Chapter 2 - "See the turtle of enormous girth ..."

While there was no great rush or deadline for the party to get their voyage north underway, Lavinia urged them to set sail as soon as the Sea Wyvern was properly provisioned and prepared. They did, however, take several weeks to repair and upgrade the hull. Two new ballistae were installed, one to port and one to starboard, with the initial one pointing directly forward.

As the ship repairs and upgrades were taking place, Viselys and Saris went about assembling the additional crew members needed to afford them the greatest possible success. This largely fell to Viselys as Saris spent much of his time checking on the Sea Wyvern and its captain. Viselys had just secured the bardic talents of Miranda Rivers when he was approached by Kabbanja.

"Viselys, can I have a word with you?"

"Of course."

"Well, you see, we've run into a bit of difficulty with all the prisoners and jailing them. Now, the pirates are easy enough, but we're a little unsure of the other prisoners. It seems that the pirates had a few of their own in the brigs of the ships," Kabbanja explained.

This perked Viselys' interest. "What kind of prisoners would pirates keep?"

"Well, that's just it. I was hoping that you might be able to help judge that."

Viselys followed Kabbanja to the shore where the Stygian Shark was newly anchored. The hull was still run through on both sides with harpoons, though the chains had been removed to get it in to port. Three ragtag looking men were standing on the dock surrounded by a few militia members. Two were anxiously eying the militia members, while one, obviously young, seemed bored.

"Welcome to Farshore," Viselys said addressing the three. "It seems you've earned your freedom."

"To whom do I owe the pleasure?" The young man who had looked bored asked.

"Lady Lavinia," Viselys said as he nodded to the guards, who began to ease off. "We can clothe you, but you'll need to utilize your skills to earn the rest. What's your name, and what can you do?"

"Name's Duxsil. I've been casting magic over items for my captors. I hail from Sasserine, the shadowy parts," Duxsil said with a casual half shrug.

"Oh, you are a Shadowshore Boy, then?"

"I recognize you."

"Perhaps you confuse me with…my brother," Viselys said with only a hint of difficulty. "He was very much a part of the Shadowshore."

"No, you were on the other side of the bars. I was a…freelancer," Duxsil said with another half shrug.

"Well, let's hope you fair better here. If you are skilled in magic, your services would be of great use. In fact I'm putting together a crew for a mission. You're welcome to come along."

"And why would you do that?"

"Because I believe every man is worthy of a second chance. Perhaps you can speak to the others who can vouch for my kindness."

"Whatever. If it means I don't have to be in shackles…" Duxsil let his words trail off with another bored half shrug.

Once all the ship upgrades were made, as part of final preparations for the diplomatic mission, several workers loaded Emraag's bribe into the Sea Wyvern's hold. This cargo consisted of four large wooden chests, an impressive, 8-foot-tall statue of Ventrue Vanderboren (a famed explorer and privateer), and the sea skirl. The chests contained jewelry, coins, and waterproof artwork with a total value of about 16,000 gp, with the statue worth about 4,000 gp alone. After loading the bribe into the Sea Wyvern, one of Lavinia's workers provided Viselys with a set of brass keys to the chests.

Viselys was doing a quick wash up after putting in some time with building repairs. Everyone seemed to be doing more than their fair share in an effort to get the town back together. Plans to depart the next day hadn't stopped Viselys from another day of adding his energies to that effort. Duxsil approached as Viselys was just about to put his shirt back on, having set it aside while washing.

"How long have you had that wizard's mark?" Duxsil asked by way of greeting.

"What?" Viselys responded brilliantly, having no clue what Duxsil was talking about.

"Glowing words that say Eat Me on your back," Duxsil explained with a wry smile.

"I was unaware of any such marking," Viselys said skeptically, not fully trusting the young sorcerer.

Duxsil just shrugged his shoulders, smiling as he took his turn to wash up before finding his dinner. Viselys curious to verify the validity of Duxsil's observation decided to utilize the opportunity to speak with Liamae. After all, she was a sorceress. It made sense that he could ask her input in the matter.

