magistrates, lawyers, and diplomats.