“Are we leaving behind bitter gravediggers everywhere we go?” — Carenza Vega
With Lothiros fallen, the four move to secure the icon. They find Visayla holding Anencia, with a knife to the Qullost questor’s neck. The half-elf demands to be allowed to go free. Vesper agrees, on the condition that she both relinquish the icon and release Anencia. Visayla points them to the tower, where Ettorio carefully checks for traps until such a point that he becomes bored with the process. The icon is discovered in Lothiros’ room, sitting on a small shelf. Ettorio gathers it in his cloak (though his cloak undergoes some histrionics in the process). Once it’s secured, Visayla releases Anencia and is permitted to depart — but unwilling to take her chances with the Raggavante marshes at midnight, she crumples defeated and agrees to go back to Redoris. In the meantime, Opilio tends to the nasty wound Carpa has suffered, and his remarkable medical skill soon has the hapless lackey back on his feet, if a little groggy. The Ladies-in-Waiting are quite pleased with the results of their first major action, “raining death on the enemy like manticores”. “No… like womanticores!” Carenza sensibly vetos that as a possible company name with great speed.
The group loots the Poison Frog stockade before resting until morning. They find the gang’s war chest, with roughly 860 reganti in it; Lothiros wears a silver ring shaped like an octopus with gemmed eyes, and carries an odd black skull mask. He also bears a chest tattoo of a snake with a human skull. Ettorio recognizes this as the mark of the Sable Skulls, a splinter faction of the smuggler group called the Sable Band.
The next day they begin the trip back. The downriver travel passes more quickly. That night, they take a careful, well-guarded stopover in the raft-town of Tarplank, where they naturally draw attention. One traveler mentions that Redoris is likely to hit a storm, and it may be wiser for them to stay upriver for a time. The group politely deflects his concerns.
That evening, four men in black skull masks attempt to creep into Ettorio and Opilio’s room. Opilio and Vesper are too vigilant for the intruders, though, and wake their roommates. A brief scuffle erupts in the hallway. The intruders focus their attacks first on Vesper and then on Opilio, but they have nothing to quite match Vesper and Opilio’s supernatural might or Carenza and Ettorio’s bladesmanship. One crossbow-wielder, badly wounded, is the last standing and attempts to flee, but he falls victim to roused Ladies-in-Waiting. Tarplank comes alive with all the fuss, but the group is able to convince the harried constable that they were acting in self-defense and they intend to leave town at first light.
They pass the next morning on Ust’s barge discussing the theoretical advantages of crocodile cavalry, and reach Redoris at midday. Their first stop is the Breakwater Basilica, where Druceron Tidewalker strongly recommends that the Silver Lord be the ship to take them to sea, and that Captain Vantir be the captain. After some debate, the group agrees. The Silver Lord departs with the tide.
With the gray cloud obscuring the sky, the sea has the feel of an imminent storm for hours. Opilio finally shows the icon to the sea and feels slightly foolish holding it aloft before he feels the static electricity on his fingers. The whirlpool begins to form, and nobody is sure how much time passes before Malestron emerges.
Opilio offers the icon, and Malestron seemingly devours it. “I AM PLEASED,” the dragon booms. “I GRANT YOU MY FAVOR.” A talon the size of a small canoe touches Opilio on the chest, and the explosion of electricity blasts him across the ship. The masterwork breastplate of Captain Crevant is half-melted away from his chest, where a strange draconic rune has appeared on his chest. This strange “blessing” granted, Malestron returns to the depths.
The Silver Lord puts back in to Redoris the next morning, and the group sees to business. Captain DeMer has closed an arrangement with the Levatis family, and the group’s share comes out to six thousand reganti. They arrange for one thousand to go to the efforts of settling the freed slaves, and generously divide another thousand among the Ladies-in-Waiting. These things done, the group largely prepares to see the last of Redoris. That evening at the High Tide, Vesper reports that Bravadi Rovino seems to have gone to Raspian, which may inform their next move. However, at that point a messenger dressed as a Kaealite scribe presents a scroll to them. The message is an invitation from an unknown party (a signature resembling a coin, or perhaps an “O”) to meet for dinner at the Tipsy Priestess in Rivermouth.
The following day Ettorio and Carenza scout out the tavern, learning that it has something of a religious motif that, if not strictly blasphemous, is perhaps a little irreverent. The tavern’s in a good part of town, though; not an ideal choice for an assassination or lethal brawl. Opilio purchases some gifts for his family, and Vesper gathers rumors of potion imbibers with snakes for fingers.
When they arrive at the Tipsy Priestess that evening, they’re directed to a booth in a private alcove. There they discover their contact is none other than an unobtrusively dressed Prince Olidian. The Prince of Raggavante offers them food and drink. “The Ruby Serpent’s very good; made by Calveran Evrelites, so you know it’s healthy.” A certain amount of small talk prefaces the meal before the Prince gets down to business.
Olidian stresses that it’s odd that the group didn’t return to ask for an award. This very characteristic implies to him that they may be civic-minded enough to assist him with a matter. He reveals that something’s been stolen from him: a three-sided coin, a rare Taltikkan relic said to grant wishes. The Prince suspects someone’s trying to sabotage him, and wouldn’t be surprised if the icon theft was related. He can’t trust his own court, because it had to be someone there. Thus, he’s inclined to approach these apparently selfless adventurers. When the topic of recompense is brought up, Olidian proposes two options: either he opens the Redoris coffers rather generously, or he offers them a chance to wish on the coin themselves.
The Prince then leaves them to contemplate the offer in private. Ettorio is strongly in favor of accepting it, and quite willing to accept the wish as payment. Opilio and Carenza are concerned about the ethics of returning such an item who may have used it to kill — but Vesper points out a few notes about the corrupt reign of Prince Idrian. Olidian’s claim that “Seventy-five percent of Raggavante was wishing for Prince Idrian to die; you can’t be too surprised that one of those wishes took” may have been accurate. As the Raggavante prince’s reputation seems to be more populist than corrupt, which is perhaps as good a measure as any of a prince’s character, they decide to accept the peculiar commission.