Since the destruction of the Last Coconut, Lavinia had opened up the Vanderboren Manor for many for the duration of its rebuilding. Vanderboren Manor was one of the largest and most lavishly appointed homes in Farshore. Rivaled only by Lord Meravanchi's Estate, the whitewashed mansion’s two-story height was crowned by a small dome set with stained-glass windows that depicted sailing ships and fair seas. Much of the house had remained unused with the exception of the kitchen, dining hall, Lavinia's quarters, and the rooms she had invited the heroes to occupy. Though many had chosen to decline Lavinia's offer of lodgings due to the rumors, all of the Jade Ravens had moved back in, making it easy to locate Liamae.

Viselys knocked on the door he knew to be Liamae's quarters. A muffled voice from within directed him to wait a moment. When the door finally opened Liamae stood wrapped in a robe, and a towel thrown over her left shoulder to catch the moisture that still dripped from her hair. "Yes?"

"My apologies. I didn't mean to disturb you," Viselys said as he began to back away.

"No bother. Did you need something."

Viselys paused a moment before saying, "I have a question for you."

"Oh?" Liamae arched an eyebrow.

"Do you know of wizard's marks?"

"I am familiar with such things," she replied.

"I was told that such a mark is on my back. I was wondering if you could confirm this? Would you mind taking a look?" When Liamae nodded Viselys began removing his shirt as he turned to bare his back. Liamae smiled, intrigued by the situation.

"Oh yeah, there's something there," she said with a smirk.

"What does it say? Can you tell who put it there?" Viselys asked glancing over his shoulder at her.

"Oh? So you didn't put it upon yourself. Seems no friend would put that upon you as it says, Eat Me," Liamae offered in response before adding under her breath, "Rather provocative actually."

"Can you remove it?" He asked as he turned back to her.

"It is rather faint, I think you need not worry. Time will do the rest."

"Thanks," he said as he put his shirt back on. "I also wanted to give you these items as you will be joining us on our venture tomorrow." Viselys handed over a Cloak of Charisma, and a set of bracers. "The cloak has been enchanted four times. I believe it will be most useful to you."

Liamae took the items with a gracious nod and turned to place them upon the bench at the end of her bed, leaving the door open with Viselys still standing there.

As she turned away, Viselys said, "I have seen you speaking with Diamondback, and Lavinia."

"Women do talk."

"Yes, well, I was wondering if there was ever a conversation about Diamondback's feelings for me."

"So you would have me betray the confidence of another woman?" Liamae asked playfully.

"No, nothing like that," Viselys said in a tone of voice that communicated his discomfort.

"Ask your questions and I shall answer," Liamae said without teasing.

"I'm sure you've heard of her ill treatment, and how we rescued her. I was just wondering if she spoke of her feelings regarding me? I've tried to apologize, but we don't seem to be seeing things eye to eye."

"Ah, I see. She is conflicted. I am not sure what amends you would like to make, but I am sure you could talk with her," she offered encouragingly.

"That doesn't seem to work," he said shaking his head and looking down the hall a moment before looking back at Liamae. "She seems to have taken a liking to Lavinia, and she has repaid her debt for her crimes. I think it best to leave her as she is."

"There are some healings that a woman can only find with another," she confirmed cryptically.

"Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you on our journey together."

"You are welcome. I look forward to seeing more as well," Liamae said with a hint of mischief.

Viselys frowned slightly as he began heading back down the hall.

The next day everyone boarded the Sea Wyvern and set sail for Gallivant Cove. The journey was fairly uneventful and the winds were normal. Discussions among the crew consisted of some speculation about a potentially evil tooth in Viselys' possession and how to ascertain it's function, in which Liamae made the off handed suggestion for him to stick it in his mouth as it was a tooth. Thankfully he opted not to on the grounds that it was evil. There was also a brief exchange between Viselys and Duxsil regarding the wizard's mark in which Viselys thanked Duxsil for mentioning it, and though he had an idea who might have put it there that it was unimportant as the mark was fading on its own. The Sea Wyvern covered about the 350 miles in just under five days. The vessel that gave the bay its name was merely one of the Glutton's most recent and memorable victims. Its splintered wreck marked the boundary between the bay and the sea beyond.

