“Raaaarrrright in the kidneys!” — Carenza Vega
Vesper’s next stop is the Roaring Gryphon, to check on the potential disposition of the former galley slaves. It’s still early, and Captain DeMer and her crew have yet to make any real progress on either this business or locating a buyer for the Elaborate Lie. She mentions that the captives that were taken will be easier to place, but those that were born into slavery will be harder. She mentions a possible contact that claims to know the location of Slumgullion, a floating city where the goblins might well be dropped off. Vesper thanks her for her efforts and leaves an extra 300 reganti with Captain DeMer to aid the process.
At the High Tide, Opilio fumes visibly enough at a breakfast table that Carpa and Rabbit go upstairs to get Ettorio and Carenza mobile. Once they arrive, Opilio tells his three companions that Captain Vantir is apparently being sheltered at the Breakwater Basilica, and the Qullosts are praying to avert the storm. The group decides to confront the Qullosts about this matter at once.
The confrontation is stormy on both sides, however. The Qullosts, led by their high priest Druceron Tidewalker initially take the group’s inquiries as a lead-in for a ransom: they mistake the claims of being able to avert the storm as an implication that they have the icon and will return it for the right price. Once it’s settled that both sides actually have the best interests of Redoris at heart, the four are brought into the presence of Captain Vantir.
Vantir relates how he intended to return the icon in exchange for Malestron’s rescue. However, he had given it to his lover, a half-elf by the name of Visayla. When he asked for its return, she refused; when he broke into her apartment to steal it, it was gone. She apparently had taken another lover, one Lothiros Snakebite, who sent a few legbreakers to beat the defiance out of Vantir. Vantir then crawled to the temple of Qullon, confessed, and has been sheltered since. Visayla apparently fled town into the swamp with Lothiros, who has some connections to an orchid’s blood-distilling gang called the Poison Frogs. The temple dispatched an agent, Anencia, after them but she has yet to return. The group pledges to go after the icon as well. Vantir draws them a picture of the icon, and gives them descriptions of Visayla and Lothiros.
The next step is finding a guide. Ettorio manages to locate a lizardman named Ust who is willing to make the journey. Ust claims to know the rough location of the Poison Frog stockade, two days inland by barge. They agree to meet him at the west docks, but first arrange a trip to the Prince’s palace.
Getting to see Prince Olidian takes a little bit of time. They are escorted in after it’s determined they are “not on the list.” The Prince of Raggavante seems rather distracted through their interview, and although he doesn’t seem to be fully convinced that the group’s story is all that plausible, he does take heed of their warning.
They set out that evening, on a barge poled by Ust and several of his kin, and towed by immense water-beetles. They travel for two days, getting a decent feel for the charms of the Raggavante swamps, until they draw near the village of Underlick not too long before sunset. Ust informs them that the stockade of the Poison Frogs is probably somewhere nearby, but he doesn’t know exact details. The group confers, considering the likelihood that the Frogs have a lookout in Underlick, and decide to send Carpa in as a possible recruit. The lackey dolefully agrees, as he already has practice with the story of being driven from society and desperate enough to take up banditry.
Carpa seems to have some success making contact with, and convincing, the scout. While the group follows carefully, Chiro tracks Carpa back to the drug-brewers’ hideout. The stockade is partly wood, built around a half-ruined stone tower on a hill. With some effort, the group is able to quietly draw close, Carenza setting up the Ladies as artillery with their recently gained crossbows. Opilio climbs a tree and watches the proceedings as Carpa negotiates with a man who must be Lothiros — but the negotiations go poorly. The group begins to advance to back Carpa up. The Ladies open with a volley, and although one sentry is killed quietly, the other is protected by stockade walls, and shouts an alarm. Lothiros takes the time to stab Carpa in the gut before rallying a defense.
The group are badly outnumbered at first, with as many as twenty opponents, but Carenza directs the Ladies as she fights, and many bandits are felled by quarrels in the melee. Ettorio and Carenza manage to fight almost as one, in a surprising display of choreographed attacks. A few of the Frogs are clear veterans, and Lothiros is not only a dangerous swordsman, but arrives with an immense frog in tow that belches caustic clouds. It’s sticky and bloody going for a time, but the constant covering fire gives the heroes the opportunity to take the upper hand. Carenza cuts Lothiros’ sword arm almost to the bone, and Vesper pronounces a necromantic doom on him. Bleeding and cursed, he attempts to flee, but is cut down by a hail of bolts at Carenza’s direction.