“Don’t… don’t arm the goblins.”
“Aren’t they your minions now?”
“No!” — Vesper Sespech & Carenza Vega
There are a few moments of quiet as the group prepares to push belowdecks. Vesper uses the time to recommend stealing the Elaborate Lie outright. “We can send a message to the Roaring Gryphon to send a prize crew to steer her out, but with oars," she says. "We don’t need to wait for the tide. In fact we can’t wait, because it will be getting light out by then. I can negotiate the details with Captain DeMer later, but with the money this ship will fetch in Redoris, we can pay the crew of the Roaring Gryphon, and have money left to help the captives we’re about to free, and that’s not even counting whatever other goods we find on board. Also, we can’t free the captives here in any event. They’ll only end up coming to harm and there seem to be only enough life boats for the Morafir, so we need the ship just to get them out of here.”
The others agree, and quicky; Opilio hears the remaining crew moving about, no doubt having awakened and armed themselves during the fight. The Morafir captain emerges from the cabin with another Alesci, swordpoint to the young Tyliel’s throat, followed by a bent old elf with a variety of vials about his person. A massive bugbear, no doubt the galley drummer, forces his way out of the hatch to the fore, flanked by another Morafir in leather and a quartet of goblins. Carenza takes the lead with the negotiations, though the Morafir is unwilling to concede much — he points out that the group is unlikely to offer anything that could match the value of the crew members they’ve already killed, much less purchase Alesci’s freedom on top of that.
As the negotiation plays out, Carenza clearly (and loudly) points out that they can’t even be sure that’s the real Alesci. Kosvach addresses him, asking if it’s really him.
“Of course it’s me, Kos.”
“Then what’s Vesper’s favorite opera?”
“Ah… she doesn’t have one.”
Vesper shakes her head, and the hostilities erupt. Ettorio snaps off a crossbow bolt at the captain, that is just barely deflected by a basket hilt, and then swings down to the deck and grievously wounds the false Alesci. The doppleganger retreats, fading from Ettorio’s line of view, but falls quickly under Opilio’s maul. The captain is made of much sterner stuff, and manages to nearly topple Ettorio and press Carenza hard. Carenza retaliates with a vicious shot to the captain’s shoulder, though, and the Morafir finds himself weakened and exposed. Ettorio and Opilio quickly take advantage.
To the fore of the ship, Kosvach holds off the bugbear drummer and the goblins. Vesper assists him with a banshee’s cry, then adds an extra curse to the captain. Ettorio nearly sends the captain over the rail, but the Morafir easily rallies. Badly wounded, he takes a dose of combat drugs and lunges at Opilio, but is overcome by the power of Vesper’s curse. The alchemist leaps overboard in fear, and the remaining Morafir uses a smoke bomb to conceal his own retreat — only the bugbear remains, and he can’t stand against the numbers. Carenza ends him with a thrust, and as the quiet settles over the ship, Vesper sends Chiro with a note over to the Roaring Gryphon.
Captain DeMer: Please send over a prize crew. Would like to use oars to get underweigh before first light. Stay out of the water, we’ve chummed it pretty well. Do you have anyone that speaks goblin or Moriul? Happy to negotiate division of spoils once we’re out to sea.
As the prize crew arrives, the group takes stock of the various spoils. Alesci is discovered in one of the cabins, and Opilio selects some smelling salts to bring him out of his drug-induced hypnotic trance. When Kosvach asks him the same question, he responds with “The Longest Winter Night,” and Vesper confirms. The prize crew soon arrives, and Opilio announces to the galley slaves (a mix of humans, goblins, bugbears, orcs and a single half-orc, only a few of whom seem to understand Common) that they’ll all be liberated soon but they have one more task. He then sits down at an oar himself, and soon the Elaborate Lie moves out to the barrier islands to rendezvous with the Roaring Gryphon.
Captain DeMer agrees to have her crew bring the Elaborate Lie into Redoris in exchange for half the sale price of the vessel; the group will receive the other half, and the cargo and crew’s effects. Both ships then make for Redoris. Opilio and Ettorio remain aboard the Morafir vessel. Alesci and Kosvach are looked after by the ship’s doctor Kydelli, and Vesper and Carenza go aboard the Gryphon with them. They try to put the goblins ashore to move back to Redoris, but the goblins want none of it: they seem to feel that they will die badly if they return where Dame Ilsivris can lay her hands upon them.