The sea skirl Lavinia had loaded onto the ship along with her bribe proved the simplest method of contacting the dragon turtle. Like a long, complicated set of pan pipes or didgeridoos, one end of the sea skirl dipped into the water, allowing a musician to create a variety of bubbling noises. This, of course, necessitated Miranda to be in the water when playing it. As such, she put on the Cloak of the Manta Ray from the party’s group equipment just in case she should need to make a hasty retreat.

The strange music coaxed Emraag from his lair within a few minutes. He did not immediately attack, but his shear size was enough to fill the entire crew with dread; he was a few feet longer than the Sea Wyvern and more than twice as wide. He raised his great head out of the water and brought his eye level to deck. His voice was loud and deep, “Because the music is so pleasant, I will give you 3 minutes to explain why you have disturbed me.” He did not indicate exactly what he intended to do after that 3 minutes, but his reputation gave an excellent hint.

While Miranda continued to play the sea skirl at Emraag's pleasure, Viselys - aided by a Cloak of Charisma and Adameus’ Aptitude Charm - began diplomatic discussions while the others braced themselves for the worst.

"We have come as representatives from the town of Farshore to negotiate with you for safe transport of our merchants," Viselys stated in a clear and respectful tone.

"Why should I want to when I could take what I want?"

"We'd like to offer you an alternative that would be of more benefit to your greatness, and in recognition of your respected position."

"And what is it you offer?" Emraag asked, intrigued by Viselys' flattery.

"We offer a tribute and a tax we'd willingly pay for all ships flying our flag permitted safe passage."

"Tribute?" Emraag asked, clearly pleased by the term. "You fear me?"

"You are feared, and respected by all those who travel these waters. And not just those, but beyond as well," Viselys said without any dishonesty. "We offer you our tribute to show our good faith." At a hand signal from Viselys the chests were brought to the deck and opened for Emraag.

Between Viselys's skilled negotiation and flattery, and Miranda's pleasing musical talents, Emraag was not only accepting of the terms, but surprisingly began to favor them. "I like you, and the music. I will accept your tribute and ask only a mere 10% tax from ships flying your flag for one full year. I am open to extending that with further tribute. I care not for how this comes to me, and I will gladly dispatch any ships under another flag," Emraag offered in a magnanimous tone.

"We offer our sincerest thanks," Viselys said with a deep, respectful bow. "Might we ask you a few questions that may be within your great knowledge to enlighten us about?"

"Of course, I would be most pleased to grant you the benefits of my knowledge," Emraag responded. Obviously the flattery had worked better than anyone could have predicted because he went on to tell them that while he knew nothing of shadow pearls, the Savage Tide, or the Lords of Dread, he did know that the Crimson Fleet paid him a fortune in gold and exotic goods to meet with a tribe of degenerate troglodytes living near the southernmost shores of Gallivant Cove, and he gave them good directions. However, Emraag's patience couldn’t last forever, and a few minutes later he retired to his lair with 16000 gp worth of the tribute, but leaving them with the statue to return to Lavinia.

Duxsil having his own grudge against the Glutton for sinking his ship, which had allowed his capture by the pirates, grudgingly allowed the turtle to depart without exacting revenge. He kept his eyes on the water as the others congratulated Viselys and pulled Miranda back on board.

"Well, that went better than I expected," Saris said slapping Viselys on the back. "I nearly needed new pants when that thing emerged."

"Well done, smooth talker," Liamae said with approving smile.

"You know," Saris said, "With that beast in such a good mood, we should probably take advantage of this time to investigate the wreck of the Gallivant. Might be something he hasn't taken worth having down there."

After a bit of discussion the group made plans to investigate and salvage anything of worth from the Gallivant before continuing on to the location Emraag had directed them to regarding the Troglodyte settlement.

Continue to Chapter 3...

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