Vesper takes the time to vent her frustrations on Kosvach. “You took Alesci, who is green as spring grass, and you didn’t take me? I thought we were friends!” Kosvach apologizes, but says little in his defense.
When she goes to talk to Alesci, she is less angry and more disappointed. She points out that Ambira ran after him into danger, and chides him for following Kosvach’s lead. Alesci, somewhat bemused, points out that this whole escapade was his idea, and that when Kosvach argued that they should take Vesper, he — to his shame — asked that they not do so, so that he could prove himself. Clearly chagrined by the whole affair, Alesci apologizes and thanks Vesper, then seeks out Carenza to do the same. The mercenary captain chides him a bit, gently, for propriety’s sake, then states that what’s done is done.
The storm brewing in the southeast grows stronger as they sail, and soon something is spotted in the water — merfolk. One of the strange creatures hails Opilio, asking if he is also going to see what happens when the storm hits the city. She explains that the dragon Malestron was cheated of his tribute by a sailor, and is heading to visit a storm on Redoris in retribution. Somewhat appalled, Opilio moves to inform the others.
Confronted with the possibility of crossing paths with the Dragon of the Saanwater, the group weighs their options. Vesper recommends attempting to bargain with Malestron, that they offer to retrieve the tribute for the dragon. The others agree, and the group boards the Elaborate Lie to cross the dragon’s path. Opilio has one of the merfolk carry their offer to the dragon, and they wait tensely.
The storm closes around both ships, and a huge whirlpool forms, carrying the Morafir ship around its edge. An immense shape rears up from the depths of the whirlpool, and unfurls wings that spark with St. Elmo’s fire at the tips. Malestron takes the Elaborate Lie between its two talons, and lowers its head. “WHO WOULD TREAT WITH ME?” it booms. Opilio bravely steps forward.
Opilio addresses Malestron with a mix of humility and confidence. He states that it is wrong that this captain cheated the great dragon, but also that the city need not suffer for one man’s mistake. He offers their services to find the tribute and return it. The dragon considers, fixing each of the group with its lamp-like eyes, then rumbles “I ACCEPT YOU AS MY AGENT.” It identifies the “small, squeaking morsel” it spared as Captain Arnosta Vantir of the Silver Lord, who owes Malestron a Tsirithian idol from one of their sunken cities. It gives them a phase of the moon to bring the idol to the water and brandish it — if it does not appear then, the storm will roll again. The negotiations complete, Malestron sinks back into the depths, and the two ships sail through the clearing storm to Redoris.
That evening they choose the High Tide, a respectable establishment in Roarbridge, to discuss their next move. Carenza and Ettorio trade the exotic Morafir brandy for a large tab of wine, and proceed to get quite drunk. Vesper purchases two rounds of a dwarven spirit (the closest thing she can get to korzalka) and brings one to Kosvach; her anger spent, the two share drinks as friends and discuss their next move. Kosvach seems genuinely frustrated that he won’t be there to gain revenge on Bravadi, as he must take Alesci home, but agrees to return to Cinquedea in peace and face his family.
Alesci continues his penance of thanks and apologies, moving first to Opilio. The master of Chapelwood is stern but gently understanding of Alesci’s regrets, though he points out Dechera will want to have words with him. The Tyliel moves and then to Ettorio, who refuses to take any credit for his part in the rescue. He points out that when a very large man asks one to help rescue his daughter’s fiance, one agrees. Opilio being a friend, and Alesci marrying the daughter of a friend, that gives them a special relationship. “You are like a sub-sub-sub-friend. You are friendish.” Alesci takes the compliment graciously.
Vesper and Opilio rise early the next day. Opilio visits the Breakwater Basilica, the local temple to Qullon. He makes inquiries about the storm, and finds that Captain Vantir is actually being sheltered by the temple. Somewhat perturbed, he returns to the High Tide.
Vesper goes to see Alesci and Kosvach safely on the Doughty back to Cinquedea. When Kosvach begins his farewell to her, she steps into his guard, takes his head with both hands and kisses him. He shifts in clear surprise before his hands close on her waist and he responds. When she breaks the kiss, she steps back and looks seriously into his eyes for a long moment before she leaves him there and turns her attention to Alesci (who is smiling incredulously).
“I plan to attend your wedding,” she tells Alesci firmly. “You had better be there.”
“I also plan to attend it,” replies Alesci, still smiling. “You had better be there as well.”
As the Doughty pulls out of port, Vesper hears a Lokvan battle-song carried across the waves. She smiles, and returns to the High Tide.